rahab’s exchange: a story of true faith

image courtesy of reverendmom

In this, my last post from the story of Rahab, I want to talk about the story itself — and not the questions of ethics which stem from it.  Other posts in this series can be found here:

The residents of Jericho were privy to some wonderful (or terrible, depending on who you are) stories about the power of the Hebrew God — stories of his care for, and protection of, the Israelite people.  Rahab explained to the spies that she and all her neighbors were trembling and afraid; that’s when she declared the following:

“The Lord your God is indeed God
in heaven above and earth below.”

A Proclamation of Faith

But more than a spoken proclamation was involved.  Rahab demonstrated her faith with actions — by surrendering her life (and the lives of her family members) to the one true God. The Hebrew writer doesn’t speak of Rahab’s sworn statement of faith; James doesn’t speak of her testimony of words.  Both writers focus on the actions that were born out of her true faith in God.  Actions that confirmed and completed Rahab’s faith.

Rahab entrusted her life to God.  And, consequently, to the people of God.  There’s a lot to be said here concerning the people of God embodying the character of God.  How many prostitutes today would entrust their lives to the church, believing us to possess the intrinsic qualities of God?

The Scarlet Cord

The scarlet cord draped in the window is quite symbolic.  What Hebrew wouldn’t have thought back to their parents’ last night in Egypt — when they were aroused from their sleep and begged by Pharaoh to leave immediately?  The blood on their own doors prompted the Lord to pass over their homes, while He killed the firstborn of every Egyptian family.  They were at that time instructed to observe the Passover ceremony when they would one day enter into the promised land (that is the very land now inhabited by Rahab and her neighbors, which would be taken a short time later).  Their very entry into the city was a Passover play of sorts, with Rahab acting in the role of Israel.

We, as Christians, look at that same scarlet cord and are reminded of the blood of Christ, which saves us from certain death.*

Rahab’s scarlet cord also marks the preservation of her family, a family from which the Messiah would one day be born.  Rahab’s story is more than a demonstration of true faith; in many ways both your faith and mine was born out of hers.  She is a sort of spiritual grandmother to us.


The story of Rahab is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.  Rahab, a prostitute, believed that God was indeed God and acted on that belief by surrendering her life to him.  As a result, she chose to share her life with the people of God and was saved from certain death.  This is faith, plain and simple.


What I’ve Learned

  • True faith is always accompanied by works.
  • We, as the body of Christ, should possess the characteristics of God in such a way that sinners trust us with their lives — no matter how sinful, sick, or twisted they may be.
  • It’s interesting that Rahab saw God’s power and the ease with which he destroyed enemy nations — and was prompted to believe the Israelite God was indeed Lord of heaven and earth.  Whereas today there is ongoing debate using logic which is exactly the opposite: “What kind of a loving God would do such a thing…” as punish humans, send people to hell, etc, and so on?  Justice once was evidence of God’s Lordship; now it’s become evidence that we’ve got the wrong kind of God?
  • God uses sinners to accomplish his purposes and to teach his people.  Always (except in one exceptional case).
  • The faith of one individual can (and often does) play a role in the salvation of many.  Not only did Rahab (in essence) save her family, but her decisions played a part in the future of all mankind.
  • I believe American Christianity, however, places too much importance on “personal” salvation and “personal” decisions in regards to accepting Christ.**  Group decision-making is demonstrated often in scripture, as is the head of a household making a decision for that entire household.  This story is just one such example.

Any thoughts on the story of Rahab?

* It’s also worth noting that the scarlet cord is today memorialized by the millions of red lights which illuminate the doors of brothels and bordellos worldwide.  “R0xanne, you don’t have to put on the red light!”
** For more on this, see here’s to hoping you haven’t accepted Jesus as your personal savior and tendencies of an american church.


Filed under exchanges

12 responses to “rahab’s exchange: a story of true faith

  1. I appreciated the series on Rahab. It is an area I explored only a few years ago.
    Did Rahab have to lie? She had three options: 1) Reveal the men were on the roof; 2) Lie; 3) Say nothing at all.
    Lying should never be an option on our part. If we declare that it is okay to tell a little lie to spare someone’s feelings — are we really sparing their feelings or are we just not willing to deal with the consequences of telling the truth?

    • scott, i won’t argue whether or not rahab had to lie; i don’t know. i would assume it most likely that she could have come up with some other way to deal with the problem — just as you said.

      but do you believe God’s laws never come in conflict with one another. “lying should never be an option on our part.” never? i would like it better if this were true, but it just doesn’t seem to be the case to me. but i would like to hear your thoughts.

      thanks for coming to the blog, and for the conversation.

      • As for Rahab and her lie, what i wrote earlier was done quickly because I needed to get to work. God did not need Rahab to lie, I believe that God would have worked it out for the two spies. Just as Jacob did not need to be deceptive with Isaac, God’s promise would have come to pass without Jacob’s deception.

        The concern I have is that people will and do look at Rahab’s story and use it to justify lying. I have been told (I am paraphrasing), “I had to lie and God knows my heart.” But when I look at all of the Scriptures concerning lying — God spends a lot of time pointing out its sinfulness — I do not think lying is ever right. Again, a person has three options: tell the truth, lie, or remain silent and then deal with the consequences of each of those choices.

        I guess my thought is “Should sin ever be a means to an end?” Or as a teacher of mine said, “It is never right to do wrong to do right.” Ephesians 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

        If I remember correctly, you had put out the potential conflict of honoring your parents and obeying God in one of the posts in this series. Can I speak absolutely on this matter? No, because each instance this may come up will have different circumstances and require a different answer. I do believe that God should be honored first and a difficult situation should be prayed about before making a decision.
        Do you have a specific situation in mind concerning God’s laws and lying? And are you using Geisler’s Christian Ethics?

        • scott, i agree with you that we shouldn’t use the story of rahab simply to justify lying. but i can’t help but think it can be used (properly) to acknowledge the fact that sometimes we’re put in extremely difficult positions in which some act which we thought was sin (or which would normally be sin) is indeed not — at that moment.

          you suggest the options are always to 1) tell the truth, 2) lie, 3) say nothing and suffer the consequences. and i agree. it’s just that i’m afraid sometimes the consequences will be worse than if we’d chosen option #2, to lie. for instance, in nazi germany, a family hiding jews in their home; i can only imagine that silence when confronted by soldiers asking if you’re hiding jews would result in a house search and the murder of innocent people.

          do you believe in all circumstances like these that God will miraculously intervene? or do you believe that not lying is more important than saving those lives? that’s what it comes down to for me.

          and i’ve never heard of geisler’s christian ethics. i’m not sure what that is. but would i find it interesting?

          • Norman Geisler is the author and the title is Christian Ethics. It was one of the books I had for college. I did not agree with everything in it, but it is a worthy read.

            There are consequences for all three options and they may be good or bad.

            Can God miraculously intervene in a situation? Of course He can, and do I know if He will in each situation? No, I do not know. He may not intervene if the greater glory for Him is gained. How did Corrie Ten Boom conduct herself?

            But God does not ever say that it is right to commit a sin.

          • “But God does not ever say that it is right to commit a sin.”

            i agree with you, scott. but what i’m wondering is if it might be possible that it’s not a sin to lie in one of these situations. [just as it wasn’t a sin for peter and paul to disobey the government when commanded not to evangelize. at other times, that would have been a sin; paul argued it himself.]

  2. Amber

    This is nothing to do with the lie and whether or not is was sinful; I’ve enjoyed this series and the comments, but I don’t think I have anything new to add to that discussion.
    A few weeks ago, reading Hebrews 11, what struck me for the first time (guess I wasn’t paying close attention for the first 35 years of my life) about Rahab is that she acted on faith BEFORE she had any kind of a promise. Best I could tell from the account in Joshua, nobody told her ahead of time there would be a deal to protect her family, much less that she’d ultimately get a new home among the Israelites and a spot in Christ’s lineage, and nobody told her God cared anything about her. She risked everything based only on God’s reputation. Maybe it was just fear or desperation, but I give props to a woman who a) doesn’t let her past (or her present?) get in her way and b) takes a bold step in faith.

    • that’s a great point, amber. and i concur with you — rahab had not assurance of salvation at the time she accepted the spies into her home, hid them, and lied to the soldiers. 1) she demonstrated great faith in this God whom was very new to her. and 2) she demonstrated great faith in his people to act like him.

      i think that’s what i often take away from the story in my readings: are we christians today this kind of people? can non-christians (prostitutes, even) trust us to protect them and care for them just as God would?

      thanks for commenting.

  3. Joshua 2 reveals Rahab had knowledge of 40 years of God’s reputation. The crossing of the Red Sea and the ways the Amorite kings and their armies were recently defeated were well know by everyone in Jericho. Rahab bartered life for life. She made a different choice than others in the city, but she operated from the same information. The marvel is not that she believed in their God, but what she was willing to imagine Him doing.

    • great points. that rahab’s story is really about her reaction to what everyone else also knew… and that she was willing to place her life in God’s hands because of what she could imagine him doing with it. beautiful.

  4. Pingback: the lie of Jesus | aliens and strangers

  5. Pingback: rahab’s exchange: a cultural argument for lying? | aliens and strangers

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