“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31
One of the greatest stories in the Bible focuses on a harlot. The story is preserved in Joshua chapter 2. In Joshua we see the position of a sinner (2:1). She lived in a lost land. She had searched in vain for meaning. Sinners like Rahab often show that they are searching for something. Very rarely is a sin sought after without a deeper meaning. Addicts are searching for peace and find it in a substance, murderers are searching for justice or self-affirmation, and harlots are searching for love and security. She had never known true love. It is very likely that Rahab was not just a common prostitute but may have been the religious Priestess of Jericho, who sold her body to Satan and all she received in return was shame.
In Joshua 2:1-4 we see the plight of a sinner (2:1-4). She lived in a condemned city. She had nowhere to turn. She more than likely had serviced royalty, but running to them was not going to preserve her. Who are we going to go for help when our world is under siege? Who we turn first shows what our functional God truly is. She knew she was a sinner. She must have been filled with shame and regret because of her past. She had a choice to make. She could trust in strange men (men had always let her down) or she could trust in the king. It would have been tempting to have the ear of the king but Rahab knew that an exalted position in a condemned kingdom was worthless.
In Joshua 2:9-13 she proclaims what she knows about God. She had heard of God’s great power. Rahab was in awe of a God she had never seen. She claims the works that the spies had witnessed, and whose fathers died because they did not believe. Israel just got upstaged by a spiritually blind, pagan Harlot. She somehow knew that God was merciful, and she was willing to stake her life on the fact that God’s mercy was greater than her sins. The harlot had nothing to offer God, but she realized that sin doesn’t keep us from God, unbelief does.
In Joshua 2:18 Rahab received a promise based on her sign of faith. She was required to place a scarlet thread outside of her window, so the Israelite soldiers would know who to save. She had an outward sign of an inward faith. This proclamation took courage. I would imagine that some of her friends asked her about the scarlet thread, remember she did not know when the soldiers or the siege was to come. Here sign was a sign of safety. A sign is given because a promise hasn’t been fulfilled. In the same way the peace that God gives is a sign that one day when I die, I will be delivered. This peace is from the promise of God Himself found only in His Word. She had to trust God in her decision, and her actions. Rahab’s faith was tested. She waited while the spies hid, she waited four chapters before Israel comes to Jericho, and she waited while the Israelites marched. Her faith was tested in the same way Noah’s was as he went through 120 years building an Ark with no rain. Her faith was tested like Jeremiah who preached for 40 years without a convert. Her faith was tested in the same as ours when we continually wrestle with a temptation.
In Joshua 6:16-20 we see that the trumpet that sounded defeat for all of Jericho actually freed her. While everyone else ran and fled, the trumpet of God was a comfort to her. Once you put your faith in Christ, the justice of God goes from a terrifying unquenchable fire, to a place you can go to be warmed. God broke down the walls that kept her from Him. As a side note, God doesn’t have to ask permission to knock down the barriers in our life.
God gave Rahab what she had sought as a Harlot, security and love. He showed her that there is never security in the temporal and the only confidence is in the eternal. He also gave her more than she could have hoped for. She received an heritage. She became the wife of the prince of Judah the tribe of Kings (I Ch 2:10-11). The harlot become a princess. Move over princess diaries. She becomes the great grandma of Israel’s king David (Mat 1:5-6). She also became the Greeeeeeat grandma of Israel’s greatest King, Jesus. Because Rahab in faith was willing to boldly proclaim the scarlet thread from her window, her great grandson was able to deliver her. Jesus was watching as his grandma choose to serve Him, and because she did, she was included in God’s plan for you and me. Rahab was blessed beyond measure, we don’t even know the name of the King of Jericho. We need to remember that as faithful as Rahab was, that’s not what the story of Rahab is about.
The story has much greater significance than the deliverance and faithfulness of Rahab. We get a small glimpse of the providence of the Great Prince. God saved her. There was no way Rahab would have met God in the temple of Baal, or Dagon. There was no way Rahab was going to find God in her relationships, God waited for her. Every night when she wandered the streets looking for Love, God was watching with outstretched hands saying, “Here I am.” Every time she wept in the darkness God was saying, “Here I am.” Every time her body was tormented by disease and fever from her relationships God was offering healing. Every action of the most extreme addict is the desire of the soul to find some aspect of God, they are just looking in the wrong place. While she was seeking fulfillment and security, God sought her. If you look at Joshua chapter 6 and see God’s plan of the nation marching around Jericho, why send out spies? You don’t need to know numbers or the positions of watchtowers if all you are going to do is play “Ring around the Rosie.” There was no reason for the spies to scout out the land. God already promised Joshua victory (1:3). It is interesting that according to God’s battle strategy, the spies didn’t even need to go out. In fact, the conquest of Jericho was put on hold while the spies went out. It was as if God moved in Joshua’s heart to send the spies specifically to save Rahab.
The story of Rahab is a shadow of a greater story of how God sought out all of mankind. We were all wandering in darkness groping for peace and security in a condemned city, but then God sought us. God sought us when all you and I had to offer was sin. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.” God put the plan of the conquest of His heavenly army and the conquering of Jerusalem on standby while He sent His Son into the wicked world because He wanted me. Do you know why the God of Creation who holds the very armies of Heaven at bay hasn’t destroyed this wicked world? It is because He is waiting, and looking for sinners just like you and me. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
Can you not hear the noise of the warriors of Heaven and the hooves of Christ’s stallion marching around the city. Some day this world will fall. Is your life filled with fear and dread of the unknown, have you been willing to reach out and in faith answer the call of Christ and claim His thread of salvation for your life? Or are you striving to eliminate the spies from your life because you would rather not hear God’s gentle call?
If you have claimed Christ, the story of Rahab has some serious questions as well. Are you sitting safely in your window by yourself, while the city perishes? Rahab loved much because she had been forgiven much. People are asking you every day, what’s with the cord. “Oh, it’s something my parents make me do…” “It’s kinda a personal thing…” When the battle of this life is over and God calls all unbelievers to judgment, will you stand guiltless because you went into the city and shared your house of safety, or will hundreds of unbelievers be calling out your name? Have you brought anyone into your house?