Pastor David B. Curtis


A Harlot's Faith

Hebrews 11:31

Delivered 01/27/2002

It is the opinion of the world, as judged by its standards, that Christian faith is an utterly useless, wholly impractical commodity. Look at:

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The unbeliever has nothing to hope for, nor a belief in the unseen world. It is only natural that he should view faith as something that is useless, if not indeed detrimental. For the believer, however, the faith here defined is a very practical possession. It is indispensable in terms of living the Christian life. The only way that we as believers can please God is by faith, 11:6; " without faith it is impossible to please Him." NOTHING we do pleases God if it's not done by faith. Faith is trusting God, his person and word. As we learn about God from His Word and put into practice what we know, our faith will grow.

Consider Noah, apart from faith, he never would have built the ark and would not have saved himself and his family from the flood. Consider Moses, apart from faith, he never would have left Egypt, he would have stayed in the palace and enjoyed the temporal pleasures of Egypt. Believer, faith is a very practical commodity, it enables us to do what we could not otherwise do.

Hebrews 11:31 (NKJV) By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

The inclusion of Rahab in this recital of heroic examples of faith is of particular interest. In the first place, Rahab was a woman and is the only woman specifically mentioned by our author in this chapter, apart from Sarah (verse 11), who was introduced in close association with Abraham. The introduction of Rahab as an independent woman may serve to illustrate to us that though there is a difference between men and women in physical functions and social relationships, when it comes to the sphere of faith, there is neither male or female. Women your service in the church is limited in function, you cannot be an elder or you cannot teach or rule over men (1 Timothy 2 & 3). But when it comes to your standing before God, you are equal to men.

Secondly, Rahab was a harlot. Many commentators try to change the meaning of this word porne and say she was a hostess. But there is no justification for that, the Greek word porne is always translated in the New Testament as: "harlot" or "whore". I think the designation "harlot" heightens the grace of God. God is no respecter of persons. How many of us would look at a harlot and think there is no hope for her? God's grace turned this harlot into a true worshiper.

Thirdly, Rahab was a Gentile; she didn't belong to the covenant people of God. She is an illustration of the truth of the promise that in the seed of Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (Genesis 22:18).

Here in this list of great men of faith; men like Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Moses, we find listed a Gentile woman who was a Harlot, a harlot who trusted God and saved herself and her family from judgement.

Turn with me to Joshua 2, and let's look at the historical account.

Joshua 2:1 (NKJV) Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.

Joshua sends out two spies to search out the city of Jericho. These men would have to swim the Jordan river, get into the city, and assess it's strength. These men were the prototype of navy SEALS. They got into the city and ended up in Rahab's house. They had no idea that there was a believer in that city and even if they knew, how would they find her. God led them right to her house, they were exactly where God wanted them. But how many believers would have had a fit because they were associating with a woman who was known as a harlot?

Rahab had become a believer before those spies ever showed up.

Joshua 2:9-11 (NKJV) and said to the men: "I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 "For 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 the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 "And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

Rahab had heard about God, and she believed. In Hebrews 11:31 it says that those who perished in Jericho "believed not". The word "believed not" is apeitheo, which means: "to be disobedient". It speaks of disbelief manifesting itself in disobedience. Why is it that Rahab believed and nobody else did? Was she better or smarter than everybody else? Paul answers this question in:

1 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Rahab could only glory in the grace of God. God had sovereignly called her:

1 Corinthians 1:23-29 (NKJV) but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Did Rahab continue to be a harlot after she came to faith? I don't believe that she was a harlot at the time the men went to her house. As we will see, she had a strong faith, and you cannot have a strong faith and live in sin. Dead faith continues to live in sin, but not strong faith. Your faith can only be strong when you're walking in fellowship with God.

Let's see just how strong her faith was:

Joshua 2:2-3 (NKJV) And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country." 3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country."

The spies had been seen, they knew they were in Rahab's house - "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house..." What would you do? Remember what we saw in:

Joshua 2:9 (NKJV) and said to the men: "I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.

She has only two choices; she could turn the men over, or what? What else could she do? She had hidden the spies on her roof:

Joshua 2:6 (NKJV) (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.)

Rahab answered the king's delegation by affirming that the Israelite men had come to her, but that she did not report them, because she didn't know where they had come from:

Joshua 2:4-5 (NKJV) Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 "And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them."

Did she know where they came from? Yes! Did the men go out the gate? No! Did she know where they were? Yes! What she told them was a bold-faced lie! Was Rahab justified in lying as she did? Her action of hiding the spies is commended as an act of faith; it's difficult to understand how the means by which that action was carried out, "namely lying," could be considered a sin.

James 2:25 (NKJV) Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

The term "justification" has two uses: 1. To declare and treat as righteous. 2. To vindicate, to show or demonstrate as righteous. Paul uses the first meaning and James uses the second meaning. Rahab was justified by works, when? When she received and sent out the messengers. How did that demonstrate her faith, she lied to do that? Yes, she lied, but in doing so, she risked her life for the spies. She risked her life for them because she believed in God, and she believed that God had given them the land. She lied because of her faith, and she was rewarded by God for what she did. Many people have a problem with this because they hold a position that assumes that lying is always wrong. Is it always wrong to lie? If it is, then why is Rahab commended?

Now you might be thinking, "Doesn't the Bible say it's a sin to lie?"

Proverbs 6:16-17 (NKJV) These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
Colossians 3:9 (NKJV) Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,

Yes, the Bible condemns lying, but it also condemns killing:

Exodus 20:13 (NKJV) "You shall not murder.

But is it always wrong to kill? I asked several believers if they felt it was always wrong to lie. They responded quickly and confidently, "YES!" I then asked them if it was always wrong to kill, and they responded quickly and confidently, "NO!" They felt that there were times when killing was justified. So it's alright to kill under certain circumstances, but it's never right to lie?

We don't think it's always wrong to kill, because we believe we should execute criminals? If you say that's alright, you're saying that sometimes it's okay to kill. How about "self defense," can you kill someone if they're trying to take your life or the life of a loved one? I think so. How about the military, is it right for a Christian to be in the military? The purpose of the military is, "to kill people and break things", isn't it?

Listen, we know that as a rule killing is wrong, but there are times when it is permitted. I believe that same thing is true with respect to lying. Lying is wrong, but under certain circumstances, I believe it's permitted. Under what circumstances is it okay to lie? Let's look at some scripture:

Exodus 1:15-17 (NKJV) Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, "When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live." 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.

Verse 17 says, "....but saved the male children alive." The NASV says, "....but let the boys live."The midwives clearly disobeyed the king, but look what they said:

Exodus 1:18-19 (NKJV) So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?" 19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them."

They lied, they said they had nothing to do with it, but verse 17 says that they "saved the male children alive".

Exodus 1:20 (NKJV) Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty.

Notice carefully what verse 20 says, "Therefore God dealt well with the midwives..."God rewarded and blessed the midwives for their brave action of saving the children. If the midwives didn't do anything , why did God bless them? They clearly lied, but they did so to save lives. The king didn't deserve the truth.

In 2 Samuel 17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz were sent to warn David of Absalom's plan to kill him:

2 Samuel 17:17-18 (NKJV) Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed at En Rogel, for they dared not be seen coming into the city; so a female servant would come and tell them, and they would go and tell King David. 18 Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom. But both of them went away quickly and came to a man's house in Bahurim, who had a well in his court; and they went down into it.

They were spotted, and their errand was reported to Absalom.

2 Samuel 17:19 (NKJV) Then the woman took and spread a covering over the well's mouth, and spread ground grain on it; and the thing was not known.

The men have been hidden.

2 Samuel 17:20 (NKJV) And when Absalom's servants came to the woman at the house, they said, "Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?" So the woman said to them, "They have gone over the water brook." And when they had searched and could not find them, they returned to Jerusalem.

She lied, and by doing so, saved the young men's lives.

2 Samuel 17:21-22 (NKJV) Now it came to pass, after they had departed, that they came up out of the well and went and told King David, and said to David, "Arise and cross over the water quickly. For thus has Ahithophel advised against you." 22 So David and all the people who were with him arose and crossed over the Jordan. By morning light not one of them was left who had not gone over the Jordan.

The men warned David and he escaped. The woman's lie saved David. I believe that she was justified in lying, Absalom's servants didn't deserve the truth.

1 Kings 22:20-23 (NKJV) "And the LORD said, 'Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. 21 "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, 'I will persuade him.' 22 "The LORD said to him, 'In what way?' So he said, 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And the LORD said, 'You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.' 23 "Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you."

God sends a lying spirit to Ahab, and Ahab is killed in battle. Ahab didn't deserve the truth, he only wanted to hear what was pleasing to him:

2 Thessalonians 2:11 (NKJV) And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,

I believe we must tell the truth when the truth is due. But I don't think that everyone is entitled to the truth. I think it is alright to lie to preserve life.

Let me share with you the story of a Dutch woman who endured five years of Nazi occupation during World War 2. It was the policy of the Germans to arrest young Dutchmen and ship them off to camps or to work projects for the Nazi war effort. This woman hollowed out a hiding place beneath the floor-boards to hide her son. In this small cubicle she installed a ventilation fan and stored food provisions in the hiding place.

One day as the Nazis were searching the village for young men, the woman hid her son beneath the floor. Without knocking, the soldiers burst into the house armed with submachine guns. After searching the house, they returned to the living room and stood over the very spot where the son was hidden. A soldier said to the woman, "Are you hiding any boys here?"

What was her moral responsibility? Should she have said, "Yes, there is one under the floor?" I think not! She had a moral right to lie. The Nazis had no right to the truth. She replied, "No, there are no boys here." Thereupon the soldiers began to shoot up the floor, all the while watching the Mother's reaction for any hint of panic. She displayed no outward emotion, while inside she was in stark terror. Finally, the soldiers left. Panic-stricken, the Mother rushed to the hiding place. Her son emerged unhurt. Her deception had saved him.

I don't think we are required to tell robbers where we have hidden our valuables. We put our lights on a timer when we're not home. Why? To deceive! Soldiers are not required to tell the enemy where their comrades are positioned. Truth is to be told to those who are due it.

When the two Israelite spies came to check out Jericho, Rahab received them, hid them, and lied to authorities in order to protect them. The king of Jericho knew that the spies had visited her, but she placed the Lord above the king believing that if she failed to help the spies, she would be killed along with all the other people of Jericho. Such was her faith in the Lord that she knew that if she failed to help the spies, it meant certain death. If she helped them, and didn't help the king, it was possible that the king wouldn't find out about it, and she and her father's household would be spared in the upcoming invasion. Her actions were governed by faith - a desire to be with the Lord and his people. Rahab lied, but her lie was an act of faith, she risked her life for what she believed. She lied to preserve life.

Joshua 2:12-13 (NKJV) "Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, 13 "and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death."

She believed they would take the city.

Joshua 2:14-24 (NKJV) So the men answered her, "Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you." 15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall. 16 And she said to them, "Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way." 17 So the men said to her: "We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, 18 "unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father's household to your own home. 19 "So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 "And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear." 21 Then she said, "According to your words, so be it." And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window. 22 They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them. 23 So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them. 24 And they said to Joshua, "Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us."

Rahab's testimony gave them courage.

Her faith was rewarded by God: "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not" (Hebrews 11:31).

Joshua 6:21-25 (NKJV) And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, "Go into the harlot's house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her." 23 And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. 24 But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25 And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

Rahab believed in the God of Israel, and because of that, she was given eternal life. But had her faith not been strong, she would have died at Jericho. Her strong faith not only saved her from destruction, but it saved her family, also.

God honored this woman for her faith, not only by delivering her from judgement, but also by placing her in the Messianic line. According to Matthew 1, Rahab became the mother of Boaz, who became the husband of Ruth, the great-great-grandmother of David. Rahab, the harlot, moved right into the Messianic line. That's God's Grace.

This is an incredible woman, her faith in God was so strong that she put her life on the line. Is your faith that strong? This woman didn't have the spiritual advantages we have. She had no Scriptures, no teachers, no fellowship; she lived in a vile pagan city, yet she trusted totally in God. This remarkable woman of faith stands as a rebuke to us, who have so many spiritual advantages and trust so little in God.

Is faith practical? You can't get much more practical than saving your life and the life of your family. May we learn to trust God as much as she did.

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