Friday 30 June 2017

Rahab, a Hero of Faith (Part 5)

This is the final in the Rahab of Jericho series and follows on from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

A flower of the field ~ Israel ~ June 2012

Remarkably, Rahab’s sins are never mentioned in the New Testament – only her faith and good deeds. In Hebrews, Rahab is commended for her faith, and James calls her righteous for what she did!

Hebrews 11:31
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
James 2:25
And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute considered righteous by what she did when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

Rahab’s testimony is nothing short of miraculous and an amazing example of God’s loyalty - his steadfast love (Heb. ẖesed) - toward an exceptional outsider. While pious Jewish rabbis thanked God for not making them a Gentile, a woman, or a slave, Rahab’s life is testament to the fact that God’s power to save transcends all of these categories (cf. Gal 3:28). She, like all of the other heroes of faith before and after her, embodies what it means to put one’s trust in God...

Glance back at Hebrews 11:1 and 6...
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Joshua 2:9-11

[Rahab] said to [the spies],
‘I know that the LORD has given this land to you 
and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.
We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt,
and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.
When we heard of it, our hearts sank and everyone’s courage failed because of you,
for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. [1]

This female Canaanite prostitute was sure that the Lord had given the land of Canaan to the Israelites – she says, “I know” (v. 9) – even though it had not happened yet. It appears that what she could not see with human eyes (i.e. the consequences of opposing Israel) she could foresee with eyes of faith (Heb 11:1). And in a radical declaration of belief, Rahab goes even further and makes a statement of confession that, “...the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Josh 2:11)! [2]

Rahab is different from all the other inhabitants of Jericho. They had all heard something of the Israelite victories and the God who supernaturally intervened for and empowered them (v. 10). Everyone living in Jericho was faced with the same irrefutable reports and had access to the same limited amount of information, but Rahab was different she was the only one who believed

Be a Rahab! Dare to have faith!

Bonhoeffer once wrote: "the one who believes is obedient, and the one who is obedient believes"[3]. And according to Hebrews 11:31, the difference between Rahab and the other inhabitants of Jericho was that she had faith - she believed and welcomed the spies - while they were those who were disobedient and did not. Having heard of the mighty deeds of God on behalf of his people, those in Jericho should have acknowledged God and welcomed his people instead of resisting them. On the other hand, Rahab obviously had a heart which was earnestly seeking God, and she was rewarded with LIFE: life as a result of not perishing when Jericho was defeated, but I think the text points beyond that, implying eternal life as part of the covenant community.

See a Rahab! Look out for those who are earnestly seeking God.

Even today, there are people in our country, our city, our homes, schools, and workplaces who are earnestly seeking God. Most might be dismissive or even openly critical of the Christian faith, so that those of us who are less bold become fearful of negativity and scepticism when sharing the gospel. But there are still people who are seeking God. They may only know a little, but God can do a lot with a little... and like Rahab, some of them are waiting to be given the opportunity to know more.
[1]  Rahab's speech in Joshua 2:9-11 forms a chiastic structure. "The casting of Rahab's words in a deliberate design conveys the impression that Rahab's actions are thoroughly thought out and not a result of panic". Elie Assis, "Chiasmus in Biblical Narrative: Rhetoric of Characterization", Prooftexts 22 (2002), 276, 278.
 [2] The final sentence (v. 11) is the climax of the speech in which Rahab expresses her belief in the might and sovereignty of God demonstrating that this Canaanite has now adopted Israel's monotheistic belief. Assis, 277.
[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R. H. Fuller (New York: Macmillan, 1979), 99, 69.

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