So, once God saw that He had people who were bent on fighting, He issued orders that when they had conquered a heathen town, they were not supposed to leave anyone alive. If they were going to conquer it, they were going to conquer it all the way. We’ve examined some of those passages, and I must admit, they can seem a little perplexing.
However, in this chapter of Joshua, I’m left wondering if there was anything arbitrary about those commands. By that, I mean that I wonder if God just told them to "kill the heathens" for no reason—simply because they were heathen. Here, it appears that can’t be the case, because Rahab is definitely "a heathen." She’s a prostitute and, according to this story, she doesn’t always tell the truth. Yet, after she saves the Israelite spies, she cuts a deal with them to spare her family when they come to take Jericho. And they agree.
Now, I suppose someone could argue that this arrangement didn’t necessarily meet with God’s approval. But it must have, for this "heathen" prostitute was later mentioned in Hebrews 11—the chapter of faith heroes. Also, she later became the mother of Boaz, which meant that Jesus Himself was a direct descendant of Rahab! Talk about being honored in all of Israel!
Rahab told the spies that everyone in Jericho had heard about the Lord of heaven and all the mighty works He had done. You see, God’s marketing plan was working. They knew all about Him, and they were more than a little nervous about the Israelites. Yet, in comparison to Rahab’s gesture of faith, the king sent people to pursue the spies in order to kill him. So, it’s obvious that the knowledge of God and what He was doing produced different reactions in different people.
The point is, God is not arbitrary. It was not the fact that people were living in a heathen country that "sealed their fate." It was about the condition of their hearts. Rahab proved to have an open and teachable heart, and for that, she was not only saved, but celebrated! The same is true for us. God does not arbitrarily decide who is saved and who is lost; we decide that by choosing how we will respond to God. Will we be teachable and open? Or will we be stubborn and closed? The choice is up to us.