Text: Joshua 2:1-18
During the time of Joshua, one of the best forms of protection for a city was its walls. The higher and thicker they were, the better. Oftentimes the walls were so thick that people would build their houses inside the walls themselves. This is where we start our story today, with a woman living within the walls of Jericho -- a woman engaged in prostitution. We will never know what made her start in this business; selling her body for money was probably something she was not proud of doing. But Rahab's life forever changed when two Hebrew spies, who worshipped a God about whom she had heard rumors, sought refuge in her house. Once the king found out where they were staying, he ordered her to bring the men to him. Rahab hid the men, however, and helped them escape, but not before asking them to remember her and her family before they destroyed the city. The spies then told her to hang a red rope in the window so they would know which home to save. When the time arrived for the Israelites to surround the city, the people of Jericho jeered, but Rahab the prostitute had a red rope on her window.
What gave this woman hope in spite of her situation? Why did she believe that by putting a simple red rope in her window her family would be saved? When we come to God in faith and give Him our hearts, we have to believe that the blood of Jesus is the only thing that will cleanse us and allow us to be acceptable in His sight. Jesus is that rope of salvation, the only hope that we have for ourselves and our families. Perhaps, like the city of Jericho, you have built a wall around your life hoping that this wall will keep you safe. But walls can come down at any time. What will you do then? I urge you to hold on to the red rope -- the blood of the Lamb. Jesus will never let you down.
The book of Joshua only gives the first half of Rahab’s story – her life during the destruction of Jericho. We have to search the rest of the Bible to find out what happened afterwards. Now I don’t know about you, but if I had been Rahab, having just risked my life for a God and a people that I barely knew and then having witnessed the massive destruction of my home and of all the residents of the city I lived in, I would have been in total shock! I would know that I cast my lot in with the winning team, but I would be in awe and fear of the God who could destroy a city in a day. What I find fascinating about Rahab is that she does not shrink back in fear but she joins herself to the Israelites. She marries a man named Salmon of the tribe of Judah. Salmon was most likely the leader of the whole tribe of Judah, as his father Nahshon had been. Nahshon is described as the “prince of Judah” leading 74,600 men and his tribe was the first tribe when the people marched into war, stopped to rest, or worshipped (1 Chron 2:10, Num 1:7, 2:4, 10:14). Rahab’s husband Salmon was just a young man when the Israelites left Egypt, so his father died in the wilderness, but Salmon was able to follow Joshua and lead Judah into the Promised Land. This is the man Rahab marries – not any Israelite, but the head of the leading tribe! God gives Rahab an entirely new identity. She goes from living on the edges of society, serving men with her body, to marrying into Jewish royalty. As Matthew 1:5 tells us, Rahab became the mother of Boaz (another famous man) and the great-grandmother of King David. And of course the most exciting part is that she was a distant descendant of King Jesus!
Rahab is not only remembered for whom she married but also for how she lived. Both Hebrews and James make special reference to her as a woman of great faith. In Hebrews 11, Rahab is one of only two women mentioned by name – Rahab and the great matriarch of the Jewish people, Sarah! And in James 2 she is the female counterpart to the great patriarch, Abraham. Rahab – a non-Jewish prostitute – makes it into the “Jewish hall of fame!" Why is she so highly esteemed by the New Testament writers? Because of her faith which worked itself out in action. Rahab does not simply learn about the God of the Israelites and give Him some honor (like she might in a Canaanite polytheistic religious system), instead she risks everything to follow this One God she has never met before! She does not simply hope intellectually, instead she puts her hope into action - making it true, righteous faith. As the writer of Hebrews states: “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” God saw Rahab’s young but bold faith, her deep-rooted hope in Him, and He rescued her, declared her righteous, gave her a new identity in the people of God, and then blessed her with a royal inheritance. The same is true for each of us. No matter our past sin, God offers us the opportunity to truly risk it all to follow Him – to put our hope and faith in action. When we put our faith in Him, He forgives us and saves us through Jesus; He declares us righteous in His sight and joins us to the people of God; and He blesses us with a royal, eternal inheritance.