Lessons from a Prostitute

Joshua son of Nun secretly sent out from Shittim two men as spies: “Go. Look over the land. Check out Jericho.” They left and arrived at the house of a harlot named Rahab and stayed there. The king of Jericho was told, “We’ve just learned that men arrived tonight to spy out the land. They’re from the People of Israel.” The king of Jericho sent word to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you to stay the night in your house. They’re spies; they’ve come to spy out the whole country. The woman had taken the two men and hidden them. 

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death. (Joshua 2: 1-4, 12-13)

God drew me into this woman’s story this week, revealing aspects of her character that are worth imitating, but even more so, powerful reminders of God’s heart and character that increase my faith and trust in him.

Through the Harlot’s Eyes

It was hard enough to be a woman in Old Testament times; property of your father or husband, and voiceless in society. A harlot was further isolated from the sisterhood of women — wives and mothers — who viewed her as a threat, a failure or a blight.

Property of none, Rahab lived among, yet outside the community of men. Voiceless, she listened to and remembered their stories. It was probably through such stories that she first learned about this God of the Israelites, a living God who stood in stark contrast to the gods she’d grown up with.

Unlike the gods that existed to serve the people of Jericho, the Israelites lived to serve their God. And unlike Jericho’s impotent gods, the Israelites’ God displayed his omnipotent power for all to see, parting seas and smiting enemies to deliver his people.

Rahab had also heard the rumors that the Israelites planned to claim her homeland as their own, a promise from their God, and one she believed would be fulfilled.

Through God’s Eyes

So when opportunity knocked, in the form of two spies on her doorstep, Rahab answered, stepping out of her circumstance to do the unthinkable — offer them a safe haven and aid to escape the King’s wrath. In return Rahab asked only that the spies save her and her family when they took over the city. And they did.

But the story doesn’t end there. Because it is God’s story. And God didn’t see Rahab as the world did, but through his eyes — a loving father. A father who welcomed his daughter into the family and extravagantly blessed this lost sheep who had allowed him to work through her mustard seed of faith to deliver his people into the Promised Land.

Not only did God save Rahab and her family from physical death, he saved them from spiritual death as well, bringing her into a divine inheritance.

Shedding her identity as the harlot, Rahab finds love, marrying one of the spies, Salmon, and builds a Godly family, becoming mother to Boaz. In a culture that did not honor women, Rahab raises a son known for his strong character and the honor he bestows on Ruth, a widow he met gleaning seed from his field (and later marries).

Both Rahab and Boaz are among the early names in the genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in the gospel of Matthew.  A woman the world disdained God saw fit to ordain as a member of the family tree of his one and only son, Jesus, whose name echoes his eternal promise: God Saves.

Here are the questions I’ve been pondering since my encounter with the God of Rahab:

  • How often do I let others define me, seeking their approval or taking on their disapproval, rather than standing on my identity in Christ?
  • Do I let past mistakes limit my thinking about how God can use me, believing my sins are greater than his power or will to redeem?
  • Am I listening attentively to the stories of God being shared by those around me, or am I too busy navel-gazing on my own circumstances and needs to see God’s might and beauty continuously on display?
  • Do I lean on my small faith as an excuse to take the safer path, rather than stepping out boldly on the faith I’ve been given, confident God will reward me with more?
  • What could God accomplish through me if fear were not an obstacle?

By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

Hebrews 11:31


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