This week in the Twelve Extraordinary Women Series we will be looking at the life of Rahab.
Rahab is actually introduced in the Bible as "a harlot named Rahab". Not a flattering introduction AT ALL. Although initially identified as a prostitute she is an excellent testament of what faith can do.
Rahab lived in Jericho in the time of Joshua. Her house was not in a back alley or hidden in a bad part of town, it was actually right on top of the famous wall of Jericho. In that day this was considered prime real estate, which means that she was very successful in her trade. Unfortunately her "trade" was selling herself to men for money. She was contributing to the wickedness that already filled the land of Jericho. This evil nation had reached God's maximum level of tolerance and the time had come where the entire city would be destroyed. Despite Rahab's entire career being devoted to sadistic self-gratification, she would be extended grace by God and spared from God's sentence of condemnation. Rahab's whole life would be changed by her unexpected encounter with two spies.
Joshua sent spies to gather military and strategic information about Jericho. (Joshua 2:1-7 tells what happens.)
The spies entered Jericho and once inside the city, they stayed with Rahab - her residence was the perfect location for assessing the city's defenses, it overlooked the entire city. This was essential because they were there to scout the place out to secure victory - they were spies. In her "business" confidentiality was paramount and she would have welcomed these two strangers in quickly, without question - just as she would all her clients.
But the spies did not take advantage of her like virtually every other man she encountered and this is probably what won them her trust. They no doubt explained who they were and told her something about their God. Perhaps they shared how the Lord had delivered them from the desert or how He parted the Red Sea. It is clear that something the spies told Rahab redeemed her faith in God.
The king sent messenger's to Rahab's house because he apparently had heard that she was harboring spies. But despite Rahab making a living of selling herself for evil purposes she totally surprises us in this situation. She probably would have received a great reward for turning in the spies, but she didn't. She actually misdirects the messengers and saves the lives of the two spies. She took a dangerous risk - if the king discovered she was lying it could have resulted in serious punishment - possibly death. She put her own life in jeopardy by protecting these strangers. Her sudden expression of faith is not only unexpected but it goes against every instinct that would normally motivate a woman like Rahab.
Rahab's actions in protecting the spies involved telling a lie. MacArthur discusses the argument of whether or not commending Rahab's faith is Scripture also condoning her method. Some argue that lying is acceptable if the motive is for the greater good. But God Himself cannot lie and therefore cannot condone a lie. Such a situational approach to ethics is laden with serious problems. There is no need to justify Rahab's lie. Was it necessary for a greater good? Absolutely not. God could easily have saved Rahab and the spies without a lie. This isn't the point of Rahab's story. The point is that Rahab is a positive example of her faith. She turned down an easy reward, put her own life at risk and put her trust in God. Nothing but faith could have made such a dramatic change in the character of a woman like Rahab.
The spies then swore that they would not harm Rahab or her family because of the kindness she showed to them and her help with their mission. She would display a red cord from her window so that her house would stand out from the others and they would know to leave her and her house unharmed.
Scriptures tell us that God Himself demolished the walls of Jericho without the aid of the Israel military. To prove it, God had the Israelites march around the city with the ark of the covenant for 7 consecutive days, on the seventh day they marched around the city 7 times, blew a ram's horn and shouted. The walls instantly collapsed. All except where Rahab's house stood. Her home and her family were spared.
Rahab is a beautiful example of the transforming power of faith. From that day on she lived a completely different kind of life. Rahab started out with a bad reputation because of her personal choices, but her life story is proof that no matter what lies in our past, we can be redeemed through faith in Christ. What she once was simply magnifies the divine grace, which makes her the extraordinary woman she became.
Some of us may feel like there is no way we can be extended grace based on what we have done in our past but I think Rahab's story emphasizes the very opposite. She is a reminder that by God's grace, He can redeem even the most horrible life. No matter what we have done in our lives, God loves us and if we are sincere in our faith, He is willing to forgive us and embrace us. I think the possible take-away message is: Don't write yourself off - God hasn't. With faith, you can have a new beginning.