One of the most famous Bible stories is when Joshua captures Jericho. The Israelites marched around the city once a day for six days, then seven times on the seventh day. The wall around the city collapsed, leaving it open for them to conquer.
Before crossing the Jordan River to launch his “attack,” Joshua sent spies to Jericho. They were helped by a prostitute named Rahab. When the king looked for them, she hid them and sent the king’s men away.
Joshua repaid Rahab for this kindness. The Bible says Israel “burned the whole city and everything in it…but Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute…because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho – and she lives among the Israelites to this day” (Joshua 6:25).
The rest of the Bible treats Rahab as a surprisingly important person. At first glance, she seems to be nothing more than a traitor motivated by self-preservation – and a prostitute too!
But she is much more than that. Her actions provide an inspiring example of Christian faith. And she proves that anyone can be called by God and used for His purposes.
It appears Rahab had no trouble adjusting to life as an Israelite. She already believed in Israel’s God when she helped the spies. She had confessed to them, “The LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11). Now she was included among His people.
She even seems to have married an Israelite man. When tracing Jesus’ genealogy, Matthew lists her as Boaz’s mother. That means she put down roots and had a family among the Israelites.
But Matthew traces the genealogy further: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed…Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David” (Matthew 1:5-6).
That means Rahab was David’s great-great-grandmother. And since David was ultimately the father of Jesus, she was Jesus’ distant grandmother too! Not only did God save Rahab by her faith; He used her to bring the Savior into the world.
Faith in Action
Rahab’s faith became legendary in the New Testament. Paul includes her in the Bible’s Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11:31). And James puts her alongside Abraham as an example of true faith.
He says, “A person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone…was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:24-26).
Rahab shows us what real faith looks like. It isn’t just making a confession or being baptized. Rather, faith compels us to act.
Everyone in Jericho was afraid of the Israelites. Everyone believed God had given Israel the city. But Rahab was the only person who acted on it. She risked her life by throwing in her lot with the Israelites, and with their God.
Breaking the Stereotype
Long-time Christians set certain expectations for other Christians. They must be baptized; they must attend church; they must dress up; they must behave “church appropriately”; they must be middle-to-upper class. We create a stereotype and expect so-called Christians to conform to it.
Rahab blows this image right out of the water! She wouldn’t be welcomed in our churches because she doesn’t meet our standards. But she pleased God by her faith and was welcomed into His people.
We must be careful how we judge others. Jesus is the only image to which we must conform. He is the stereotype; anything else is man-made. We must watch how we appraise ourselves as well. Meeting our own expectations doesn’t please God. What pleases Him is active, risk-taking faith.
Maybe Jesus had Rahab in mind when He rebuked the Jewish leaders: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31).
Would He say the same to us?
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