If I asked you to make a list of your favorite people from the Bible, who would you include? David? Daniel? Moses? What about Peter, Paul and Mary? ( Not the Band! Ha! ) How long would it take until Rahab made your list? While she’s probably not anyone’s number one favorite, she’s a pretty remarkable woman who has much to teach us. So, let’s meet this lesser-known girl from the Old Testament. She’s more than just an accomplice to a famous spy mission; Her life exemplifies the New Testament truth found in Ephesians 3:20 that reminds us that God can do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.”
Her Story –
First, a little background. Moses was dead, and Joshua had just taken over leadership of the Hebrew nation.
His assignment: Complete the mission begun by his predecessor and take possession of the Promised Land.
Of course, this land wasn’t just an empty paradise waiting to be settled. Instead, strong warriors occupied well-defended territories who weren’t quick to yield their lands to a new group of settlers. So before the Israelites began their conquest, Joshua sent two trusted spies on a reconnaissance mission into the walled city of Jericho.
This is where our unlikely heroine enters the picture, first introduced to us by her unseemly occupation… Rahab, the prostitute. Apparently, Joshua’s scouts end up at her house with plans to headquarter their operation from her home. It was actually a pretty clever scheme since strangers visiting the home of a harlot wouldn’t be unusual, no more so than would be expected in a city like Las Vegas today. But, it wasn’t long till their cover was blown, and the king and his guards came looking for the suspected spies at her place. Instead of outing her guests and turning them over to the soldiers to protect her city as would seem logical and loyal, Rahab hatches a quick plan to conceal the infiltrators and help them escape the city in exchange for the promise of safety for her entire household. If you jump to the end of the story, God eventually hands the city over to the Israelites by smashing the walls flat, but incredibly, Rahab’s house and everyone in it survives the destruction! (Josh. 6:16, 22)
Her Transformation –
It’d be easy to chalk Rahab’s actions up as primarily motivated by self-preservation. I mean, word had gotten around about the miracles surrounding the Hebrews. Everyone in Jericho knew about what happened in Egypt a few decades before (Exodus 5-14), and about Joshua’s victory over the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). And now, the people of Israel were camping out in their backyard just across the Jordan River. The people of the city feared the strength of the God of the Israelite army, but Rahab’s attitude is different. I think there was more going on here than just a woman who was ready to switch sides to assure she was on the winning team. Listen to her confession of faith. “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Josh. 2:11) Somewhere along the way, her heart changed from fear of death to faith in their God of power. Her belief was so great in the Lord God that she was willing to put her life and the life of her entire family on the line.
Now here’s the most marvelous part of the story. From a rational standpoint, Rahab had no chance with God. She was a prostitute, ie a “professional” sinner who was immersed in moral depravity. She lived in a pagan culture which at the time had no prophet, no teacher and no access to the Word of God. But none of that mattered to the Lord. He looked beyond all the apparent obstacles, saw her heart and gave her enough truth to transform her life.
God brought her fully to Himself and made her one of His people. After the battle was over, she joined the nation of Israel (Joshua 6:25) and later married an Israelite man named Salmon. (Matt. 1:4-5) Together they had a son named Boaz. He shows up again in the story of Ruth and marries the woman for whom the book is named. (Ruth 4:13) Salmon and Rahab eventually become the great grandparents of David. (Ruth 4:21) Yes, King David, the man after God’s own heart! Twenty six generations later, and out of their same blood line came Joseph, husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus! (Matt 1:5-16) Who would have thought God would have so highly favored a former outcast and sinner like Rahab!
Her Lesson –
On the surface, it looks like another ‘happily ever after story,’ but as it is so many times with Scripture, there’s more here if you look a little deeper. Notice that, God didn’t just save Rahab; He included her. And He does the exact same thing for you! Think about that for a minute. It’s a huge concept to embrace. God includes you! So often, we spend a lifetime hanging out on the edge of all that He intends for us as His children. Instead of believing we’re fully forgiven and welcomed into His family, it’s much easier to believe He has the same attitude about us as we have about ourselves. Guilt and shame convince us that we’ll never be accepted completely, so we never really let go of who we once were. But that’s not how God views His children. The message from Rahab’s life, (and from the entire Bible) reminds us that we have full redemption in Jesus Christ. When we receive the work of Christ on our behalf, we are completely clean; made new and whole. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” Isaiah writes. (Is 1:18) This is hard for most of us to get a good grasp of in a real, practical way. We know about our sins. We know about our past. We know about our mistakes and deliberate wrong-doing. We see our failures all too clearly. But that’s not how God sees us. From His viewpoint, we wear the righteousness of Christ, and are perfected by His work on our behalf. That means believers aren’t standing on the edge of the family. Each of us has been issued and invitation to leave our past behind and make a brand new start, showered by His overwhelming grace and love!
So don’t miss what Rahab teaches us. Her story is your story. Regardless of the specifics of your past, you have been walled in by sin and need to be rescued. But remember that you can never be so far from God that He cannot find you. You can never be so sinful that He cannot cleanse you. And you can never be so hopeless that God cannot change you. And there’s more! Once you believe, God erases your past, gives you a new identity, and invites you all the way into the inner circle of His family! Don’t allow guilt and shame to limit your usefulness. There’s no way Rahab could have ever anticipated the impact of her life. You can’t know yours either. Trust Him to redeem your heart and transform your past into a future that’s beyond imagination!