Learning from Rahab? You’re kidding, right? No.
Rahab carried the title, harlot, as if it were her last name. Yet, Rahab made some significant changes along her life’s pathway. Let’s investigate. Joshua 2:1-24 introduces us to Rahab under the circumstances of the first city to be taken by the Israelites after the Exodus. Jericho, the walled city seemed invincible so Joshua arranged for two volunteers to spy out the city. Boldly they walked through the daytime open city gate. They stopped at Rahab’s house.
She is called a harlot throughout scripture—a title she seemed unable to escape.Her business was probably run as an inn and she acted as proprietor. According to the study of culture and archeology her house of ill repute was likely a place to eat, and sleep (and other activity!)
The spies did not necessarily know this when they entered her house. They were probably tired and hungry. They weren’t very accomplished spies. They were discovered probably by their appearance and heavily accented speech. When they came to the attention of the king he put out a city-wide search.
Rahab listened while her boarders taled. She knew the testimony of these Israelites. She had done more than just merely listened to her customers about the crossing of the Red Sea and the victory against the Amorites; she had pondered these things and been brought to a longing for faith in such a God as the God of the Israelites. Then, when the opportunity arose to exercise that faith, she illustrated her faith by her works. And the work was treason!
Hiding the spies was risky but lying was a greater risk. Situation ethics is not acceptable for Christians but let’s give her a break. Put yourself in her situation.
What would you have done? Without her knowing it, she was putting herself in a place where God’s law was higher than man’s law. Rahab was no dummy. Later in the night she let the spies over the wall on a rope. (Was she experienced in this activity? Who just keeps such a strong rope in her bedroom?) First, however, she extracts a promise from the spies to spare her life and the lives of her household during a sure-to-come battle. Liz Higgs expresses it this way: “Her newfound faith empowered her to trust these complete strangers—and a strange new God—to save her life. Their seasoned faith enabled them to trust a harlot wearing her changed heart on her sleeve to save them from death.”
Joshua 6:17—25 tells of her rescue. The spies probably looked up on the wall day after day as they made their march around the city. The red cord was in the window. Without that cord she would not be spared. The color is significant. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” says Isaiah 1:18.
God so honored his redemptive work in Rahab’s life that she is one of four women listed in the bloodline of Christ. Matthew 1:5 reveals her marriage in which she bore Boaz. She is the great-great grandmother of King David. Man may look on the outward appearance and follow reputation, but God looks on the heart and honors the choices that we make concerning Him.
Likewise Rahab is listed again in James 2:25 as an illustration of faith that produces works honorable to God. Her faith was not just an intellectual believing; rather it was an active faith that visualized God’s intention and acted upon what she felt was in harmony with God’s plan.
Finally, Rahab is listed in God’s Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11. What an honor! She is one of only two women listed there: Sarah and Rahab. Still, the name that almost would become her last name, harlot, follows her. Rahab the harlot speaks to us of that fact that God is no respecter of persons. His redemption is a free gift offered to all. Stories such as Rahab’s are not meant to glorify the sin; they are meant to glorify God’s GRACE.
So, here are some lessons to remember from Rahab:
- Our past does not determine our future (Romans 8:1)
- Rahab cared for her family and not just herself. (I Timothy 5:8)
- Obedience often requires public confession or testimony. (Psalm 107:2)
- Faith that is demonstrated is remembered. (James 2:26)
Living God’s Word: After examining your faith, does is meet the standard of the living faith? This coming week determine this: I will do something this week that will leave someone saying, “You would not believe what this person did because of her love for God!”
This is part of a full length lesson syllabus. I have lessons on most of the Old Testament women–good and bad! If you are interested, please contact me in comments.
Bibliography: The Bible, KJV; Bad Girls of the Bible, Liz Higgs, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO, 1999; Every Woman in the Bible, Sue and Larry Richards, Thomas Nelson Pub. Nashville, TN, 1999; God’s Word for Windows– Matthew Henry Commentary; Eaton’s Bible Dictionary.