Author: Melanie Peterson
Scripture References—Joshua 2:1, 3; 6:17-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25
Rahab lived around 3,000 years ago in a Gentile land called – Canaan, more specifically the city of Jericho, which is now part of the region of Israel. Rahab was a prostitute living among adulterous people. It was a city ravaged by sexual sin, debauchery, violence, child sacrifice, and place where the injustice of the powerful against the weak reigned. Basically, it was the same kind of place as Sodom, the place God destroyed years earlier. Rahab had only heard of God, His glory and power from others, yet she believed in Him. She had overheard the stories of how God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, parting the Red Sea, and had conquered kingdoms for His people. But, I think Rahab heard in all those stories about God, that He was a God of hope, and truly loved His people. Deep within her hurting heart she had always held out hope that someone could rescue her from this way of life, take her out of the bondage she was in, and love her. She believed in heart that only God could do that.
Scripture refers to her as Rahab, the prostitute. The word “prostitute” makes most people think of a woman willfully selling herself in order to make money that she keeps and benefits from. We know from studying scripture that this was a patriarchal time and culture where women did not have any authority over their lives or their future. It is safe to say that prostitution during that time was not a voluntary industry for girls or women. Prostitution is no different today. We call it sex slavery/trafficking, or human trafficking. Today in America, the average age of a prostitute is 14 years old, which could have been Rahab’s approximate age. My prayer is that through the work of the church that when people hear the word “prostitute” it will bring imagery into their minds about someone who is in bondage most of the time, not someone voluntarily living a life of sin.
God had led His people through the desert from Egypt and as they were approaching the land of Israel, their leader Joshua sent a few of his men into the city gate of Jericho as spies to see what they were up against to conquer the land. They met Rahab at the city gate and she told the men something that surprised them. She said, “The Lord has given this land to you and great fear has fallen on all the people here because of what we have heard of you and your God”. The spies went back and told Joshua what she said and those very words of Rahab gave the Israelites the courage to march into the city and conquer it. Rahab’s next words probably clinched the deal with the spies to believe her: “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”. You heard her: God is the only one true God. A genuine profession of faith, just as the apostle Paul described centuries later in the New Testament: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved”. Rahab asked these men to spare her family from death. The men assured her, “Our lives for your lives!” After instructing the two men to run for the hills and hide, Rahab lowered them by the red rope through a window to safety outside the city wall. If you’re looking for a strong female role model, take note of Rehab. Rahab was brave and strong. She also took direction well: she had to stay alive. When the men told her to keep the scarlet rope in that same window, Rahab did so.
Several years ago when I heard God first calling me into ministry I read Mary Frances Bowley’s first book, A League of Dangerous Women – stories of the young girls and women at Wellspring Living, a recovery program in the Atlanta area that she founded for women and young girls that had been sex trafficked. In her book I recognized a common thread in each lady’s story. After they put their faith in Christ and made the decision to follow Him, they began to overcome the fear that had ruled their lives, find God’s redeeming love and grace, so start the process of healing and new life. I wasn’t at all surprised when I read in Rahab’s story that the same common thread was there. By the way, none of us should be surprised that Rehab would willingly and gladly give up this way of life. She was happy to let go of the shackles that had once bound her in sin and shame and the fear and pain she had known. We read in Rehab’s bold statement that she had decided to put her trust in the one true God. She risked her life to be saved and to be a part of God’s people. Rahab became a “Dangerous” woman for God; just as in the title of the Wellspring book. The kind of women God can use and still uses today to carry out His great plans for His kingdom.
I also wonder if God may have chosen Rahab’s story to put in the Bible to magnify His abounding grace for all. This grace is available no matter where you are, or the life you lead. We cannot know Rahab’s exact situation based on what we read in Joshua. But, I can tell you from hearing stories of ladies in the bondage of sex trafficking today; they just like Rahab are socially marginalized, they get trapped in this way of life and believe there is no way out. At Solomon House we meet broken, frightened, and hurting ladies, some of them addicted to drugs or alcohol, and all have been sex trafficked. The ladies usually call the Out of Darkness hotline from the streets, jail, hospitals, and hotel rooms. A rescue team picks her up and brings her to our safe house. They stay there for an average of 3 weeks. During that time we allow God’s love to be poured on her through us and we teach her about God’s unfailing love and her identity in Christ. We get to hold her hand and encourage her even when she leaves Solomon House in her next steps to a recovery program. We have the privilege to pray for them, write, call, encourage, and visit them in their programs. Most of all, we continue to remind them who’s they are and that God’s love and grace can conquer their battles that they emotionally & spiritually face. Many, if not most, of these ladies come to accept the Lord as their personal Savior. We are blessed to see some of these brave ladies graduate their programs, get training and some go to college so they can go on to work in the ministry God calls them to. Rehab’s story shows that God not only has a place for the outcasts of society, but that He can raise them up to do great things. Many of the ladies running these ministries and programs once were addicted and/or sex trafficked themselves. God uses their stories in giving hope and as a role model for the next group of ladies.
Rahab’s life may have been colored scarlet from sin, but the red rope she made for freeing the spies became the token of her own escape to safety. Scarlet or red…A color that always makes a bold statement, but the color used here is not by coincidence. Just as the Israelites had put red from the blood of the lamb on their door post to be saved from God’s wrath as it swept thru Egypt, she was told to the do the same with the scarlet rope hung in her window to escape God’s wrath. Yes, the red rope at the window physically saved her, just as the red blood of Jesus saves us. That red rope spiritually saved her as well. It told the outside world that Rahab believed in the ultimate triumph of God and she was putting all her trust and faith in the one true God Almighty. For seven long days Rahab and her family heard the Israelites marching around Jericho. On the seventh day Joshua commanded his people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!” If you remember the song from our childhood Sunday school: “And the walls came a-tumblin’ down.” One house remained standing. “Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her.
The Bible calls Rahab WORTHY, listing her among the short list of the faithful in Hebrews 11. I am sure no other women in Jericho saw beauty or worthiness in Rehab; they likely judged her harshly and despised her. Like so many of the ladies we meet at Solomon House it is through love, hope, trust, strength and their faith in God alone that they become one of God’s beautiful heroines. Rehab’s name is included among the harlots entering the Kingdom of God before the “self-righteous”.
God saved Rahab, in every sense of the word. He not only saved her but gave her the highest honor by grafting her into His people. God blessed her with a husband to love and care for her, and ultimately gave her the highest honor of all by making her a great grandmother to His only son, Jesus.