Rahab's Confession Expresses the Fundamentals of True, Saving Faith
(The sermon starts around the 24 min mark.)
Good morning! I invite you to turn with me to the book of Joshua. This morning we are going to be in chapter 2 again. You may remember, if you were with us last time, that we began looking at the story involving Rahab. Joshua is getting ready to commence Operation Promised Land and the first thing he does is send spies into the land. And these spies go into to Jericho to do some surveillance and gain some intelligence for their conquest. And they encounter this woman named Rahab.
And last time we took some time to talk about the lie that Rahab told. Remember she hid the spies and defied the Jericho CIA who came knocking at her door. She lied to them regarding the whereabouts of the two Jewish spies. And we said that her lie, though it wasn’t in keeping with the bare facts of the case, it was demonstrating covenant loyalty. It was truth and in keeping with truthfulness because it was a demonstration of faithfulness to God.
It’s interesting though. Those first 7 verses are perhaps the most talked about portion of the chapter, if not the most frequently commented upon section of the entire book. There’s probably more ink spilled over those 7 verses than any other part of this whole story.
But the funny thing is, that’s not the most important section of this chapter. What we are going to look at today is the main portion of the chapter. If you can’t tell that just by reading it, you can certainly tell by means of the structure. The author uses a device called chiasm. Chiasm is putting concepts in parallel so that the most critical point is in the center.
A. Spies sent
B. Rahab’s Truthfulness (saves the spies)
C. Rahab’s confession
B’ Spies’ Truthfulness (promise to save Rahab)
A’ Spies return
So if you look at the passage, you can see it goes like this. At the beginning the spies are sent by Joshua into the land. Then at the end, the spies return to Joshua. The second section records Rahab’s truthfulness, whereby she saves the lives of the two spies. That is parallel to the section in verses 12-21 where the spies demonstrate truthfulness, promising to save the life of Rahab.
Then the center section is found in verses 8-11, and it records for us Rahab’s confession of faith. Each week we have a confession of faith in our church. We study what the church has historically confessed Scripture to say. Here we have Rahab’s confession whereby she testifies to what she believes about God. And that’s what we are going to meditate on today.
But I merely point out by way of opening that this is the most important part of this chapter. So make sure you don’t miss it. Please follow along as I read what God has given us in Joshua 2....
I am a part of a group on Facebook that is composed of pastors. It’s a forum for pastors to get help on certain matters and advice for this or that. And there are often questions thrown out just for discussion or information.
This past week someone asked, “What text are you preaching on for Mother’s Day?” I said proudly that this Mother’s Day I’ll be talking about the prostitute Rahab! (I hope I didn't give any misrepresentation regarding the ladies in our congregation.)
That’s the beauty of preaching through books though. Sometimes you come to funny passages on certain days of the year. It’s like the one pastor I know who was preaching through the book of Numbers. On Valentine’s Day he ended up preaching on the test for adultery in Numbers 5.
But the text before us actually isn’t that bad of a text for Mother’s Day. Because Rahab is something of a mother in Israel. Some of you may know that Rahab is one of the four ladies named in Jesus’ genealogy in the gospel of Matthew.
Now you know that in this day and age of Ancestry.com and such there’s a lot of tracing of family trees and people are interested in their heritage on both parent’s side. But that wasn’t the case in the ancient world. It was always patriarchal. It’s interesting that this Canaanite woman of the night ends up being a (great)4 grandmother of Jesus. It’s interesting that, because of Rahab, Jesus has Canaanite blood.
So today we are going to look at Grandma Rahab. And it’s a perfect mother’s day sermon. If any of you women have faith like Rahab, then you’ve got a good thing going. And you men would do well to consider it too. She’s really a stalwark when it comes to what constitutes a true believer.
As I mentioned a few moments ago, verses 8-11 contain for us Rahab’s confession of faith. And this confession that she makes teaches us some great things about faith. I want us to notice 4 things about her faith. And I want to begin by talking about its uniqueness.
I. The uniqueness of her faith
You cannot deny that there was something special about Rahab’s faith. She stood out among all the people of her city. Her faith was the only faith that was true, saving faith.
If you’re asking if that means that the other people of the city had faith, the answer is yes. But they did not have saving faith. They had demonic faith. They had what you may call a historical faith.
In the book of James we learn that there are different kinds of faith. There’s a difference between saving faith and a faith that amounts to simply understands facts and being emotionally charged by those facts.
James says, “You believe that God is one? You do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder!”
James is making the point that demons are some of the most orthodox beings in the world. They not only know more theology than you do, what they know about God causes them to shudder. They don’t just know God, they are impacted by that truth in a terrific way. And yet, for all that they know and feel, they are not saved. Despite all their understanding and despite their apoplexy, they are just as hardened against the truth as rocks.
Now look at Rahab and her compadres. I want you to notice that Rahab’s faith was similar in many ways to that of her neighbors, and yet she is unique in one particular way.
It’s obvious that Rahab and the people of Jericho had all heard some of the greatest sermons ever preached. Rahab says in verse 10 that everyone in that city had heard about how God had brought them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and about their wars along the way. They had heard how the Amorite Kings (Og & Shihon) had been decimated by these little slaves.
You can imagine someone from Jericho was out on a business trip. He happened to be a sandal salesman who set up shop in the land of Shihon. And likely saw the men marching off to the battle as he sold his wares. He probably saw them running in fear after the battle began. He saw them retreating. He saw them cut down. He got the report that the Shihon’s army had been unilaterally defeated. He moved up the road to get out of the way. He came to Og’s country because business had gone south in Shihon’s territory. But low and behold, the same thing happened. And he came back to Jericho and he began telling the people of that city what he witnessed.
Rahab heard it. Her parents heard it. The mayor heard it. Everybody got wind of it. They had most definitely heard of the Lord’s supreme power.
But they didn’t just hear about it; they also reacted to it. There was a physical and emotional reaction to the word that had been preached to them. It says twice in this passage that their hearts melted. It says that the fear of Israelites had fallen upon them. And in verse 11 it says that there was no spirit left in them. They were panic stricken. People were probably fainting and swooning they were so terrified. There’s no doubt that they were so stricken that the local Walmart had run out of toilet paper.
I exaggerate to make a point. These people didn’t just hear some rumors about some Hebrew God; they were horror stricken by him. These Canaanites had some of the best theology. They not only were orthodox in their understanding, they believed that the Lord was to be feared. They did fear him.
But there’s one tiny difference that makes all the difference in the world. Rahab was unique in that she gave herself over to this God. She didn’t just fear him—she didn’t just have an emotional reaction to the things she heard, she trusted in him. She put her hope in him. That’s what made her unique. That’s what separated her from the demonic faith of her contemporaries. She didn’t just shudder at the truth, she made use of that truth in a saving way. She put her confidence in this God; she recognized that he was her only hope of life. There was no way to escape it except to rely upon him for mercy and salvation.
It was that dependence and throwing herself upon him that made her unique. And it was that which made all the difference for her.
And that my friends is the key. Education and emotion alone do not bring you salvation. Do not think that having great affections or certain feelings is a true indicator of your salvation. Many people have been struck by the overwhelming nature of God’s wrath. Many people have been impressed by the majesty of God and his power. People have cried and shed tears and understood truth about God. But those things do not make for saving faith. Those alone are components of demonic faith and it will avail you nothing.
True saving faith is unique in that there is a casting of yourself upon the Lord. There is a dependence upon him. You must be like Rahab’s in that you cast aside all hope in everything else and put your full confidence in God. You must not just know and feel, but you must personally trust and lean fully upon him for mercy.
Only when your faith is distinguished with this reliance upon him will you truly be saved.
The second thing I want you to notice about her faith is its object.
II. The object of her faith [8-11]
One thing that is completely obvious from this text is that Rahab had a strong belief in the Lord. She may not have had a lot of theological training, but she had a strong conviction concerning the things she had learned. And I want you to think about the God in whom she believed.
There are at least four things to note here about the God she believed in. First, she understood God’s name. In these three verses she uses the covenant name of God three times. The LORD (capitalized, stands for YHWH or Jehovah). She did not use the generic word “god.” She used the covenant name that was distinctly given to the Hebrew people.
You know what the New Testament says, “Everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.” Rahab’s was doing just that. By faith she called upon the name of the Lord and sought to be affiliated with him.
The second thing you see is that she acknowledges God’s promises. In verse 9 she says, “I know that the LORD has given you the land.” I don’t know if she had heard of the promises God had made to Abraham about giving them the land, but she certainly knew that the Canaanites were going to be disinherited. It was God’s people who were going to receive the land and she understood something of that promise. She believed it and lived her faith in light of it.
Thirdly she knew of God’s mighty acts. She believed that it was God who was acting in the lives of the Hebrews. He’s the one who dried up the Red Sea. He is the one who brought them out of Egypt and gave them success against these nations. It was a battle of the gods and she knew which of these gods was to be feared.
Lastly, along with that, she understands God’s sovereignty. Verse 11 is the climax of the passage. She makes this beautiful confession, “The Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” This is a testimony that the Lord is ruler over all. And it is a blatant defying of her city’s gods. The gods at that time were thought to be regional creatures. There were gods that protected certain cities and had power over some specific portion of land (or water, or sky). But she acknowledges that there’s only one God and the whole universe belongs to him. It’s all under his power.
This is a wonderful expression of faith. It’s obvious that her faith is in the Lord. There may not be a lot to her faith. There may not be a lot in terms of content. There hasn’t been a lot of discipleship, but it’s evident that her faith is in the LORD.
More specifically, she has no faith whatsoever in anything else.
It should be evident here that there’s absolutely no mention of the gods of Jericho. She doesn’t have any faith in these gods to save her. She does not even speak of them.
This is why we have the testimony of Scripture. It’s to point us to the Lord and remind us that our faith is to rest in him and him alone. There’s no other support. There’s no other hope. The Lord alone is our only hope of salvation in this world.
I remember being a kid. That was back in the day when you could go to the grocery store with your family. Like any young lad I got to thinking about this and that and playing around in the aisle way. I then started to walk down the aisle with what I thought was my mother. What I didn’t know is that while I was daydreaming and playing, my mother had moved on ahead to the next aisle. The lady I was walking next to was not my mother. But I held on to her cart and bobbed along for a couple minutes as she picked through the cans on the shelf. I was oblivious to the fact that this was not my mother. When I finally looked up, I was completely embarrassed. This lady was pretty sweet. She had let me dawdle along and didn’t seem to mind that I was hanging on her cart. (She obviously thought I was cute). But it was a shock to me at that moment when I realized that this lady was not the person I thought she was. The one who I thought was my mother, really wasn’t.
That’s sort of the point of what Rahab’s confession is. It’s telling us that we need to have the right God. Just like that experience in the grocery store, many people are oblivious to the fact that the god they are following is not the right God. They may be sincere, but there will come a time when they will be shocked to know that the god in whom they trusted was not the right one.
You see, Rahab’s confession is telling us about the God in whom we should trust. Her confession is a road sign pointing us to the God in whom we should trust too.
The last thing I want to mention is that Rahab’s faith had a beautiful outcome. We’ve noticed two things so far. We’ve talked about how her faith was unique in that it was true and saving faith (as opposed to the demonic faith of the Jericho). We’ve talked about its object in that she trusted in the true God, the one who keeps his promises. Let’s close by talking about how it was rewarded.
III. The outcome of her faith [Hebrews 11:31]
And this is where I want to point you again to Hebrews 11:31, that great hall of faith. Hebrews 11 says, “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
Because Rahab put her faith in the Lord, she did not perish.
We will read about it more in chapter 6, but, when the city was taken, she and her household did not suffer the same fate as the rest of the people of Jericho. The Lord granted her deliverance.
Now you understand that this is deliverance from his wrath. When the Israelites ransacked Jericho and all the other cities in the land of Canaan, it was not because they were not wanting to pay for the land. They weren’t just a bunch of mean spirited Vikings or Barbarians. They were God’s instruments in executing his judgment upon these wicked people. The Hebrew soldiers were bringing the curse of God against sin down upon them.
And Rahab did not suffer one scratch in it all. The wrath of God did not come near her. God was gracious to her and shed his mercy upon her because she believed in him.
So here you have this unlikely person. A pagan, a prostitute, someone who no doubt had all the record of defiance to God and his ways. Yet because she put her faith in the Lord God, she gained eternal life.
That’s what happens when you put your trust in the Lord. You escape the impending judgement that’s coming upon all man. Scripture says that if you call upon the name of the Lord you will be saved. The promise of Scripture is that God delivers those who put their faith in him.