The Heroes of Faith: Corporate Faith and Unexpected Faith!

By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies’ (Hebrews 11:29-31).

In these verses the writer shifts his focus from personal faith to corporate faith, and then to what might be termed totally unexpected and extraordinary faith!

The crossing of the Red Sea was an act of incredible faith and whatever the behaviour of the people before the crossing (Exodus 14:10-13) it must have taken great faith to walk the path between the piled up walls of water even if it was: ‘as if on dry land’. Yet, as we know: ‘the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned’ (v29).  The writer then fast forwards forty years to one of the most remarkable events of Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land, the conquest of Jericho.  The actual method that the Lord had prescribed for taking Jericho must have seemed totally ludicrous.  After all, how could walking round the city once six days in a row and on the seventh, on the seventh circuit, giving a loud shout possibly be an effective strategy (Joshua 6:1-21)?  Think about it, it sounds absolutely mad!  Surely siege-engines would have to be built to scale or breakdown the city walls and you would have to have a well-trained army!  It took faith for the people to obey instructions like that even if they had seen God at work in the past!  But that is what they did because they had faith in God and Joshua as his servant.

That now brings us to the big surprise of Hebrews chapter 11, Rahab and her monumental example of faith! Rahab and her family’s lives were spared in the conquest of Jericho due to her reaction to the Israelite spies.  She took the great risk of hiding them and covering for them (Joshua 2:8-21).  Her reaction is interesting as it is a display of great faith for someone living among a pagan people.  While all in Jericho had heard the stories of the Lord’s great deliverance of his people from Egypt only Rahab drew the right conclusion in that she: ‘so feared Yahweh’s threat that she fled to receive his mercy’.[1]  In other words she threw herself on the mercy of the living God, while the rest of Jericho panicked and locked the gates.  John Calvin notes her background was even less promising: ‘the name harlot is added to heighten the grace of God’.  He then adds: ‘it is also certain that this refers to her past life for her faith is the evidence of her repentance.’[2] So this former ‘Shady Lady’ is held up by the apostle James as a beacon of faith and rightly so (James 2:25). She is an example of faith in the most surprising place and circumstances, and a wonderful testimony to Just how far God’s grace and mercy can extend!

[1] Dale Ralph Davis, Joshua, No Falling Words (Fearn, Christian Focus Publications, 2000), 56.

[2] John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistle’s of St Peter, Calvin’s Commentaries (Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1963), 181.

Want to listen to a sermon on this passage? Faith that Expects the Miraculous.


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