Summary: There was a time when we were like Rahab. We were outside of the family of God, living in the blindness and corruption of sin, till God instilled faith in us. Like Rahab, we are invited just as we are. God will take us and transform us.
This is a story of grace...
The last time spies were sent to do a covert reconnaissance of the Promised Land, there were twelve, sent by Moses, and only two of them, Caleb and Joshua, had faith to believe God would grant Israel victory. Perhaps symbolically, Joshua sent two men to glean information. Joshua wanted an objective intel-briefing, a tactical assessment of the enemy’s strength, along with terrain features, weather, and defense fortifications. Was this a lack of faith in God's promise? A threat estimate is a normal prerequisite to any battle, as necessary as logistical support. One does not go blindly into battle. Moses sent out spies, and Joshua followed suit.
The first stage of Israel’s armed conquest turned out to be a mission of mercy. The people of Canaan, Jericho in particular, were wicked. We might well say the same of Rahab; she was a prostitute. Perhaps God had been speaking to her, convincing her to turn to Him, and the visit of the spies provided such an occasion. Finally she got to meet two of the people she’d heard of, and it was time to commit to the God of Israel, the God of the Exodus.
But why would the spies stay in a house of ill repute? They didn’t know Rahab would be on their side, but they likely figured she could be paid for her silence, and for information. Also strangers wouldn’t question them in such a place. Rahab's house offered the safety of anonymity; they could keep a low-profile. Hoping to find an informent, they found an ally. She provided protection, hospitality, and guidance.
The spies did not arrive unnoticed (we don't know what gave them away;maybe they weren't very good spies), and Rahab was interrogated by the king’s men. The spies were at her mercy. She admitted seeing them, implying they were “customers,” but lied about their whereabouts. She then fabricated an account of where they went, to throw the authorities off the trail. She hid the spies on her roof; technically, they weren’t “in” her house. She could have, in a more honest but non-committal way, told the king’s men to “come in and look around,” hoping they wouldn’t find the spies. By protecting them, Rahab put her life on the line, risking everything. This was a critical moment of decision. Rahab turned from her past to find a new life. Because of her “kindness” to the spies (12), God showed kindness to her. God honored Rahab’s faith, not her lie. God accepted her new allegiance. She could have trusted in the walls of Jericho to shelter her, but she instead trusted in the hand of God.
Jericho trusted in idols. Israel was about to cleanse the land of abominations. Rahab stood alone in faith against the culture that surrounded her. In verse 9, Rahab confessed both her fear and faith in God, acknowledging His dominion, and pleaded for mercy. “She chose to cast her lot with Israel’s God, not the unholy Canaanite gods” (David Howard). The spies promised Rahab that she and her family would be spared. The sign that her home was not to be touched was a scarlet cord in her window. As far back as the first century, Christians scholars have taught that Rahab’s scarlet cord represents the blood sacrifice that runs through the Bible, all the way to the Cross of Christ. It is strikingly parallel to the blood of the lambs spread on the doorposts of Jewish homes in Egypt, protecting them from the Angel of Death.
Rahab is one of five women listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. As such, she is an example of God reaching out beyond His covenantal boundaries to bring into the fold Gentiles. Ruth was another foreigner in that Messianic genealogy. In both cases, Gentiles/outsiders become part of God’s promise to Abraham, that through this new nation all nations will be blessed.
After the king’s men departed, the spies promised Rahab that she and her family would be spared (We will see this in chapter 6). The gates of the city were secured, so Rahab helped them to escape by having them repell down the city wall via a rope from her window. Either her home was atop the wall or built into it. She then cautioned them to lay low in the hills outside the city for 3 days. Once safely back, they confidently reported to Joshua that “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands” (24). This was the go-ahead Israel needed!
Agents from two conflicting kingdoms knocked on Rahab's door. We are given a choice whenever and however the Kingdom of God comes knocking on our door (Stek).
Rahab is mentioned in faith's “hall-of-fame” list in Hebrews 11, the list of Old Testament heroes of faith...and she was a Gentile, a Canaaite, and a woman of ill-repute. She went from harlot to hero! Rahab’s sordid reputation was not an obstacle to God. And neither is ours! What Rahab did for a living was no hindrance to God’s grace. Like Rahab, we are invited just as we are. God will take us and transform us. God can take damaged goods and make something remarkable of them. This is good news indeed. There is hope for us!