“Rehab, the prostitute . . .”
Almost every time the woman gets a mention in the Bible, her occupation is noted—as if prostitute was part of her name. Thankfully, though, it is her faith, not her failings, for which God honors her in Hebrews 11:31: “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
Her faith—as immature and unstudied as it was—saved her family. I also believe that she and her example of faith were a gift to the two spies God placed in her path.
If you are unfamiliar with Rahab’s story, you can read it in the Old Testament book of Joshua, chapters 2 and 6, but the quick summary is that she hid two spies that Joshua had sent into the walled city of Jericho.
Jericho led the way into the “Promised Land,” the land God had promised Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites. Conquering it would put them in a powerful position as they advanced into the Promised Land. But despite seeing numerous miracles and experiencing God’s obvious and daily care for their needs, the Israelites were plagued by fear and weak faith. At every turn, they seemed to doubt whether God could really take care of them.
Before attacking the city, Joshua sent in two spies to scope out the land. He wanted to know what they were up against. And after having wandered in the desert for forty years because of the previous generation’s lack of faith, I wonder if he was looking for ways to bolster his people’s confidence so they wouldn’t repeat the same mistake of faithlessness and end up wandering for another forty years.
The king of Jericho heard reports that spies had stolen into the city and had ended up in Rahab’s home, which was positioned within the city wall. When soldiers stormed her home searching for the spies, she admitted that the men had been there but had already left; in truth, she’d hidden them on the roof of her home.
In return for her protection, the spies told Rahab that her life and all those in her home would be spared when the Israelites took the city if she hung a red cord from her window. Before she sent the spies away, she gave them the unexpected gift of renewed faith when she said,
“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” —Joshua 2:9–11
Later, when the walls came tumbling down, she and her family were spared, and Rahab took her place in history as the great-great-great grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus; in fact, she’s one of a very few women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus. Her life (and career) undoubtedly changed as she assimilated into Jewish culture. But that change began before she knew anything about Jewish law; it began when she recognized God for who He is.
Unlike the Israelites, Rahab hadn’t grown up being taught to respect or love God. But she had heard enough accounts of His power to be in awe of Him. She could have given up the spies to the soldiers. She had to have known that if they’d been found in her home after she’d lied or if her lie was discovered, she would surely have been killed. But she knew enough about God to know that her life was safer in His hands than in the king’s hands or her own. And because of her example of faith in God’s power and sovereignty, the spies returned to Joshua full of confidence, saying, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us” (Joshua 2:24).
Faith is a gift. And even for those who grow up knowing that God is good, faith can wane. It is tested by illness, conflict, and other difficulties and trials. Thankfully, God still takes care to set divine appointments so that we will be emboldened to trust Him.
Last year, I was faced with a difficult decision. It wasn’t a hard decision; I knew what I had to do. But it was difficult because I also knew the potential outcomes which included a loss of income, and more devastating, a broken relationship.
Like the Israelites, I have seen God work miracles in my life. I have experienced His generous and continuous care. And yet, when faced with this difficult circumstance, I really wanted to try to find a way around it. I didn’t want to face it. I wanted to “go along and get along.” And I certainly didn’t want to hurt anyone by choosing to follow God.
Had it not been for a new friend that God had so graciously placed in my path, I might not have had the confidence to trust that God could and would take care of me and my family. No, she wasn’t a prostitute, but our meeting was just as unlikely and divinely appointed as that of the spies and Rahab. Without the gift of having her in my life, even if I had trusted enough to make the right decision, I know I would never have felt so at peace. Her story cut to the heart of my own and revealed God’s truth and goodness in a way that empowered me to act in faith.
I appreciate the fact that God never abandons us to face life alone. He promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him. His promises never fail, but we do, and sometimes we lose our way—or at a minimum question which path we should be on. I’m so thankful that God, who knows all of our weaknesses and loves us anyway, puts people in our lives to help us find our way back to Him and His peace.
Can you recall a time when God used an unlikely circumstance or encounter to renew your faith? If so, I’d love to hear that story!