In First Person: Shalom to each of you. My name is Rahab. I hope it doesn’t offend you that most people call me by my biblical name. Rahab the Prostitute. Every time I hear that name, it reminds me of how indebted I am to our merciful and good God. Six out of the eight times I am mentioned in the Bible, it is Rahab the Prostitute. Being a prostitute is certainly not a badge I wear. I should have been executed along with all of my fellow citizens in Jericho about 3,500 years ago. But my sinful past does provide me with an opportunity to stand before you today as a trophy. A trophy of God’s grace and kindness.
Why would the Lord God of Israel choose to rescue a sinner like me? In fact, that’s what I want to talk with you about today. RESCUE. Why I needed rescuing? How I was rescued? And what happened afterwards?
Don’t you love a good rescue story? Our hearts beat with suspense as we watch Laura Ingalls Wilder’s dad rescued from a deep, gaseous well. Our hearts swell with joy as we witness the rescue of airline passengers from their sinking airplane in the cold, Potomac River. But for us in Jericho, our hearts melted in fear at the Lord’s amazing deeds of rescue of His people through the Red Sea and through the Jordan River.
My story too is a story of RESCUE. Yes, I was spared execution and certain death, but more importantly I was spared spiritual danger. I have come before you to proclaim the excellences of Him who called me out of darkness into his marvelous light since I am one who has received mercy.
- If it’s okay, I would like to tell you a bit of my story? First of all, I want you to know why I needed rescuing? There are two primary reasons. The first reason relates to who I was and what I did for a living. The second reason relates to where I lived.
Back 1,450 years before Jesus was born, I was a woman of the night in what we affectionately called the Moon City. Some Bible scholars have tried to keep God from getting a spiritual black eye by claiming that I was only an innkeeper when the Hebrew spies came to Jericho long ago. However, I’m sorry to admit that for many years the words of Waylon Jennings were all too true of me. “I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Looking for love in too many faces.” I tried to fill my insatiable longing for intimacy and acceptance by my relationships with men. I ended up in physical, emotional, and spiritual bondage and brokenness.
The second reason why I needed rescuing was I lived with my family in the great fortress city of Jericho, about 18 miles northeast of Jerusalem down near the Dead Sea. New Orleans has nothing on my city. I am not talking in terms of vice or crime, but in terms of elevation. The ancient city of Jericho was 820 feet below sea level. It was my hometown. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my city was the first city devoted to destruction by the living God when his people came into what I know now was the Promise Land. We deserved to be judged because of our heinous practices of idolatry, perversion, and even child sacrifice. I lived in and contributed more than my share to this moral cesspool of a city.
Young people, you’ve heard that “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down.” Well. They did. It was the most terrifying and horrifying thing I have ever experienced. Rocks tumbling down. People falling to their deaths. I was astonished to watch all this take place as a result of God’s people simply marching around our city with their priests blowing their trumpets. Then, all of the inhabitants of Jericho, including the King, were systematically executed and the city burned. I do not know why the God of heaven spared my life, except he has mercy on whom He chooses and He hardens and judges whom He wills.
Maybe there are some of you listening to me this morning who are struggling right now due to the shame and guilt of your past relationships with others in the area of physical intimacy. Let me assure you, that, a sinful past in this area of your life does not preclude you from becoming part of God’s family. I hope that by hearing my story you will be led you to give up your broken cisterns and turn to the fountain of living water, our Lord and Messiah, Jesus Christ.
You see, today your church is overrun with prostitutes young and old, male and female. Now don’t go and get upset with me because you have never traded sex for cash. But you may well have traded it for security, for popularity, for pleasure, or for power. And though you may never have sold your body for cash, you have certainly been tempted to sell your soul, your integrity and truthfulness in order to close some business deal, win approval, or curry some favor or fortune. You too have prostituted yourself in some way in the past.
Maybe you’re here today and you are not a prostitute like me, but all of us here are spiritual prostitutes. I’m sorry, but it’s true. If you’re honest, you struggle with idolatry, just like I did. Some of your idols might be your career, your ministry, your spouse, your family, your hobbies, your relationships, your time, your money, your leisure, your bodies, your reputations, or your health.
When you go after money, power, or pleasures more than you go after God, you prostitute yourself before the Lord. Here’s a question: What is that something or someone that you prize and treasure more than him? Therein lies your prostitution.
The Bible calls idolatry our ultimate and most besetting sin. It is worse than doing drugs, adultery, homosexuality, or even murder… it is the sin we commit most often, but it is the sin that we very seldom confess! I was a spiritual prostitute long before I ever illicitly embraced the arms of a man.
No matter how sordid your past, you too can have a glorious future. But it does require of us turning from sin and turning in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. If a harlot can become a heroine, if a daughter of depravity can become the mother of righteousness, if a cracked and soiled human vessel used by men can become a hallowed vessel in the hand of God, then there is hope for you today.
- Now, How did it happen for me? How can it happen for you?
How was I rescued? Through all the people coming in and out of my house, I came to know and believe in the Lord God of Israel. In fact, you heard my confession in Joshua’s text just a minute ago. “He is the God of the heavens above and the earth below (See Joshua 2:8-11). He is the God who redeemed his people with an outstretched arm of judgment. Any God who could miraculously part the waters of the Red Sea and cause his people to be saved from the pursuing Egyptians I wanted to know. Any God who could supernaturally part the flood waters of the Jordan River had to be the TRUE God. I not only heard with my ears of all the wondrous deeds of the Lord but I believed in my heart that he could save me.
There I was an immoral, pagan, irreligious woman in the midst of wasting my life in futility. I heard about this true God. Grace was given me to believe on Him. Friends, as long as that can happen—and it did happen—you need never despair about anybody who stands in need of the cleansing blood and the saving grace of our Lord. Even more close to home, you need not despair about yourself. If God can change me, he can change anyone. (Adapted from James Montgomery Boice, p. 32).
I asked from the spies kindness, which is a shorthand way of saying in our language ‘Can I trust your unfailing help to spare the life of one in desperate need?’ In my fear and trepidation, I needed a sign from the two Hebrew spies that they would spare my life and my family’s. Interestingly, they gave me a scarlet cord that I was to hang out my window on the wall of Jericho when they came to attack the city. I put it out my window immediately after they left.
Throughout the history of the church, my scarlet cord has been taken as a symbol to represent the blood of Jesus Christ. Bible teachers have talked about a cord running all through the Bible, from Abel’s sacrifice to Calvary (Boice, p. 33).
I have questioned some of the saints in heaven and have learned that there are remarkable parallels between the cord that marked my house in Jericho and the blood of the lambs that was spread on the doorposts and lintels of the Jewish homes in Egypt when the angel of death passed over. Israel needed the scarlet blood of the lamb on their door-frames to distinguish them from the unbelievers (Ex. 12:7, 13). I needed the scarlet cord so that the Israelites would distinguish me from my doomed countrymen. All of which points to this: ultimate security is only found under the blood of the crucified One. I know now that I was spared that day in Jericho only because He was coming to be executed in my place… that in my place condemned He stood. Have you fled to Jesus for refuge from the coming day of judgment? The destruction of my hometown is like a mere fleabite compared to the judgment that is coming upon not just one city but all cities!
Remember the scarlet letter. It is only erased by the scarlet cord. Hester Prynne and Roger Chillingworth, a preacher, needed to come under the blood that would free them from despair, guilt, and shame.
- So what? What are the take home lessons from my story for you today? What happened after my rescue? What’s the rest of the story?
The rest of the story is that I married a man from the tribe of Judah named Salmon. Our first son, we named Boaz. And if you don’t know my beloved, strong, compassionate son, you can learn more about him in the book of Ruth found in your Old Testament. Remember he married Ruth the Moabitess. Ruth and Boaz named their son Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the Father of our greatest earthly king, King David. Can you believe it, me the great, great grandmother of King David. And you know who the ultimate King is who comes from David, David’s Lord – Jesus Christ himself.
Thus, here are a few points for practical application.
- A sinful past does not preclude you from becoming part of God’s family and enjoying a glorious future with Him.
If a harlot can become a heroine, if a daughter of depravity can become the mother of righteousness, if a cracked and soiled human vessel used by men can become a hallowed vessel in the hand of God, then there is hope for you today.
In heaven, I continually marvel that my name is written in Faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11: Rahab the prostitute! In the very first chapter of Matthew’s gospel, my name is there along with three other women: Tamar, Ruth, and Bathsheba. All of us suspect in one way or another. At least Ruth and I were foreigners and outsiders. Can you believe it, an outsider, a former prostitute is one of Jesus’ great, great, great-grandmothers? Why? To magnify God’s mercy on sinners like us.
- A sinful past does not have to disqualify you from serving the Lord now. In fact, genuine faith is observable by acts of courageous risks and good works for God’s glory. Yes, friends, taking risks for God is right. Let me ask you a question: How is your faith making a difference in your life right now?
At my own peril, I welcomed and hid the spies. I sent them off in a different direction. James, the half-brother of our Lord, says that I was counted as righteous for what I did. By God’s grace, I did risk my life in order to save it. Some of you here are holding dearly on to yours. Want you step out and take Jesus at his word? He who loses his life for the gospel’s sake will save it. He who keeps his life will lose it. The Lord may be asking some of you to demonstrate your faith in Him by taking a bold step or venture to serve Him.
Maybe you’ve made a mess of your life like I did long ago. But God has set his hand upon you. He has made Himself and his great saving acts known to you and then in grace has brought you into contact with his messengers. He is calling you to trust Him. Remember how we are rescued! The blood. Has the blood of Christ, like the scarlet cord, been spread over you, your homes, and your lives?
God wants you to step out and take a risk and boldly serve others like I did years ago to save my family from the coming judgment. Marvel that God makes of prostitutes like us trophies of His amazing grace for all the world to see.