Rahab the prostitute is mentioned in the New Testament three times, and in each instance she comes up aces. Five short verses into the New Testament, Matthew includes her in his account of Jesus’ family tree. A pagan prostitute mentioned in the same breath as Kings David and Josiah in the Savior’s genealogy––blasphemous! She’s flanked by the likes of Enoch, Moses, and Gideon in the book of Hebrews’ “Faith’s Hall of Fame.” James highlighted her as one whose good works authenticate her as a believer of the same stripe as Abraham. Pretty impressive credentials I’d say!
If Joshua’s scouts had done a door-to-door poll of who might become a believer in the God of the Jews, I’m sure Rahab would’ve been way down the list of candidates. She fit in the category of the least likely in Jericho to be a follower of Jehovah!
I concede that this is not your stock story from which to draw inspiration and ideas about sharing faith with not-yet-christians. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone teach on evangelism from it. The story would typically bring to mind the miraculous felling of Jericho’s walls and God’s conquest over his enemies more than his quest for friends. Rather than Rahab’s rescue, it’s Jericho’s rout that we preachers usually give sermons on. But indulge me and see if you don’t pick up the least little connection between this story and God’s passionate pursuit of people and how we might join in him in his pursuit.
I meet “Rahabs” in my city all the time, people that, like the prostituted woman in the Old Testament narrative, are severely broken yet positively beloved. Like her, many of them contain a spacious spirit, yet you wouldn’t know it for the walls behind which they hide.
Rahabs are broken women and men who may or may not make their living from other people’s brokenness, and yet they have something inside that points them, at the very least, in the general direction of the Repairer of the Broken. They live lost lives, and yet clearly possess an internal GPS (God Positioning System) that shows them where they are now and how to get where they need to go for truth.
Jesus prioritized the Rahabs of his day, the most defective individuals: the five-time divorcée from Samaria, the Canaanite widow, blind Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus the extortionist, the thankful leper, the demonized Gadarene. He gravitated to people who needed him most, ones whose hearts were primed for his intervention. Rahab, a woman of the night and worshipper of Canaanite idols, was just such a person.
For my money the most fascinating part of the narrative is, before the two scouts even showed up at her door, Rahab was aware of who God was and was quite willing to run to him for help. Her city was about to be destroyed along with the entire citizenry. Everyone in Jericho had heard reports about God drowning Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea and leading his people into successful campaigns against their enemies. Their prospective annihilation terrified them, but one person––the least likely of their number––went out of her way to escape doom.
How fortuitous that the two scouts reconnoitering the impermeable city of Jericho would come to her house––her house of ill repute! Of all people, God reached out to her and she reached back.
Instead of checking into the local Motel 6 where they’d stand out, they went to a brothel where they could blend in! I know it looks bad on paper, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t there as patrons. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense that they’d go to her house where there would be a lot of men passing in and out of the premises. They went where no one would notice them or say anything about them being there. Who would they tell? What happens at Rahab’s stayed at Rahab’s! Sound strategy notwithstanding, the word did get out and the king’s men came looking for them.
There was an ominous buzz throughout the whole city, including Rahab’s clients, about the doom that was to come. Everyone in town was petrified. Their impenetrable walls had shielded them from countless assaults in the past, but the storm that was gathering outside brought with it a higher threat level than ever before. These Jews have a big bad god on their side. He divides seas and fights alongside his armies. We’re in trouble!
But Rahab had something more going on inside of her. Though she was as frightened as anyone, she intuited a hint of hope for a way out. She couldn’t quite pin it down, but something inside said, “You don’t have to die today!”
When the two scouts came to her door, her heart leapt. Might this be what her “hoper” had hoped? She took the “evangelists” in, hid them, and made up a story of their whereabouts. Before sending them on their way she seized the opportunity and pled for mercy for her and her whole family. She didn’t wait for them to proffer any sort of deal for her salvation; she spoke up first and they consented, with conditions. She met the conditions, they kept their promise, and when the walls came tumbling down, she and her whole family were saved!
My inquiry into Rahab’s “conversion” has given me a new notion on shattered souls, some new ways to pray for them, and a greater expectation of bringing them into friendship with my Best Friend. Based on this unlikely story, over the next bunch of posts I’ll offer some Friendship Quest advice that I hope you’ll find helpful.
Use us, Lord, to reach Rahabs!