Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Rahab - scarlet threads
Let's get back to our study of Rahab! We noted last time that she heard about God, and that she believed what she heard.
She also knew that she and her family would die, unless they found refuge in the God of the Israelites. She had heard who the living God was, and that He was holy -- and so He was the one Who condemned sinners. She had heard that message of judgment, and now she had faith in Jehovah. It is, of course, faith that saves us.
However, to the one who does not works but trusts God who
justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
I think this qualifies! She heard, and she knew, and then she believed what she had heard. She said "I know" and that was the assurance of her salvation that was brought about by her faith in this great God she had heard about.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies,
was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31)
Now, I guess we need to study about the fact that she lied. Yep. She did. It was when she covered for the two scouts . . . the Bible doesn't say, "Oh, Rahab was great because she lied to the soldiers about where the scouts were." No, it says that she is to be commended for her faith. I would guess that a prostitute would have been quite accustomed to lying about the whereabouts of men, no? An anxious wife here, a stressed-out father there, all coming to inquire about whether or not a certain man was inside her house? Maybe even a wealthy or powerful man -- perhaps the king was looking for him. She would lie about it to cover for her customers, I'm sure. But God doesn't want us to emulate her etiquette, her lying. He wants us to emulate her faith.
Let's look at the story again, when the king of Jericho sent messengers to her house:
So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab; "Bring out the men
who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to
spy out the whole land." But the woman had taken the two men and
hidden them. She said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know
where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the
city gate, they left. I don't know which way they went. Go after them
quickly. You may catch up with them." (But she had taken them up
to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out
on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that
leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone
out, the gate was shut..... "Now then, please swear to me by the Lord
that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown
kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of
my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to
them -- and that you will save us from death." Joshua 2:3-7,12-13)
As soon as she had sent the pursuers on their wild goose chase, she ran to the roof and made her deal with the two spies. The story continues that she kept them safe and then sent them on their way. She gave them a strategy to follow: stay around the outskirts of the city for three days, and then take their messages of intelligence of the city and its walls to Joshua. Their covenant bound them to keep her (and her family) safe from destruction -- she was to place a scarlet cord out the window of her house, so that the attacking army would know, and leave her unscathed.
When I studied Rahab's story, I also studied this verse in James:
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered
righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies
and sent them off in a different direction? (James 2:25)
This is the final mention of our heroine in the Bible, and it is in the midst of the (sometimes) thorny passage that many Christians can get hung up on . . . the discussion of faith versus works. "Justified by works" is something that really bugs many Christians. We're so used to reading in Romans and Galatians and other passages that tell us it's not by him that works, but he that believes that the ungodly are justified. Here is how it shakes out in my mind (you may have different thoughts, and that is fine, too. The Spirit gives us understanding, and you may be way further along than me!). The writer of Romans wants us to know that salvation is by faith apart from the works of the law; it's by faith in Christ alone. The writer of James isn't talking about how we are justified before God, but before men . . . it's how we can show our faith to others so that they can believe on Jesus, too.
I'm not heading down a rabbit trail here. Just saying that the Bible does indeed teach that we are justified before God by faith alone. That is clear in a lot of different verses. I think what James is trying to impress on us is this: we are justified before men by our works; faith without works is dead. Does that make sense? We show people our faith by our works. (You can spend some time in the second chapter of James if you want to dig in there.) James gives us an illustration of what he means, by pointing to Rahab; he tells us that she was justified before the Israelites, who she went and lived among, because she kept the spies hidden and then let them go . . . proving her faith.
In Hebrews she is lauded because she received the spies; in James she is commended because she received them and then let them go out another way. Here is why that is important: up until the moment that she let them go, she could have betrayed them. She could have killed them; she could have changed her mind and pointed up to the roof when the soldiers questioned her; she could have let them be captured. Even the spies had their doubts about her at first:
But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the
oath you made us swear. (Joshua 2:20)
So, by letting them go another way, and telling them how to go without drawing attention to themselves, they made good their escape. And she proved that she was a friend of God, and proved she was a friend of theirs.
Isn't that true of us, too? We hear about God, and we put faith in God, but we have a duty to show that faith to others. We must show them that our faith is alive. Be on the same side as God's people. Stay in God's ways, and in His Word, instead of siding with the world. She heard, and she believed, and then she showed her faith to others. And she was saved.
Salvation is not just a once-in-a-moment experience. We've been saved, and the Bible says we are being saved (some people use a five-dollar word to describe that: sanctification). One day we will be saved forever, at the end of this world (that one is glorification). We will be delivered! For Rahab, that day of deliverance came on the same day that the walls of Jericho fell:
But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who
belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies
to Jericho -- and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
Because of the scarlet cord that hung from her window, Rahab's home was clearly marked, and among all of the people who were slaughtered that day, she and her family were spared.
We'll conclude our study of Rahab tomorrow.