Rahab’s Story:  How He Loves Us

This was a talk that I gave last week at Ladies’ Night at our church.  I thought I’d put my notes together and write it down…I’ll have to do it in sections because it looks much longer written than it sounded spoken!  If you heard the talk, you’ll see that I am leaving out several sections of it because it just gets too long written out.  Sorry!

Rahab’s Story:  How He Loves Us (part 1)

Women of faith encounter real problems. Rahab is an excellent example of that fact!  She faced many problems in her life, serious problems that threatened many aspects of her life.  The best way to learn about those problems is to read them right out of the Bible…You’ll find it in the book of Joshua, chapter two.

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. The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.“Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign  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.”“Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.” So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall.  She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us  unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house.  If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them.  But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”“Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”

The first problem here is clear:  Rahab was a prostitute.  That’s not the first career choice you’d think of for a heroine of the Bible!  In fact it’s not a career choice we’d like to think of at all.  Yet here it is, undeniable:  Rahab was a prostitute.  She lived in a city that put its faith in a terrible religion that worshipped gods who demanded human sacrifice and religious prostitution, which might even be why Rahab was what she was.  Whatever the case, we can be sure that she was living a sinful, painful, lowly life at the time the spies showed up in Jericho. The second problem Rahab faced was this:  She lived on the wrong side of the tracks.  You see, Jericho had two walls around it, an inner wall and an outer wall.  This left an area between the two walls, sort of a no-man’s land where houses were built here and there, sometimes (as in Rahab’s case) even using the existing outer wall as part of the house to save on construction materials.  This was not prime real estate.  The houses in this area would have fallen first to any invading army, and people with no money and no status would have lived here. 

image from www.oxfordbiblechurch.co.uk
There between the walls, Rahab lived with no hope of improvement, trapped in a life of sin and despair.  On top of that, she faced a third problem:  The city of Jericho was in great peril!  Everyone had heard of the Hebrew people and what had happened in their flight from Egypt.  Word had spread far and wide that their God was powerful, and had done amazing things to rescue His people. Remember, Rahab told the spies that the people were afraid…in fact she used the words “Melting in fear” twice when she described what was happening in the city!  
It’s important to know that Jericho was a fortress city, designed to withstand attack and siege.  First, there was a slippery glaicis around the city, an embankment that would not have been easy to climb up.  Then, they had the tall, thick double-walls protecting it.  Within the inner walls there was a very deep well, which would have provided plenty of water in case of siege for an indefinite amount of time.  In addition to this, the Bible says that all of this was happening at the time of the Spring Harvest (see Joshua 3:15).  This means that they had just brought in all the grain from the fields!  They would have had plenty of food, likely enough to last a full year in the case of a long siege.  We know this is true from excavations at Jericho.  Archaeologist found full jars of grain throughout the city…charred from the complete destruction that happened after the walls fell, but still full of blackened grain.  
 Image from http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/06/the-walls-of-jericho.aspx
 So here was Jericho, surrounded by impenetrable walls, recently stocked from a fruitful harvest and able to withstand a lengthy siege.  The Hebrews were a rag-tag bunch of strangers who had just come from the desert, where we can only assume they’d missed out on 40 years of the iron-age arms race.  They shouldn’t have been a threat to a city of Jericho, and yet the people were melting in fear because of them.  They had heard what the God of the Hebrew people had done, and they took that seriously.

One wonders, then, if they knew the awesome power of God and had heard of the very real actions He had taken on behalf of His chosen people, why didn’t the city of Jericho simply submit to Him?  Why didn’t they simply agree to give up the worthless, blood-thirsty gods of their own city and agree to worship the God who had mightily shown Himself to be true?  They chose instead to stand against Him and be destroyed.  I have no good answer to this question, but I do know this:  Rahab alone chose to risk everything and follow God.  A sinful woman, living on the outskirts of town, with no real worth and no real hope, was the only one willing to look at the facts and follow God.  She chose to do this, despite the fact that the King of Jericho quickly found out that the spies had been to her house and  sent officials there to confront her.  Rahab was literally trapped between a rock and a hard place:  Stuck there between the two walls of Jericho, with condemnation and death waiting within the inner walls (surely she would have been killed for helping the spies had the Hebrew army’s invasion failed!) and and an invading army backed by a powerful God preparing to invade the outer wall. 

  Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.    “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

This part of Rahab’s story reminds me of the parable Jesus gives us, about the man who found treasure in a field or the merchant who found a perfect pearl.  This is how we should react when we find Truth!  Often, however, that’s easier said than done.  We can, even as seasoned Christians, ignore God’s call or forget about it.  We sometimes, in fear or weakness, choose to run in the opposite direction when we feel God calling us to do something hard.  Or, we can drop everything and risk it all!  God loved Rahab despite who she was or what she’d done. She only had to respond to His call, and He called here right there in the middle of her sin.  He found her right there, hidden and forgotten between the walls of Jericho. 
What will your response be to the call of a God of infinite power and incomprehensibly compassionate love? 

One thought on “Rahab’s Story: How He Loves Us

  • February 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Thank you for this. You brought to light facts I didn’t know or simply had overlooked.


    (heya, did you get my email last week?!)


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