Rahab was pursuing her own self-interest. This makes her one of the most fascinating heroes (or heroines) of the Bible. In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, chapter 11, various Old Testament figures are cited as examples of faith. By comparison, the letter of James passes over nearly all of this list to highlight the two figures that James apparently sees as being the most significant to his point. They are Abraham, the patriarch, and Rahab, the prostitute (James 2:25). In Rahab’s case, the strength of her faith was seen not in any outpouring of worship, service, or sacrifice, but instead in the fact that she was willing to trade on what she had come to believe. She was willing to stake what was dear to her upon her belief about God.
Rahab’s story is in the Old Testament book of Joshua. God had promised the Israelites that they would take the city of Jericho. Rahab, an inhabitant of Jericho, believed this was true. She could not explain the advancing success of the Israelites in any other way except that their God was real and their God was with them. Therefore, she made her choice. When Israelite spies came to reconnoiter the city, she hid them. She lied to the king to cover for them. In return, she sought and obtained from the Israelites a promise that her family, her parents and siblings, would be spared.
Pause for a moment upon this concern for her family. It seems reasonable to guess that this very concern might explain her prostitution, might explain why she was stuck in this life. Jericho’s king was clearly aware of her (Joshua 2:3). Perhaps submitting to an upper-class clientele was the one means Rahab had found for obtaining a comfortable income for the support of the ones she cherished.
But then these spies came. The will of God came. In response, we do not see Rahab glorifying God with any expression of worship, nor do we see her donating money or supplies to the cause. If she did these things, they are not recorded. What we do see is her faith. With clear eyes, she took her real-world personal interests and she aligned them with what she had come to recognize as true.
For this, she was honored. The Israelites spared her and her family, just as they had promised, but they did even more than this. They gave her a place among them from that day forward (Joshua 6:25). Today, Rahab is cited in three New Testament books.
In fact, her exerting a faith this strong—strong enough to stake what she cared about upon it—led Rahab into blessings far beyond what she had sought. It led her to freedom. Rahab’s once seemingly inescapable life as a prostitute came to an end, replaced by a home and a people. She became a wife. She became a mother. These developments are not recounted in scripture, but we know of them because of one of those New Testament references. In the genealogical citation of Matthew 1:5, we learn that Rahab was a many-times great grandmother to Jesus.
[31 Days of James]
Posted October 17, 2012