(Joshua 2:4-6) 4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:
5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.
6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.
For reasons unknown to me, those in Reformed circles continually discuss the ethical problems posed by Rahab.
According to the strict reading of the account, she did not tell the truth to the officials who asked where the spies were. To not mince words, she lied.
Here is the problem. In her lie, she saved the lives of the men. In saving the lives of the men, she saved her own life and the lives of her family. And, to take it one step further, the scripture itself commends Rahab for her lie and states that it was done in faith.
(James 2:25) 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
So here is the ethical dilemma, for those who are wired for disputes over the law: Did Rahab sin when she lied?
On the one hand, we certainly do not want to say that the Ten Commandments are situational. Committing adultery and murder are wrong, no matter what the situation is. And the devil that is a liar. God’s people are to be people of the truth.
On the other hand, Rahab’s only other option was to say nothing or to tell the truth – either way, she would have condemned the spies to death and condemned herself and her family along with them.
So which is it? The debate will continue forever.
But may I suggest that the debate itself is wrong. The accounts of scripture are not given to us as moral tales. The point of Rahab is not the importance of truth telling. When you look at these accounts as moral fables as is done by countless children’s Sunday School books, you miss the point. The Old Testament is not a McGuffey reader or the Aesop’s fables of Israel. Jesus said all of scripture is about HIM.
All scripture is given to point us to Christ. Let’s look at the account of Rahab through the lens of the New Testament, as the apostles would have us do.
(Hebrews 11:31) 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
Let’s put the account in its proper place. The people of God, the nation of Israel, was bringing the judgment of God to Jericho. They were being led by Christ himself, the Captain of the Lord’s Army (Joshua 5:14). Utter destruction was the plan. The city of Jericho knew it, for they trembled at their arrival. Rahab testified that there was no more courage in the whole city. Judgment was upon them.
Rahab only had one chance – side with the people of God, and perhaps God in his mercy would spare her. The only other option was destruction.
We could, by the way, endlessly speculate on other options, but scripture does not. These are the only options in scripture.
When the official came to Rahab’s door, it was not an ethical exercise. It was very, very real. Save the lives of the spies and be spared yourself. Or hold on to your own self-righteousness and die.
Now was not the time for self-righteousness. Now was the time to choose a side. Throw in your hand with God’s people and the promised seed? Or be destroyed with the whole city?
So let me suggest reading this account through the eyes of faith, and learning from the example of Rahab, as the writer of Hebrews would have us do.
This world is heading for judgment as certainly as Jericho was. This judgment will begin in the house of God, and is already taking place. Incest, abuse, rape, oppression, spiritual bullying, extortion, casting out the widow and orphan take place continually – in the Church of God. Judgment is coming. And if this is the state of the church, how much worse is the state of those outside? When the salt has lost it’s savor, what will it be salted with?
Perhaps, as Rahab did, now is the time to say, “Lord, have mercy on us!” and cling to Christ, as Rahab did. Rahab saw his coming by faith and rejoiced. The Pharisees bickered over the law.
(Philippians 3:8-9) 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Perhaps now is the time to exalt Christ, cling to him by faith, and count our own “righteousness” as dung. Remember that Rahab was a harlot – not exactly a moral paragon. Just as each one of us, we either receive the mercy of God, or we die on our sins. Now is not the time to bicker over the law. Now is the time to flee to Christ, as Rahab did. Her choice was to either cling onto some weird self-righteousness (at least I don’t lie) and die. Or come to Christ in the shadow of the spies and live.
She chose to live – to count her own righteousness as dung, that she might gain Christ and know the power of his resurrection.
That – it seems to me – is the point of the account. The rest we can argue over until doomsday, but it doesn’t seem to be to be a fruitful use of time.