It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. [Hebrews 11:31 (NLT)]
There are all sorts of halls of fame, honoring everything and everyone from astronauts to cowboys and hockey players, from blues music to rock and roll and country music. Even small town high schools have a wall of fame recognizing their outstanding graduates. The author of Hebrews selected a number of individuals to go in a Faith Hall of Fame. Pictured on its walls was an Old Testament all-star cast including Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Gideon, David, Samuel and Rahab. Hold it! What’s a prostitute doing in the company of kings, leaders, warriors, and prophets? It wasn’t their profession, however, that got these people selected for honor; it was their faith.
Considering that Rahab is an ancestress to Jesus, there are some who would prefer calling the pagan prostitute an innkeeper. Others, troubled by the implication of Joshua’s spies stopping at her house, would prefer the term innkeeper, as well. The Hebrew word used to describe her, however, was zonah, meaning harlot or prostitute. While Rahab’s house also may have served as an inn, she seems to have offered more than just a bed and breakfast to the men who stopped at her house. The reason the spies were there had nothing to do with Rahab’s profession; God led them to her as part of His plan. Moreover, it was a logical choice—her home was located in part of the city wall at the edge of the city and, with her steady stream of visitors, the spies’ presence could go unnoticed
Whether innkeeper, harlot, or both, Rahab knew all about the Israelites from her previous guests. She’d heard about their crossings of the Red Sea and the Jordan and their success in battle. When she told the spies, “The Lord your God is the God of heaven and earth,” she clearly recognized that the God of the Israelites, unlike the false gods of Canaan, was powerful. Recognizing the truth and acting on it, however, are two different things. This outcast woman took her life in her hands when she bravely defied the authorities and then relied on her enemies to save her. In faith, the prostitute became a traitor to her city and risked everything by trusting in a God about whom she knew very little. She bravely stepped out in faith and was rescued from a cursed city and a life of disgrace. In thanks for her assistance, she and her family were saved from Jericho’s devastation.
Rahab eventually married an Israelite, Salmon, and became the mother of Boaz, the man who married Ruth. Boaz and Ruth’s son (and Rahab’s grandson) was Obed who was Jesse’s father and Jesse was the father of David. Being King David’s great-great-grandmother places the once heathen harlot on Jesus’ family tree! Rahab’s history tells us that change is always possible and none of us need be stuck in a miserable shameful life. Regardless of the sins of our past, we can be saved and redeemed, forgiven and loved.
Rahab’s story of faith and redemption is just a preview of the grace of God seen in the New Testament. Our names never have to be recorded on a wall of shame; instead, our names can listed with the best of them in the great Faith Hall of Fame!
Free grace can go into the gutter, and bring up a jewel! [Charles Spurgeon]