Summary: In His wisdom God can, and will use ordinary and unlikely people to work in His kingdom.
God has a way of working through very ordinary and unlikely people. Like the two spies, for instance. Who were they? Nobody knows. They remain anonymous. They were ordinary people and had nothing that set them apart from anyone else.
The same was true of Rahab. There was nothing remarkable about her life. Her occupation was slightly irregular perhaps, but other than that she lived a life that was nothing short of mundane. She certainly doesn’t appear to be someone that God would desire to have in His kingdom. Not from our perspective at least. Rahab had three strikes against her.
STRIKE #1: SHE WAS A CANAANITE, NOT A JEW.
The Canaanites were the enemy. According to God’s own command they were to be exterminated. All of them. Yet here is one of the enemy showing kindness and compassion to the Israeli spies. So, maybe not all of the enemy could be labeled as wicked, evil ogres. We’re treading on dangerous ground when we start labeling people because they belong to a certain class of people.
STRIKE #2: SHE WAS A WOMAN.
An old daily Jewish prayer went like this, “I thank my God that I was not born a Gentile, or a woman.” This was the prevailing attitude toward women in that society. Women were viewed as second-class citizens. But that wasn’t necessarily God’s attitude towards women. In this case, God worked through a person named Rahab, who just happened to be a woman. Which should tell us that God doesn’t play favorites. God can work through anyone, even the ordinary and unlikely.
STRIKE #3: SHE WAS A PROSTITUTE.
I told you she had a rather unusual occupation. Doesn’t this make you just a wee bit squeamish? Doesn’t it make you wonder about God’s judgment, at this point? Why would God choose a prostitute? Surely there was someone of more reputable character who would’ve done the same thing. There may have been, but I think God did it to teach us something about His own character. A part of His character that’s difficult for some of us to accept.
Let’s assume that it doesn’t bother us that Rahab was a Canaanite. Let’s also assume that it doesn’t bother us that she was a woman. But (be honest) doesn’t the idea of God working through a prostitute make you a little uncomfortable?
Back in my younger days when I first read this story and realized what a prostitute was, and that Rahab was one of them, it nearly blew all my spiritual circuits. “God only works through righteous folks, not harlots.”
Of course, that was back in the days when I was young, naïve, and righteous myself. After I had made a few mistakes of my own and had been thoroughly condemned by the “righteous” folks, I could read this story with renewed understanding. I began to understand that God sees potential in every one, and not just in those who see themselves as the “religious elite,” but even those of us who have fallen down and stained our clothes.
There are a couple of lessons here that speak to us on a very personal level.
FIRST, IT REMINDS US THAT GOD HAS MORE GRACE THAN MOST PEOPLE DO.
There are some of you here who are struggling with this very issue. “Can God forgive me after all the things I’ve done?” is the question some of you are asking.
In your life you’ve seen more than your share of spiritual pigpens. Like the prodigal son maybe you’ve wasted your father’s inheritance in riotous living, and now you’re living with the pigs, trying your best to survive on what little you can wrestle away from the pigs.
Let’s stop talking in parables and be candid for a moment. Some of you have done things you wouldn’t want the people sitting around you to find out about. There’s a segment of your life that you wouldn’t want made into a movie. You’ve tried and tried to erase it from your memory bank, but every so often Satan throws it back in your face again. “Remember this….”
In November of 1999 in Lubbock, Texas, Jimmy Allen, the former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke about one of the greatest hurts of his life. His daughter-in-law and his two grandsons, had all become infected with HIV from a tainted blood transfusion received during her first pregnancy. That wasn’t the biggest hurt, though. They were rejected by church after church, including a Disciples of Christ church in Colorado, where his son the father was fired. In Allen’s words: "The first man in history to reach out and voluntarily touch lepers didn’t die of leprosy. He died at the hands of religious leaders who wouldn’t have touched a leper on a bet."