As Joshua’s journey as the new leader of his people continues, it’s striking to note the impossibility of the situation he faces. But, as we’ve covered pretty well, when Joshua faced and when we face impossible situations in life, we can trust in God’s faithfulness to his plan and to us as the Unfailing One. It’s pretty important to follow his instructions as well… after all, he’s God and we aren’t.
After Joshua has his discussion with God and speaks to the leaders of different tribes that had agreed to help conquer the land (who, by the way, echo precisely the same words of strength and courage God himself has spoken to Joshua—I’m not of the mindset that these were just culturally customary words), he sends a couple of spies into the land for reconnaissance. There’s a lot that can be said here about trusting in God’s promise and provision, but still doing the wise thing… but there’s something else about the second chapter of Joshua that is striking to me. At the center of the action is a woman named Rahab. Much later in the Scriptures, this is what we read about her:
By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31, TNIV)
Somehow, the story in chapter two of Joshua gives us insight into faith. The next couple entries in our ‘Joshua discussion’ will focus a little bit on some of those interesting insights—because the way many of us picture ‘faith’ might be different that what God shows us faith can be.
But first, some back-story:
The Scripture in Hebrews reminds us that Rahab is a prostitute, and that’s clearly portrayed in Joshua. Her life probably wasn’t very glamorous—-her home was in the wall of the city where the less-than-desirable, lower caste of people lived. She was used and abused by people seeking pleasure. It’s likely even her own family would have had precious little to do with her—-she was dirty and unworthy.
She wasn’t anything impressive. She was a bad girl with a sordid past who made a living out of selling herself. But she would find her name listed in a couple places in Scripture where those of us who are more ‘sensitive’ might find ourselves insisting she doesn’t belong: in the great ‘Faith Chapter’ of Hebrews 11 (where the above passage is from) and in another, incredibly significant list—
1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David…
(Matthew 1:1-6, TNIV)
This good-for-nothing object of scorn—-who most of us would think would mater very little to anyone—stands generations and generations and generations later not only as an example of great faith… but is in the lineage of the Promised One; the Messiah; the Rescuer; the Christ who would take away the sin of the world.
So, as we prepare to look at what a prostitute with a derogatory, pagan name can teach us about faith, reflect on the redemptive hope we already see in her story: you and I are not too dirty, too wicked, or too worldly for God himself to reach into our lives and transform us into people radically different than we once were; into radically changed people who radically change the world because of (and in) his power and authority. There is hope for you and me in Rahab’s story; we are not too far gone for rescue—God’s beauty can invade the darkness and dirt of our lives, and when he does invade our lives, we find a destiny far beyond anything we ever could have ever built or hoped.