The book of Joshua begins with a lot of pomp and circumstance, doesn’t it? Moses has died, and God commissions Joshua as Israel’s new leader with some pretty amazing promises, seasoned with frequent reminders to be strong and courageous. This is war, after all.
The narrative then zeroes in on Jericho, and if you grew up in Sunday school you can probably sing the city’s dramatic story:
Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho,
Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down!
It would seem that the story of Jericho—God’s people circling, trumpets blaring, walls tumbling—could be told without the interesting character we find in chapter two: Rahab the prostitute, who hid the spies. She’s not essential to the plotline. And neither are the spies, since Joshua’s strategy to circle the city wasn’t informed by any intelligence gathered from inside. Yet it’s clear that God wanted Rahab to be part of His story and part of His people.
Why? For the same reason He wants the Rahab in your church or community or family to be part of His story and part of His people: for His glory! Here are three things we can learn from Rahab’s story that will help us respond to women who, because of their past or background, seem like unlikely candidates for God to write into our story, much less His.
God Went to Great Lengths to Rescue Rahab
God sent the spies to Jericho—not to gather intelligence as they presumed—but on a search and rescue mission.
I’m guessing Joshua’s spies might have been less than enthusiastic about risking their necks for a prostitute, even if she was willing to transfer her allegiance to God. Yet that’s exactly what happened. God providentially sent them to her door and created an opportunity for them to live out their faith in God as well as an opportunity for Rahab to take her first leap of faith—and she jumped!
Are you involved with the rescue mission of a Rahab right now? There’s no denying that women like Rahab are risky. Your Rahab probably has baggage and history and a reputation. You might wonder if it’s wise to invest in her. You might worry what sort of influence she’ll have on others in your midst. But there’s no denying that God loves bringing Rahabs into His family, and He often sends us out to find them.
If God puts a Rahab in front of you, He says she’s worth the risk.
Only God Could Deliver Rahab from Himself
When Rahab was talking to the spies, she mentioned two stories she had heard about God (Josh. 2:10). The first was a story of deliverance, when God dried up the Red Sea so Israel could escape slavery in Egypt. The second was a story of destruction, when two Amorite kings marched against Israel and experienced devastating loss. In that second story, there were no survivors (Num. 21:34–35).
It was important that Rahab heard both of these stories. What if she only heard stories of God delivering people, but never heard about Him bringing destruction? Or what if she only heard stories of His destruction, but never heard about His deliverance? Rahab needed to hear both stories; so do we.
How did she hear? No doubt the people of Egypt still talked about that fateful day forty years before, when every Hebrew man was directed to slaughter a spotless lamb at twilight. The streets went quiet as the Hebrew families ate roasted lamb and unleavened bread behind closed doors—doors with frames marked by the blood of the slaughtered lambs. Then at midnight, God swept through, and in swift judgment, entered each Egyptian home to snuff out the life of its firstborn (Ex. 12:12–13). But the doors marked with the blood of a lamb, He passed over.
This deliverance is what Rahab wanted for herself. She knew God was coming to judge and destroy her city, but she was asking Him for her own personal Passover (Josh. 2:12). Amazingly, He gave it to her!
Consider the similarities between Israel’s Passover story and Rahab’s. Neither the doors of Egypt or the walls of Jericho could withstand God’s judgment for even a millisecond. But for those who gathered behind doors marked with blood, or in Rahab’s story, a scarlet cord, God kept His promise and passed over—delivering them from destruction.
A day is coming when God will turn His wrath toward every city on the earth, and every Rahab needs to know about it before she can be saved from it. Friend, don’t skip the hard parts of the Bible. Every woman needs to hear the stories of God’s grace and deliverance, but also those about his righteous judgment.
The Rahab in your life needs to understand the way God sees her sin before she can ask for her own personal Passover, which God lavishes on all who ask. She needs to hear the bad news before she’s ready for the good. Introduce her to the God of judgment, who longs to deliver her from His wrath.
God Revealed Himself through Rahab’s Story
Have you noticed that we never learn the names of the two spies in Joshua 2? Obviously, this story isn’t mainly about them. And since she’s referred to as “Rahab the prostitute” even in the New Testament (Heb. 11:31; James 2:25), I don’t think the story is meant to showcase Rahab either.
So who is spotlighted in Rahab’s story? God.
Up until this point in the Bible’s narrative, we’ve mostly learned about God by watching Him interact with His chosen people. But now we get to see how God responds to an “outsider.” Picture God’s eyes scanning Jericho, with all of its wickedness and open defiance, then resting upon Rahab. What sets her apart? Since she’s a prostitute, it can’t be her righteous, holy life. No, the difference in Rahab is how she sees God.
Unlike the rest of Jericho, Rahab seeks refuge in God, not from Him. She’s even willing to risk her life to align herself with God’s people. As we watch Rahab’s story unfold, as we lean forward in our chairs and wonder how God will respond, we have the opportunity to learn something about Him.
Does God hear her request?
Does God care?
Is God willing to rescue just one?
In answer to each of these questions, Rahab’s story offers a resounding yes. Our God is the kind, compassionate Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one—then rejoices when she is found (Matt. 18:12–14).
Think of a Rahab you know. Does she have a sin-soaked past? Does she only know two Bible stories (or perhaps none at all)? Does she only know two Christians? If her story is meant to showcase God, these details only make His grace more remarkable.
When a Rahab is rescued from sin and assimilated into God’s people, her story becomes an answer to the world’s question: How does God respond when an “outsider” wants to come in? Look around your church or community. Are there “outsiders” who have questions about God? What might they learn about Him as He redeems your Rahab? Rejoice in the ways God will use her to reveal himself to the watching world.
Responding to a Rahab
Rahab wasn’t necessary to the plotline of Jericho’s tumbling walls. Yet we learn much about God as we watch Him “write her in.” The same, dear leader, is true of your Rahab.
Is God reminding you that engaging with a Rahab is worth the risk? Is He impressing upon you the need to share the bad news, so she can be drawn to the good? How might God reveal Himself to the watching world through her story? May you represent His heart as you participate in a rescue mission today.