Most of us have heard that God can and will use anyone for His purpose, regardless of whether their past is noble or despicable. I know from firsthand experience that this is true, even though I still don’t fully understand why God called me to do some of the things He has called me to do.
Earlier this year, we taught our youth group about Rahab and how God used her for a very important purpose and the immense blessing that she received as a result of her obedience. This biblical event really stuck with me and reinforced that our God really will use ANYONE who is willing to answer His call. I love that about Him.
So… Rahab… That was a fun story to teach the kiddos! “You see, kids, a harlot is a person who…”. Wait. Let’s try this a different way. “Today’s story is about a woman who did some very naughty things with men.” Nope. Maybe this is a better way, “A prostitute is a woman who lives her life in perpetual adultery…” Let’s just say that there really isn’t an easy way to start that conversation – although I think we did an OK job because we didn’t get any calls or complaints from parents. Ha!
Now that I’ve already digressed, I’ll get back to topic. For those of you who are not familiar with Rahab’s story (Joshua 2:1-24; 6:22-25), I’ll give you a recap:
This takes place after Moses has died and just before the Israelites move into the promised land. Joshua sent two Israelites to Jericho to scout out the land and to understand what they would be up against militarily. God was about to send the Israelites into Jericho to conquer the city. When the men get to Jericho, they stay with a prostitute named Rahab – her home was in the city wall, on the outskirts of town.
The king had heard that there were Israelite spies in the city and so he sent some guards to Rahab to turn over the men. She made a decision to protect these Israelite men and told the guards that the men had visited her, but that they had since left the city before the city gates were closed for the evening. So the guards leave Rahab to search the land for the spies.
Before Rahab sends the spies in the opposite direction from the guards, she makes a deal with them. She knows that they are coming to conquer Jericho, so she asks them to preserve her life and her family’s lives when they come back. The men agree to this, as long as she will put a scarlet chord in her window. Anyone who is within her household will not be harmed; however if there is anyone outside of her home when they come, then they will not be spared.
When the Israelites come back to march around Jericho and the walls fall, there is one section of the wall that remains. Yep! It’s Rahab’s home. She and her family were spared and they remained with the Israelites from then on.
OK, so that was a long summary, but there are some really cool things in here that I can’t help but to share.
- The Israelites went to a prostitute’s house – WHY? Strange men are known to come and go from these establishments, so it would not be seen as suspicious for her to have men visiting her. They had a good chance to go unnoticed.
- The people of Jericho had already heard about the Israelites, so they were afraid when they heard that there were Israelite spies among them. Rahab had also heard about them and how their God had parted the Red Sea and defeated two Amorite kings. She knew that the Israelite God was (and still is!) the One True God. (Joshua 2:11)
- Rahab lied to the king’s guards. What? I thought lying was bad… I had to think about this one a bit. Rahab made a decision to further God’s kingdom. She wanted to honor the God of Israel. I’m not going to make a judgement on whether lying was OK in this instance, but I will share something I read. One commentary I came across said that she would not have been familiar with The Law/The Ten Commandments and because of that, she didn’t know that lying was a sin. I’m not sure I believe that, but thought I’d share. Another thought I’ve come across is that because Rahab made a decision to further God’s Kingdom, her lie was justified. Again, just sharing some things I’ve come across in reading about Rahab.
- The Israelites instructed Rahab to hang a scarlet chord from her window. Why a scarlet chord? I have to admit at first, I thought, “That makes total sense! This must be where the ‘Red Light’ originated for Red Light Districts.” After further thought and research, that is not it! The scarlet chord represents the blood of Christ and the redemption it brings. Think about the first Passover – the Israelites had to put lamb’s blood on their door posts so that the angel of death would pass over them. Same thought applies here – the scarlet chord instructed the Israelites to leave this home intact.
- Now this one gets me when I think about it: Rahab had to convince her family to stay in her home with her in preparation of the Israelite attack. Knowing that Rahab was a harlot, she was probably shameful in the eyes of her family. She lived in the city walls, which is where the outcasts of the town lived. She may have even been estranged from her family at this time (we don’t know for sure, just conjecture). She had to go to her family and convince them that the Israelites would be successful in defeating Jericho and that she could provide them safety that they would not be able to find anywhere else. God had to orchestrate that conversation for Rahab – there’s just no other way she could have done that on her own.
So other than Rahab’s family being spared, what else was in it for her? Great question!
Rahab was fully redeemed of her past and given salvation that only The Lord can give – you can see that in the passages in Joshua. Now, go to Matthew 1. This chapter records the genealogy of Jesus. Verse 5 lists “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab…”. If you read this genealogy, Rahab is one of the few women listed in Jesus’ ancestry. Coincidence? I don’t think so. If you know anything about that time in history, women were not given the same rights, consideration or significance as the men. Rahab was listed there to be very clear that Jesus came from her line. What an honor! Can you imagine? Do you think Rahab had ever imagined the full blessing she would receive? Is there a better blessing than this?
Rahab didn’t get hung up on her past. She KNEW OF GOD and then she had an opportunity to KNOW GOD and everything else was history! From that moment on, she was on a mission to share what she knew of God and to save her family. Can you imagine what the world would be like if every Christian had that same passion to save their own families?
Rahab’s past didn’t matter to God. Neither does mine. Neither does yours. What mattered was the faith that she had and the faith that we have in Him. Do we believe that God is who He is? Or do we believe that He is a myth, a legend, an idea?
Jesus goes on in Matthew 21:31 to say to the chief priests and elders, “… Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you…”. Why did He say this? Because the chief priests and elders had little or no faith. They didn’t believe who Jesus was – they didn’t recognize Him, even though they were supposed to be the religious experts of their day. The tax collectors and prostitutes had true faith and belief in the identity of Jesus.
You don’t have to be a religious expert to have true faith. When you think about it, new believers come to Christ through experiencing Him and that is how their faith is established. THEN they read their Bible and understand the documentation around their faith to solidify and validate what they believe. If it is done the other way around, we might miss the experience because we didn’t understand it’s context to begin with – that isn’t always the case, but a definite possibility.
I love this account of Rahab! God really will and DOES use anyone who is willing to answer His call. When I read about Rahab, I stop asking God, “Why me?” and I start asking myself, “Why not me?”.
I haven’t been a prostitute, but I have done some really despicable things in my past. I have put myself in compromising situations, I have lied, I have turned my back on God and made my own path – you name it, I’ve probably done it. Despicable, despicable me! And only by the grace of God, He has forgiven me and chosen to use despicable me to further His Kingdom. That is the very nature of my Heavenly Father – to use those who feel useless.
What I’ve learned:
- My despicable past does not matter to God. He cares about my faith and who I am after I come to know Him.
- God will use me in any way He chooses. I have to be responsive and obedient to His call.
- God will use me because I believe in who He is and I believe what He says.
- God will honor my obedience and bless me beyond what I can imagine.
- Have you experienced God in a way that you can’t help but share it with everyone you know? What was that experience?
- Is there anyone in your family that you need to share God with?
- What is God calling you to right now? How is He trying to use you?
- Is your past prohibiting you from answering God’s call?
- What do you need to do to leave your past behind you and follow God in unquestioning obedience?
- Can you imagine the blessing that awaits you for answering God’s call on your life?