Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
– Joshua 2:1
Rahab, like the rest of Jericho’s inhabitants, was deeply frightened. As a pagan prostitute in a doomed city, her prospects seemed bleak. Across the Jordan, on the plains of Moab, an invasion force had gathered. Its numbers were beyond counting, but the menacing army wasn’t the only cause for fear. Word had spread that the Israelite God had roundly defeated the gods and army of Egypt. If the greatest empire in the world couldn’t stop Israel, what hope remained for a Canaanite city like Jericho?
Rahab inhabited a house in the city wall from which vantage point she prospered in her trade. There were always men hungry for pleasure. Most lived in the city, but the road that passed by Jericho also ensured a steady stream of weary travelers seeking what Rahab could provide.
Two strangers, hoping to escape notice, appeared at her door. What was more common than travelers seeking out a harlot? But the two were spotted and identified as Israelite spies. Rahab saw an opportunity, hid the Israelites and then lied to the king’s men, sending them out of the city in pointless pursuit of these enemies of Jericho (Joshua 2:2 – 7). Why not? What did she owe the king or anyone else in Jericho? The Israelites would soon overwhelm the city. Moreover, something new was growing in her heart — an unaccustomed stirring called hope.
Her hope was based on what she’d learned about the invisible God of Israel. His name — “I Am” — was unlike any other god. The gods she knew were little deities who were supposed to control weather, crops or fertility. She could bargain with them, just as she was accustomed to haggling with a man over the price of her services. This “I Am” wasn’t in the business of wrangling over terms, so Rahab negotiated instead with the spies in an effort to ensure her family’s survival (Joshua 2:8 – 16). But in doing so, Rahab gained more than safety: She received a new life. The God of Israel enfolded her into the community of his people. She left a life of shame to ultimately become a wife and a mother. Most amazing, from Rahab would come the line of David and his greatest descendant: the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of humankind – Jesus (see Matthew 1:5 – 6).
Rahab hoped for mere survival but gained salvation on the basis of her faith
All of this began with Rahab’s faith in a God she had come to know secondhand through nearly unbelievable stories of his great works (Joshua 2:8 – 11). She placed her hope in a God greater than those fashioned by human beings. This is the same God who can deliver us. He’s great enough to dry up the “seas” to make our way safe, destroy all the obstacles that threaten to destroy us, and demonstrate that he’s greater than heaven and earth (Joshua 2:10-11).
How did Rahab tap into God’s might? She –
- Formed an accurate understanding of him (Joshua 2:8 – 11)
- Trusted those who had experienced God’s power and entered his service (Joshua 2:12 – 14)
- Served him by helping the spies escape (Joshua 2:15 – 16), and
- Followed the instructions of those who had already learned God’s ways (Joshua 2:17 – 21).
Rahab’s faith and service not only saved her, but it gave her a home among God’s people (Joshua 6:22 – 23). The symbol of salvation for Rahab and her family was the scarlet cord in her window (Joshua 2:18,21). Today we can cling to another “scarlet cord” — the blood of Jesus, which cleanses us and makes us God’s prized possessions. We’ve been redeemed from the empty way of life that once enslaved us by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18 – 19).
Drawn from an article in the NIV Celebrate Recovery Study Bible.
The NIV Celebrate Recovery Study Bible contains the complete text of the NIV with hundreds of notes and study features that connect Scripture to eight recovery principles from the Celebrate Recovery program developed by John Baker and Rick Warren. Includes articles, recovery stories, biblical character studies and more.