(Joshua 2:1) Most really good stories have excitement, intrigue, a hero or heroine, and a happy ending. In the story of Joshua and the conquest of the Promised Land, one of the most well-known episodes contains all of the qualities of a great epic.
As this series continues from the Old Testament book of Joshua, we come to the story of a strong city, spies and a woman of not so good character. Though the names of the two spies are not disclosed, Joshua must not have wanted to blow their cover, we do now the name of the heroine, Rahab, and of the city, Jericho.
Take a moment and read Joshua 2 and relive the story again. Perhaps this is your first introduction to the tale of two spies. In any case, God has a lesson to reveal in this episode from the life of His people and His promise to them.
One question that often arises from this story is why did the spies choose to hide in the house of Rahab? The writer of the account describes her as a harlot or prostitute (2:1). This seems like an odd place for these two servants of the Lord to be.
However, consider this. The king of Jericho was quite aware that just over the hill from his fortress-city camped a vast, seemingly unstoppable horde. He had heard all the stories told by eyewitnesses, perhaps refugees, who escaped from the territories which the Israelites had taken over. We know this is true given the testimony of Rahab: “We have heard how the LORD dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings you completely destroyed across the Jordan.” (v.10) It is reasonable to think that the king had his lookouts watching for any strangers passing through his city. Could it be that the spies figured that they would draw less attention visiting Rahab’s place? After all many men came and went from there.
Sounds like a good plan but it was one that almost failed. It would seem that Rahab’s was the first place the king looked and he was right in doing so. How could that happen? Let’s not forget that God’s plan was to give the land to His people. Let’s also remember that anything that God wants to do Satan tries to undo. Though one does not always see it, there is a constant battle between the Lord and the Enemy; it’s called spiritual warfare and it is quite evident in this story. God was hiding His servants and Satan used one of his servants, the king of Jericho, to try to unhide them. You’ve got to read that part of the story.
No doubt Rahab was not yet one of God’s faithful children, far from it. But God will use whoever He desires to fulfill His plan and will. Herein is one of the profound lessons of this story. Rahab struck a deal with the spies in order to save her own life and the life of her family. Her motives were understandable but selfish. She was willing to sellout her people to save herself. She lies about the men hiding on her roof and sends the king’s men on a wild goose chase. As mentioned earlier, this is a woman of quite questionable morals and character. But God had a plan and Rahab was part of it. It was not Rahab’s righteousness that made the difference in this story, it was God’s.
This is not an invitation to live an ungodly life. However, it may well be a reminder that it is not by one’s own character that great things are done for God and His Kingdom. Rather, it is by Christ and His ability that great things are accomplished. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Again, this does not mean that a person will not be held accountable for his or her actions. Sin is a deathly serious matter to God, the cross is proof of that. But is it not encouraging that a sin-filled past does not mean that God cannot use a person?
It must be noted at this point in the story that Rahab did have some understanding of God. She did not have a personal relationship with the Lord, but she had heard about Him. She knew He was powerful to the point of unstoppable. She knew He had a plan and He was going to fulfill that plan. Based on these things she sought the mercy of God. “Now please swear to me, by the LORD that you will also show kindness to my family, because I showed kindness to you,” Rahab asked the spies (v.12). She did not know how to go to God and ask for help but she could go to one of His servants.
Herein lies a second lesson from the story. People who don’t know the Lord need people who do. Christians have been tasked by Jesus Christ to shine His light into this dark world. If it were not for those two spies, Rahab and her family would have died with the rest of the inhabitants of Jericho ten days later. But they were there and she was saved.
One more detail needs to be brought out about Rahab. Her story does not end in Joshua. Later she would marry a man from the tribe of Judah named Salmon. Salmon was the great-great grandfather of King David. That’s not near as interesting as Salmon being a direct descendant of Joseph the husband of Mary. Who would have thought that Rahab would play such a role in the history of the world? Who would have? God.
God will use who He will use. How does He desire to use you? Ask Him. Who knows whose life will be changed because you did.