Rahab is the second woman named in Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:5). Her story is recounted in the second chapter of Joshua. Rahab was a prostitute who lived on the edge of Jericho, literally as her home was in the city walls; but she also lived on the edge of society there, in view of her lifestyle.
At the end of the period of Exodus, as the Israelites are preparing to enter the Promised Land, Joshua sends his spies to go and view the land and the city. They enter Rahab’s house, and stay the night. The king gets wind of it, and sends people to search for the spies.
Rahab has to choose between her city, Jericho and God. Rahab, in an articulate speech, (Joshua 2 vv8-13) recognises the God of Israel.
“I know that the Lord has given this land to you….for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” Rahab has a God- given faith as she has not been raised to believe in Him, yet she still has no doubt of His worship over both heaven and earth.
Thus Rahab agrees to hide the spies from the soldiers and as soon as the latter have gone, she lets them down by a rope from her window in the city wall. Because of her protection for these spies, she tied a crimson cord in her window, so that when they came back and destroyed the city, Rahab and her family were protected as we discover in chapter 6.
This story subverts our commonly held ideas about prostitutes… when we are first introduced to Rahab as a prostitute, we’re unlikely to be expecting moral strength, courage or insight; we’re more likely to see her as a predator, preying on the weakness of men.
And yet, as the story unfolds, Rahab becomes not just a good person … she becomes a model of the ‘good Israelite’, one who not only has faith in God but is prepared to put her own safety on the line in order to serve Him
Much has been written about reaching out to people on the edge of things… and yet Rahab’s story turns things on its head, and we find the edge becomes the centre. We may not mean to, but in our churches we can have strong ideas about what a ‘normal life’ is, that can make people who don’t fit that picture feel on the edge and unwelcome. We need to do all we can to welcome those who may feel excluded and ensure that they know that God’s love is for everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or any other of the myriad barriers our society puts up.
Rahab tells us that thinking and speaking as faithfully as we can about God is where our focus should be, regardless of our background. Her courage reminds us that even in the toughest of times, there is always a way, however insignificant it may seem, to serve Him and take the Gospel message out into our community in whatever way we can.
God of Rahab
and all unlikely grandmothers,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
Even though Rahab lived on the edge,
you granted her great faith and understanding.
Help us to be willing to listen to your voice in those on the edge
and not just those in the centre;
grant us the faith of Rahab.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
the light who is coming into the world.