by Marjorie D. Grevious

Happy Women’s History Month!

I am delighted to present to you another interesting and important woman of the Bible. Although Rahab has a few more than the 3 scriptures dedicated to the Prophetess Anna’s story, Rahab’s importance is often downplayed. Like Anna, Rahab made a lifestyle choice that put her in direct alignment with God’s purpose for her life. She is overshadowed by the spectacular story of Joshua succeeding Moses as the next leader of Israel and leading them into the promised land. The climax of which is when Jericho’s walls come tumbling down after a dramatic week of marching around the city. Rahab’s story also gets reduced because she was a prostitute. Rahab’s story is one that raises some important questions. Questions such as: who is worthy of being safe? Who is worthy of being saved? Who is worthy of redemption? Who is worthy to be an essential part of God’s divine plan and purpose? Who is deserving of God’s blessing and favor for generations? Could this be the destiny of a prostitute?

This is also one of those stories that remind us of the raw and profound nature of being human. We forget that the Bible is not the original script for the next Marvel superheroes movie. It is a collection of stories of people just like us, challenged by and wrestling with the foibles of being human. Bible stories show people dealing with poverty, politics, pettiness, illness, parenting, work, wealth, power, and sex. These are stories of how they stumbled, failed, and yet are redeemed by works of faith as a result of their own personal journey of redemption.

There is a specific shining example of how faith and works go together. James 2:24-26 reads:

24 You see that by works is a woman or man shown to be righteous and not by faith alone. 25 And likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute, by works, also shown to be righteous when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so then faith without works is also dead.

I want to offer a brief summary of Rahab’s extraordinary story. In the second chapter of Joshua, he sends 2 spies who enter the home of the prostitute Rahab and stay there. Subsequently Rahab saves their lives by first lying to the king about their whereabouts, hiding them, and then by misleading the search party in the opposite direction of where she sends the spies for safety. Before they left her home, she professed her faith in their God based on just stories she had heard. She recites the story of them leaving Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. She acknowledged this and other great works God had performed for His people and confessed her belief in God’s power over her life as well. She made them swear to the Lord to save her and all of her people if she helped to save their lives and bring down Jericho. They agreed and Rahab not only saved their lives, but her life, and the life of all of all her kinfolk, Joshua 6:23-25 reads:

23 So the youths who were the spies went in and brought Rahab out, along with her mother, her father, her sisters and brothers, and all who belonged to her – all her kinfolk they brought out – and set them outside the camp of Israel. 

25 And Rahab the prostitute and her ancestral household and all who belonged to her, Joshua let live. She [her descendants] lives in the midst of Israel to this day for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

Later in the New Testament in the very first chapter of the book of Matthew he outlines the genealogy of Jesus, and we learn exactly how important Rahab is and why her acts of faith were so very important. Matthew 1: 5-6 reads:

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

God sent His only begotten Son- Jesus the Messiah, as a direct descendant of Rahab, the prostitute. We know that Jesus was born in the lineage of King David and Rahab is David’s great-grandmother. Is this an accident on the part of an all knowing and all-powerful God? I think not. Often Rahab is thought to be saved ‘in spite of’ and ‘despite’ who she was in her status as a prostitute. I dare say that God chose Rahab because she was a prostitute. The story is not that God sent the spies to the home of Rahab for safe keeping. Joshua did not instruct the spies to find Rahab in case of emergency. There is no story of Rahab being purged of her sins, or required to confess before being blessed for her works of faith. Joshua 2:1 basically reads Two male spies find themselves in a brothel and stay. Full Stop-as the kids say today. Now why would two strong young men find themselves in a house of ill repute after the death-defying task of spying out the interior of a walled city they are looking to conquer? I will let you ponder that one. God used Rahab and her status as prostitute according to His will and purpose knowing she was key to the birth line to Jesus. It is interesting to me how often her name is put with her title- prostitute. It is as if the writers want us to know that even the most lowly of society in that time-a woman, a sex worker- can carry the seed of the divine and bring forth remarkable things in alignment with the will of God.

In the story of the Prophetess Anna, we learn in three scriptures that she was widowed young and spent the rest of her life in the temple in great anticipation of the Messiah. Although Rahab has more verses in her story, we do not learn the reason for her circumstances. What we do know today is that women rarely choose prostitution as their first choice of career. Many find themselves as sex workers due to trauma, or forced into it due to sex trafficking, or out of limited choices for survival-such as lack of education, a spouse, or a trade. In biblical times it was permissible for a male head of household to sell his daughter, or sister into prostitution for the betterment of the family’s economic circumstances. What we do know from Joshua 2:13 was that her household was extensive, it reads:

Give me a sure sign 13 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.”

Rahab took care of a lot of people. Some historians suggest that she also had side businesses as the dwelling the spies entered was big enough to hide them, keep her extensive family, and I imagine a room by the hour for clients. The flax she hid them under on the roof was commonly used to make clothing, so perhaps that was a part of her business as well. What we know is that the writers of her story repeatedly remind us that she was a prostitute, whose reputation in those days is no better than that of female sex workers today. That also meant she had no husband, or other man in a position to take care of her financially-respectfully.

Rahab’s obedient works begin even before she proclaims her faith. She puts the life of her family on the line as she lies to the king, has hidden the spies, deceives the search party, and then- after proclaiming her faith, secures a divine oath to save her household. She does all this NOT knowing Gods grand design for her lineage. Back then who you came from mattered, so Jesus being her direct descendant is no afterthought on the part of God.

Rahab showed a bold and daring faith in a God she only learned through the stories of strangers passing through her home. She realized immediately that faith and obedience go hand in hand. Once her faith was ignited, she instantly acted in accordance to God’s purpose. QUESTION: What act of faith have you taken in obedience to God without hesitation? I am not saying that how Rahab, the prostitute lived was right, but God used her where she was and who she was. The consequence of our sins is not the same as God’s judgement. God is always ready to allow good and wonderful things in our life if we are open and willing to put our faith in action. Do we set ourselves to live the consequences of our choices, or the rewards of faithful works? Rahab’s profession is an intentional factor in God’s plan for Jericho, then saving her current family and blessing future descendants which includes Jesus. Rahab had no way of knowing what resulted from her faith beyond the lives of her immediate loved ones being saved. This is no accident this is a purposeful reaction from a powerful God in reaction to bold, faithful, active works done in unquestioned obedience. Based on her faith, obedience, and courageous action, why aren’t more little girls named Rahab? Belief and action go together. Our faith through our works is what God wants from us. Are you ready to be used by God just as you are, from where you are? God’s divine plan for you is intentional and purposeful. It can bless you beyond what you can see or know. I would like to end with a part of today’s Psalm 146:8-10

8 The COMPASSIONATE God sets the prisoners free, 

   the ALL-SEEING God opens the eyes of the blind, 

   the Just God lifts up those who are bowed down.

9 The RIGHTEOUS God loves the righteous, 

   the MOTHER OF ALL cares for the stranger, 

   orphan and widow she bears up,

   but confounds the way of the wicked.

10 The MAJESTIC ONE shall reign forever,

   your God, O Zion, from generation to generation.

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