In our series looking at women of the Bible, we’re studying Rahab at the moment. Rachel looked last week at perhaps Rahab’s most important role: she appears in the lineage of Jesus. Rachel looked at Rahab’s profession – a ‘harlot’ or prostitute. But what caused her to move from being a prostitute to one of Jesus’ ancestors?
We’re told the story in Joshua 2. Although our key verses look at Rahab’s actions, we need the whole story to understand her motivation.
Putting the story from Rahab’s perspective, it looks something like this:
Rahab was a prostitute, living and working in a house built on the castle walls. She had heard of the God of Israel, how He parted the Red Sea and how He had led His people out of Egypt. She had heard of how cities were destroyed in His name. She came to believe in God’s power and to fear him.
She made up her mind to help God’s people – for she knew God would give them the victory. So when she welcomed two strangers into her house (for a prostitute’s home was an ideal place for spies and subterfuge), she recognised them as men of Israel. Although she knew she was risking her life, she hid them. When the king’s men came to question her, she lied, sending them away on another path and protecting the spies.
In return for this, the God of Israel protected her and her family, and rewarded her for this.
Wow. When I looked at this from Rahab’s perspective, her bravery and courage blew me away. She knew NOTHING of God, except what she had heard by rumour and conjecture. She was not one of Abraham’s descendants. She was living and working as a prostitute in what has been described as a ‘totally decadent culture.’
And yet, she has been so convicted by what she has heard. She has believed – despite not witnessing the miracles and the Exodus. She declares, in verse 11, “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” If we compare this to the Israelites, who questioned God repeatedly, despite seeing his presence in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night, her faith seems amazing.
Confidence to take risks
Her confidence in God is wonderful too. She is sure that He has given the Israelites the land. She has confidence to ask for protection for her and for her family. She has the confidence to lie to the King – despite the punishment of death for harbouring a spy – because she believes in God.
I think this is pretty incredible. It’s made me realise what an amazing woman Rahab really was. She was so brave, and willing to risk death for a God who she had only heard of.
But… She lied…
I’ve been struggling with this all week. I completely understand why she lied – she was led to by her belief in God and her desire to protect her family. But why should God reward that?
Then I read a few commentaries. I’ve seen numerous commentaries which have compared Rahab hiding the spies to people hiding Jews from the Nazis in World War Two. Surely we wouldn’t judge those who risked their life to protect others for lying?
The other thing is, the Israelites were – or were soon to be – at war with Jericho. Deception – and spying – is an important strategy in warfare. Espionage would be impossible without it. When Rahab hid the spies, she sided with Israel against her own people.
So what can we learn from Rahab this week?
Firstly, God can call anyone. Even the most unlikely person.
Secondly, God can use anyone – and he may use us in ways we cannot predict.
Thirdly, if our confidence is in God, we can be brave, knowing He is on our side.
Next week, we look at Joshua 6:22: ‘Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.”’ I really hope you can join us.