Hebrews 11:31

Thursday, 28 March 2019

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

The author now turns to Rahab, the harlot found in Joshua 2 & 6, and who is recorded in Matthew 1:5 in the genealogy of Christ Jesus. She is then mentioned here in Hebrews, and once again in James 2:25. He begins with, “By faith the harlot Rahab.”

What he will detail is considered as an act of faith worthy of note, and which led to her being brought into the nation of Israel, joining with them according to their law, marrying a man, and from them would continue the line of Messiah – first through David, and then on down to Christ Jesus. Rahab would have been David’s great-great-grandmother, the wife of Salmon.

Here though, it specifically calls her, “the harlot.” Some scholars argue that the Hebrew word used to describe her as a harlot doesn’t necessarily mean that, and that she was probably an innkeeper. First, that is rubbish, but secondly, the Greek word here, porné, clearly identifies her (as does the Hebrew) as a prostitute. There is no mincing of the word. And yet, despite this, she “did not perish with those who did not believe.”

This is a poor choice of translation. It should read, “those who were disobedient.” The people were disobedient to the natural knowledge of God, and they were set for destruction even before Israel’s entry into Canaan. Their time had come, but Rahab knew this and believed in the power of God and the surety of what was to come upon Jericho. She believed “when she had received the spies with peace.”

The coming of the spies to Rahab’s house was certainly done with intent. How does one spy out a city without raising too much alarm? Ask for the local prostitute! By going into her home, nothing unusual would ever be suspected. In her reception of the spies, and in the details of the surrounding narrative, which was carefully recorded in Scripture, a fallen women is raised to the high position of a woman of faith, and a prostitute was entered into the genealogy of the coming Messiah.

As a point of theology concerning the issue of justification, the accounts of Abraham offering up Isaac, and this account of Rahab receiving the spies, are both used in James 2 to support an idea which has been highly misunderstood in the church. James 2:24 says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” However, Paul says in Romans 3 –

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”

How are these two reconciled? The answer is found in this passage of Hebrews 11. The exact same examples used by James are those which are addressed now in Hebrews, offering up Isaac, and receiving the spies. James calls them “works,” but the author of Hebrews says of both of them, “By faith…” Therefore, they are “works of faith.” In other words, faith is the basis for their works. They are not deeds of law, but they are works which spring out of faith. In the end, it is the faith which justifies. If works are included in the act of faith, they are still works of faith; and it is the faith behind the works which receives the reward, not the deed itself because the deeds are merely an expression of the faith.

The example of Franklin and Bill, which was detailed in the commentary on Hebrews 11:4, shows this. This will be more specifically explained when we arrive at James 2:24 in due time (the Lord permitting). Until then, it needs to be remembered that all deeds of faith find their reward in the faith, not the deed itself.

Life application: Thinking on the account of Rahab, it is hoped that you will realize that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your life, or how badly you’ve messed things up, Jesus will accept you if you will simply have faith. Then someday you too will be mentioned in heaven’s great Hall of Fame of Faith.

Lord, the story of Rahab shows that even a prostitute can be cleansed of her life and brought into your flock! This encourages us that our lives can also be used for Your glory despite the things we may have done wrong. Give us the ability to look forward in faith, and to leave behind all the wrongdoings of our past lives. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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