Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. A prostitute according to the modern day society is a woman who has neither dignity nor respect for herself. She is shameless and she sells or gives herself to men for money and other material benefits. Rahab was such a woman. Her life was nothing to write home about, but God blessed her so much that it is worth noting. This means that how it begins is not as important as how it ends. Your beginning may be messy and shameful right now, but the end of the story is written by God Himself. If we trust Him, He is able to take away our shame and disgrace.
We meet Rahab in the book of Joshua 2 and her story is very interesting. Before the children of Israel conquered the city of Jericho, Joshua sent two spies from the camp of Acacia with orders to go and secretly explore the city and they ended up in Rahab’s house. On learning that there were strangers in his land, the king of Jericho ordered them to be brought to him, but Rahab hid them on the roof and lied to the king’s agents that they were long gone.
Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death” (Joshua 2:8-13).
The spies agreed to her request giving her three conditions.
Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.” “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window (Joshua 2:17-21).
The spies safely escaped the city, returned and reported everything to Joshua. The children of Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan where they laid siege to the city of Jericho. The city was completely destroyed and every man, woman and child in it was killed except Rahab and her family. At the end of it all, Rahab got married to Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth, Joseph the father of Jesus was her direct descendant.
Rahab was not an exceptional woman. We all know that prostitutes have little, if any honor, dignity or respect. She was a Canaanite. Jericho was one of the principal seats of idol worship, being especially devoted to Ashtaroth, the goddess of the moon. This means Jericho was a godless city where people did not know or worship the true God. It’s clear from the scriptures that she was perceptive, intelligent and well informed. She identified the spies and knew exactly who their God was, what He had done and what He was about to do to Jericho. She did not take this for granted. Instead, she saw an opportunity to save herself and her family from the destruction that was about to befall their city. Rahab knew that they were under the mercy of the God of these two spies who were in her house and so she did what she had to do. She took them in and hid them in her house. She was careful to protect the spies, people she did not know personally, but knew their God. Despite the fact that she was a prostitute, she didn’t mess up with them. It wasn’t business as usual during that time, it was serious business. What awaited her was a matter of life and death. Making one mistake would lead to death, and she knew it. She thought of herself and her family and realized that she needed to save them, whatever the cost.
She was under the power of sin and in condemnation because her life was not right before God and the city she lived in had been marked for destruction. She was part of a corrupt, depraved and a pagan society and there was nothing godly in her. Money and the pleasures of the world had taken pre-eminence in her life and that’s what defined her – it’s what she lived for. Yet Rahab was not a fool. I guess she did whatever she did with her two eyes and ears open.
Though we can safely say that she was not the ideal woman for salvation, it’s worth noting that she had faith. Within her, was another kind of a woman who believed in the supreme power. She knew she could not save herself and her family and she had to let it out. She had learned and gathered enough to come to a conclusion that God is God in heaven above and on earth below. And this alone – her faith – saved her and her family. God is able to save anyone, no matter who they are. If God was looking at what she did and the kind of life she lived, He would have written her off.
All of us are saved through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8) and this is where it all starts. Her faith enabled her to turn away from her culture, her people, religion and past life to the Lord. Commitment to true faith in God necessitates setting priorities that are contrary to those of the world.
Once we come to Christ our pasts lives no longer matter. We are cleansed and set free from our sins. She was no longer viewed as an unclean prostitute, but as one worthy by grace to be part of the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ. God allowed her to live in the midst of His people. She became one of their own, and just as she was grafted into the line of Christ, so we become God’s children and partakers in his inheritance (Romans 11). We are saved by grace and in this story, we learn of the amazing grace of God that can save even the worst of sinners and bring them into an abundant life in Christ Jesus.
She was also a leader in her own way and possibly a better leader than the king of Jericho. Rahab was able to save her own life and that of her family members because her strategy was right. She knew that she could not fight the children of Israel and neither could she do anything to keep them away from Jericho or stop them from taking over the city. Fighting against them guaranteed death, and Rahab knew it too well and so the only way was to collaborate with them. Apparently she had the knowledge of this God, who was not losing any battle. She wisely decided to be a partaker and she benefited big time.
Many of us in life fail because we don’t know what we want in the first place. We go round and round in circles, cycles and rotation and eventually end up accomplishing nothing. We need to have clarity. We need to be clear about what we want. Someone has said that fuzzy ideas lead to fuzzy actions. Clarity of goals and expectations is the key to achievement and success in life. Rahab knew what she wanted and expressed it point blank. Know what you want and go for it.
Sometimes you have to work alone. She acted alone, took all the risks alone and made decisions alone. Those close to her were not even aware of what she was doing. She single handedly saved her entire family. She stood alone, counselled herself, motivated herself and by herself figured out what to do and how to do it. She managed her affairs and proved to be a leader by leading herself first. She was a woman, but never allowed her gender to stand in her way from taking actions to preserve her life and those of her loved ones.