Hebrews 11 teaches us that the faith that pleases God is a faith that hears the truth, believes it, and acts upon that belief. The writer of Hebrews speaks of Rahab’s salvation from the destruction of Jericho in this way: “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:31). What kind of faith did Rahab have?
First, Rahab’s faith was based upon testimony of the truth of God. To the spies she received who were sent by Joshua, she said, “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 (Joshua 2:10).
Rahab believed with confidence and assurance the truth about the Lord God and His dealings with the nations that He was leading Israel to conquer: “I know that the Lord has given you the land,” and “for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9, 11). In saying “the Lord has given you the land,” she spoke as if Jericho had already been delivered to Israel! She could have such confidence because God “calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). No doubt, she believed what God would perform.
Rahab did not just hear about God and believe in Him, but she acted upon her belief. She received the spies (Joshua 2:1-8, Hebrews 11:31), an act she confessed to the men was based upon her belief in the truth about the Lord God and the works He was performing (Joshua 2:8-11).
Heard, Believed, Obeyed
Although not mentioned specifically by the Hebrew writer, she also heard from the two spies the terms for her deliverance from the destruction of Jericho. Interestingly, the conditions of her salvation from the destruction were stated by the spies in terms of an exception: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear unless you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window…” (Joshua 2:17b-18a). How much does that remind us of the way in which Jesus spoke in terms of exceptions, such as, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5)? Negatively spoken but positively understood! And she didn’t just hear the conditions, but she believed the instructions to bind the scarlet cord in the window and to bring her kin into her own home to be saved also, for she replies to the spies, “according to your words, so be it” (Joshua 2:21). “So be it” is like saying “Amen,” meaning “it is so.” No doubt, she believed the spies. And finally and of necessity, she performed the conditions required for her deliverance: “And she bound the scarlet cord in the window” (Joshua 2:21). And when God gave the children of Israel the city of Jericho, deliverance came to Rahab just as promised: “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…. 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” (Joshua 6:23-25).
Rahab’s faith is one example among many of the nature of saving faith – faith that obeys. James cites Rahab as an example of the truth that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only: “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25).
While some may argue for a doctrine of faith only, the Bible affirms over and over again that faith that pleases God is a faith that works in obedience. Is your faith a faith that pleases God?