Rahab and Her Friends
by W.T.P. Wolston
Joshua 2:1-21; 6:1-27
There is a most instructive comment made by the Spirit of God in the New Testament on this remarkable scene. It is this: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11:31). What marked Rahab was faith. What marked all the rest in the city of Jericho was unbelief. What marks you before God, my friend? Are you of her company? Are you like her? Faith marked Rahab. Does it mark you, my friend, or unbelief, which?
The lesson of these chapters is very simple. It is the contrast between faith and unbelief. Now do you know, beloved reader, how to perish for ever, perish eternally, perish in your sins? Just remain in unbelief. “Oh, but,” you may say to me, “I am not an infidel.” Well, dear friend, I do not charge you with being an infidel, but whether you have done what Rahab did is the point.
She believed that judgment was coming; she was perfectly certain that she was in a doomed city, and among a doomed company. She believed that. And what did God do? He sent a couple of evangelists, blessed be His name, into her house to show her the way of salvation. Listen again to the record: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” The mass of the world is swamped in unbelief. We cannot shut our eyes to it. I do not shut my eyes to it, and I desire, my reader, that you should not shut your eyes to it. Unbelief is natural to us, and we are indifferent to the call of God, the claims of God, and to the fact of what our sin is, just as much as all Jericho. They perished because of unbelief, and among them was a woman some would be ashamed to walk down the street with, but I believe I shall meet Rahab in heaven.
You will find that the men and women who get saved today are those who have a sense of their sin, and whose consciences have charged them with their guilt; they are the people who get Christ. Religious people are not often converted, nor do they want to be, they do not think they need. it. Lately I passed by a large building holding two thousand souls, and the man who occupies the pulpit is telling the people every Sunday what they love to hear, viz., “You do not need to be converted.” My friend, if still unsaved, I tell you that you do need to be converted, otherwise you are bound to be damned.
I think Rahab’s history is a charming one because of the earnestness she shows as she wakes up first of all to discover what God was going to do, and then her soul desires not only her own safety, but the safety of all her friends. If you taste grace yourself you want everybody else to taste it. She had heard the command, “Bind this line of scarlet thread in the window,” and had heard also the beautiful promise, “Whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him” (Josh. 2:18-19). The grace of God is a wonderful thing, and, if we had a little more of the spirit of Rahab it would be well for us.
If you turn to our chapter you will see that Joshua sent two men into Jericho to spy the land. I think that was all that Joshua contemplated. Do you know what God thought? “I will save that poor wicked woman and her house.” I have no doubt that if the spies had known whose house it was they would have taken another lodging. But God had His eye on this poor Gentile. She had a heart to believe in God on the one hand, and to seek the blessing of others on the other. The spies come to Rahab, and somehow or other it leaks out that they are in her house, and the king sends to get the men delivered into his hand. “And the woman took the two men, and hid them.”
God’s comment on Rahab’s action is remarkable. “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11:31). She hides God’s messengers, and then out comes the whole truth. She says to them: “I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt” (vv. 9-10). She was as certain as possible that none could resist God. And she thought because she feared and trembled everybody else would be as sincere and earnest as herself. Well, how did she know? She had heard. More, she believed.
Friend, you have heard of God’s doings—heard a great deal in your day—heard the gospel over and over again. And you are not converted yet? You are a daring sinner, for you have been resisting God, and His Christ, and what you have heard. You have not heard a great deal about judgment. Far more often you have heard of grace, of a Saviour’s love and death, and of this one being converted and that one converted, and sometimes you trembled, but still neglected to believe. But here was a sinful woman, and all she had heard was that the mighty power of God carried all before it. And God sent His servants her way, and she took the opportunity to talk with them. She says: “We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed” (v. 10). The tidings had got to Jericho of God’s wonderful judgment on His opponent Pharaoh. And she very wisely says, “if God did that, will Jericho stand?” She draws some wise inferences.
My dear friend, it is a mistake for you to oppose God. It is an immense mistake. Be warned now. Let the action, the faith of this sinful woman instruct you. Are you less sinful than she? “Oh, I have not sinned after the sin of that woman.” No, my dear friend, you have sinned a great deal more deeply.
Yours is a sin that will never be named with the sin of Rahab, and what is that? You have heard of God’s Son, and you have made light of Him. There is no sin like that. You have resisted the Holy Ghost, you have resisted Christ, you have resisted the offer of God and the mercy of God, and you have resisted the sweet tale of the gospel and the melting story of the love of Jesus, and by-and-by you may appear before the throne of God, and you may say, “Lord, I never drank, or lied, or swore, or stole, or murdered, I am not guilty of these things.” Quite true, but then the secret sin will come out, you heard of Jesus, and you did not bow to Him. Note the consequence:—“He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). God measures sin today, not by the mere human standard of morality; He measures it by His Son, and by the treatment you have given His dear and blessed Son.
Well now, look at Rahab again. She had heard, and having heard, she knows full well what will come. She says, “And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man: for the Lord your God he is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath” (v. 11). Would to God your heart did melt, it ought to be melted by the love of Christ, and by the lovely news I have for you. But do not forget this “God has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). And that is why He commands all men everywhere to repent. Do you observe that? God the Creator, the Almighty and All-powerful, now today where you are “commands”—“Whom?—“All men”—Where?—“Everywhere” to repent. Rahab was repenting. “Our hearts did melt,” she says. There is a repentant sinner. Show me a heart that trembles before God with the sense of its sin, and I will show you a repentant sinner. Now God commands all men everywhere to repent. Why? “Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness.” The Judge is ordained and the day fixed, but in the meantime grace comes in.
All opposition on Rahab’s side was gone. “For the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (v. 11). This poor Gentile sinner had got the sense in her soul, God is God. And he who perishes is the man that is opposed to Him. She takes God’s side, she shelters His servants, keeps them in safety, and sends them forth in peace The apostle James tells us, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by her works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (Jas. 2:25). There are her works. Paul shows us her faith. James says she was justified by works. There was her action. Faith wrought in her soul, and the saving of the spies was what proved the reality of the faith in her soul. She had faith. I do not doubt it got in through the Word. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Before the day of judgment comes, ere the Lord Christ comes out to deal with this world in judgment, what has taken place? God lingers, sends down the Holy Ghost to preach the gospel, and is showing you how you may get saved. Rahab will show you the way if you look at her for a moment or two. She says: “Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have showed you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token. And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death” (vv. 12-13). She wanted deliverance, she wanted salvation. She was anxious. She is the picture of a downright anxious soul. And I never saw a downright anxious soul that did not want somebody else saved. You will always find that when a person is genuinely awakened they want others to be blessed also.
“And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the Lord hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. Then she let them down by a cord through the window, for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall” (vv. 14-15). And now she looks for and gets real assurance. Ah, here is a fine provision for Rahab. “Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by; and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household home unto thee. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him” (vv. 18-19). That is very plain and simple. For those outside what is it? Judgment. But for those inside? Well, “his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.” That is to say, “We make ourselves responsible for the safety of the person that is in the house where the scarlet line is.” And what is the scarlet line? That is the type of the precious blood of Christ. It runs all through Scripture, from end to end. There is no redemption except by blood. From end to end of Scripture you find the story of the blood. From the third chapter of Genesis right down to the very end of Revelation, in type, figure, promise, and actual fact, you have the blessed story of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ,
I believe that here you have a remarkable figure of this. If you want to escape from the judgment of God, you must have faith in that scarlet line. What do we read now? “And she said, According to your words, so be it.” That is the most charming faith. That is the soul simply bowing down to God’s testimony about Jesus. And I read, “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Faith says, “That is so, Lord.” And Scripture adds, “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The believing soul says, “So be it, Lord.”
What does Rahab do now? “And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window” (v. 21). I will guarantee before she went to sleep that night she said, “Well, I cannot tell when they will come—they did not say when—but I have their word, that if I now only put that scarlet line in the window, I shall be safe.” She hung it up in a most conspicuous spot—the window. Her house was upon the town wall, and it was the walls that came down first. But what does she do? “She bound the scarlet line in the window.” She took good care to put it up. Others might inquire what it meant. She knew what it meant—salvation for all in the house—shelter and safety. God knows the moment you get under the shelter of the blood of His blessed Son. You should know it likewise. If you are there, it is all right with you. There is no safety until you are under the shelter of the scarlet line. Have you that scarlet line between you and God?
Let us pass on to chapter 6, “Now Jericho was straitly shut up, because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in” (v. 1). And now God sends His hosts round about that city. I daresay you wonder what is the meaning of their circling the city for seven days. There is a beautiful lesson in it of the long-suffering of God. That was a doomed city, the walls were to come down, and what do we find? The hosts of the Lord came over the Jordan and marched around the city seven days. The Lord seems to say, “I am never in a hurry to judge.” Judgment is His strange work. The first day you see some six hundred thousand men or more as they march round that city. Then comes the ark of the Lord, Christ in figure, Christ in type, carried on the shoulders of the Priests and the Levites. The blood of atonement has been shed and sprinkled on that ark, and that blood cries for mercy and blessing. That blood has met all the claims of God in righteousness. And now round the city the priests and the Levites go bearing the ark, and before the ark of the Lord went those seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns. What a strange sound they emit; what is the meaning of it? Probably, Jericho sinners said: “What means this? Is this the way to take our city, by these fellows blowing those rams’ horns?” Discordant notes they seemed, but they were notes of mercy. That is not the melody that the world wants today. The whole city heard those notes of mercy. I think I can interpret those notes. They plainly said, “Rahab, the fall of Jericho is coming, get all your friends into the house.”
The first day’s march was over, and Jericho said, “What downright tomfoolery, the idea of our city coming down that way!” Yes, I admit that it looked very foolish. Do you know that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”? (1 Cor. 1:18). The people of Jericho said, “We can sleep peacefully tonight.” What about Rahab? She went for her friends, and possibly she had a little difficulty in getting them in. The next day Israel march round the city again, and these notes of mercy are heard again. This time they say, “Rahab, you have a little more time to bring them in.” And you might even think that as the people of Jericho saw one and another going to Rahab’s house, the tale of the scarlet line crept abroad. Possibly business was stopped for a little while, but if their fears were excited, they say, “Nothing has happened, and those silly rams’ horns will not blow our walls down.” The third day it was the same thing, and men might have said, “Well, this is really monotonous.” And then the fourth day it was the same. And Rahab all the while was saying, “Thank God, I got another in tonight.” And then the fifth day, she probably got two or three more in, and said, “Praise the Lord, the walls did not come down yesterday, I have got my house nearly filled.” And the sixth day it is the same routine.
And now comes the seventh day. The same thing was done. It was Christ carried all round the city, not once but seven times—Christ the power of God, and Christ the salvation of God. Those who did not believe saw nothing in it, but Rahab understood it, she knew its value. And God knew the value of that circling ark. Round they go, once, twice, thrice, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh time. Unsaved reader, what a mercy Christ did not come last night. You would then have been an eternally damned sinner, but yet there is a chance for you. The seventh circuit is not yet made, so to speak. But oh, those rams’ horns, they still breathe the same tale: “Judgment is coming. Rahab, have you any left out, any yet unsaved? Get them under the shelter of the scarlet line.”
The seventh circle was made, and then came the word, “Shout.” “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” (vv. 10, 20). The judgment came. “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). Sinner, escape now. Young man, get beneath the shelter of that scarlet line at once. Put the cross, the truth of the cross, between your soul and God, I implore you. Young woman, decide for Christ today. The people of Jericho might think Rahab was a fool as they saw her scouring the street, bringing in this one and that one, but she was the wisest woman in the city. Parents, are your children saved? You have not much time to lose, Get them in now. In another moment there may be a shout. What sort of a shout? God had said to Joshua, “All the people shall shout with a loud shout.” The testimony of God then was this: “Whoever is under the shelter of the scarlet line is safe.’
What did the rams’ horns say? “Get into the house where the scarlet line is.”
At length there came the shout, and down went the walls. So will it be again at the Lord’s return. What will close the testimony of grace? A shout. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout.” When all the people shouted the walls of Jericho fell down. It was all over with those who were not under the shelter of the scarlet line then, and similarly if you are not now really under the shelter of Christ’s blood, you have no time to lose, my friend, be sure of that. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). That is the next thing. No more preaching then. You will never be invited to another gospel meeting after the Lord has come. We people who trouble you now, who plague you now, who spoil your life’s rest, we shall all be away, and it will be all over with you. The moment the shout was heard, the rams’ horns died away for ever, and judgment swept the scene. “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not.” Are you like her? Are you a believer?
And now the spies enter the city, and go to the house of Rahab, and whoever is there is saved. “And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho” (v. 25). That woman was the means, in that sense, of the salvation of all her relations. Wonderful honour! Dear friend, Rahab will get the credit, by-and-by, of being the means of the salvation of all her relations. What a wonderful thing for you to be the means of the salvation of your relations.
Well, God give you, my friend, to get under the shelter of the Lord’s blood today, if never before. The true Joshua, Jesus, saves every soul that believes in Him. Joshua saved Rahab and all that she had then. Now Jesus, the true Joshua, the living Saviour, the triumphant Saviour at God’s right hand, of whom Joshua is but a type, saves all who confide in Him and His blood. Shall He not save you? If you come to Him now and trust in His precious blood, you will get the true token. Your soul will have pardon, peace, and the sense of acceptance before God, and you will be clear from the judgment of God. God give you, my reader, not to put your head on your pillow tonight till you can say, “I am under the shelter of the scarlet line.”
“When first, o’erwhelmed with sin and shame,
To Jesus’ cross I trembling came,
Burdened with guilt and full of fear,
Yet drawn by love, I ventured near,
And pardon found, and peace with God,
In Jesus’ rich, atoning blood.”
The Gospel Messenger 1903, p. 141