By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. (Hebrews 11:31)
When I consider the infinite grace of God, more often than not the image of a waterfall comes to mind. I recall standing under one as a child – I cannot even remember which one, or where – and the wonderful sensation of things ‘washing away.’ But there is so much more to it than that. A waterfall feeds a river which flows onward, fast or slow, which in turn feeds all it passes through on its way to the sea. There’s a sense of continuity, of an endless flow with a definite purpose, of vitality and life and of tremendous peace.
Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, has a story a little like that. It’s a story of grace and redemption and faith. It’s a story that highlights the fact that our God works in wonderfully mysterious ways. It’s a story that tells of the incredible legacy of a harlot, one that’s seldom mentioned, but which stands out because, just as God Himself has charted the course of the rivers, so He charts the course of our lives and provides so much more than we could ever ask or imagine along the way.
It is also a story that brings hope to those struggling to move forward in their Christian walk. So many believers seem to get stuck at the place of sin and failure. They feel they cannot move past the reality of their sinfulness, that what they have been in the past is like their own personal albatross to wear around their necks, dragging them down every step of the way. Rahab’s legacy is one of grace and the freedom to cut loose the albatross and walk forward in faith and redemption.
There was a time that I wondered why God would have chosen a harlot – a woman whose reputation, even in Jericho, was considered the ‘lowest of the low’ – to save the life of the two spies. I don’t believe God does things ‘by chance’ or that anything happens that does not form part of His plans and purposes. He could have chosen anyone, yet He chose Rahab.
The answer, I believe, lies in one simple fact. She tells the spies this: for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Rahab possessed three things which go hand in hand. The first was humility. She knew who and what she was, and that placed her in a unique position because she dwelt on the outer wall, and there was no doubt a steady stream of men ‘visiting.’ She thus provided an easy escape route and would have been a reliable source of information.
The second thing was courage. Even when the king commanded her to hand over the spies, she had the courage to defy him and to mislead the soldiers before sending the spies off safely in the opposite direction. Once Rahab knew what was right, she had no hesitation in doing it.
The final thing was faith – a simple, down-to-earth faith that, once she received a revelation of who God truly was, nothing else would satisfy her. She could have used her ‘charms’ to try to persuade the spies to save her and her family. She could have tried all kinds of feminine wiles, of which she no doubt had many, yet she gets straight to the point. The Israelites God is God in heaven and on earth, and that is all that matters. That is the basis for her request, and that is why God granted it to her.
Not only that, He has a future planned for Rahab, one which ultimately impacts on the entire destiny of mankind. In Matthew 3, he lists the lineage of Jesus, and Rahab is one of only three women, aside from His mother, Mary, to be mentioned by name. Rahab married Salmon, an Israelite, and was the mother of Boaz, who married the Moabitess, Ruth, and then, through the generations, to David. The incredible legacy of a harlot is in fact the saviour of the world, the holy Son of God Himself.
For those who struggle with the weight of past sins, take courage and encouragement from Rahab’s story. Learn this from it: God uses the foolish to confound the wise. He will choose the weak, because His strength is made perfect in weakness. He will choose the humble, because those who know what they once were, and what they would be still but for His saving grace, are those who will love Him in obedience and surrender to His will.
Jesus reminds that forgiveness is critical. This includes ‘forgiving ourselves’ – if God, the almighty God of heaven and earth, has the grace and mercy to forgive all who confess and repent, He is also able to help us to forgive ourselves and to receive, by grace, the release to move forward. What we once were is no more in Christ. The harlot was forgiven, restored, granted the blessing of a husband from among the Israelites – to understand the significance of this fact alone, consider that Jericho was utterly destroyed, never to be rebuilt, to the point that anyone doing so would be cursed – and then given the incredible legacy of being part of the line of David, and ultimately the Messiah.
If you’re struggling today, take hold of the incredible legacy of a harlot. You are a child of God, and all of your weaknesses will be used to the glory of God and for the extension of His kingdom, if you only surrender them all to His grace.
Lord, Your goodness to us who are so undeserving is beyond comprehension, yet that is the measure of Your grace. Thank You for Your Word, for the blood of Jesus that washes away all sin, and for the resurrection power at work in each and every one of us through His sacrifice and the Holy Spirit within. Transform us today, Lord, so that Your will may be done in all things, and Your power and glory manifest in even the simplest of lives.