The Redeemer of Prostitutes!

Last week, I invited you to join me in celebrating Advent here on the blog by exploring the lives of a few women who had an integral role in God’s redemption plan. We spent some time in Tamar’s story and saw what an unlikely candidate she was to be placed in Christ’s lineage. But, as we move through the history of redemption, God’s use of unlikely candidates will become more of a pattern. Today, we’ll meet another woman who you might not expect to see front and center in this redemption story.

But like I said last week:

The God of redemption is a God who delights in stepping into our messy lives to bring about the most unexpected and glorious transformation! 

And this is at the heart of the message of Advent.

When we think of examples of admirable women, we don’t typically place prostitutes in that category, but we find one in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ. Rahab, “the harlot” as she is referred to most often, is mentioned three times in the New Testament. In James, she is used as an example of faith in action. And in Hebrews she is included with Sarah and Jochabed in the hall of faith.

We are first introduced to Rahab in Joshua chapter two. Before the Israelites’ first conquest to Canaan, Joshua sent out spies to investigate. Although she placed herself in danger, Rahab housed and protected the spies. Rahab lived in an immoral culture steeped in idol worship. Lying and prostitution were the norm. Scripture never commends her lifestyle of prostitution or the fact that she lies to the king’s men to protect the Israelites. What is commended, however, is Rahab’s faith.

Why would a Gentile prostitute risk her life for foreign people she doesn’t even know?

I’ll let Rahab answer that question in her own words:

[box]I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.

And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. (Joshua 2:9–11)[/box]

Rahab heard about, and already fears, this God who dries up seas and sets captives free. She recognized Yahweh as the One true and living God and was willing to place herself in His service no matter the personal cost.

I love Rahab’s story, because it highlights the fact that God does not allow our past to define us.

Our history doesn’t prevent us from being used by God in the future. Great mercy and forgiveness flow freely from the cross. As an Old Testament “new believer” Rahab still operated under her only understanding of morality, believing that lying is acceptable in certain circumstances. That is not God’s standard of morality, but thankfully, He is gracious and knows that we are in a process of growth and change, and He chooses to use even imperfect people like Tamar, like Rahab, like me.

He is the God who redeems prostitutes and preacher’s wives; the God who uses the outcast and the obscure. God even delights in including other ethnicities, and the most unlikely candidates, in His family line.

He is the God who delights in taking the unexpected and doing the unbelievable!

Revive Our Hearts has an excellent series on Rahab. If you’d like to listen online or read the transcript, click here.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/


  • Sandra

    Rahab’s story is one to which I’ve returned often, especially recently. However, I’ve always read her story a little differently than is implied here. Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in countries with a similar culture as the setting for her story, but I assumed when I first read the scriptural account that Rahab was not a prostitute by choice. Because of the culture of the region at that time (and even today), I assumed that she had been sold into slavery by her family – likely because they had a debt that could not be paid. I’ve read the story with the viewpoint that Rahab’s immorality was involuntary and that she was essentially a trafficked woman, making her “damaged goods”. I can imagine her shame. And when I consider Rahab’s testimony of belief found in Josh. 2:9-11, I sense that she had been looking for this God to come as a deliverer for her. I believe that it was, in part, her desperation for deliverance – a deliverance that she recognized could only come from the one, true God – that prompted her to risk her life for the two spies and trust them to keep their promise to her. I identify with so much of Rahab’s story.

    But, no matter whether she chose a lifestyle of immorality as implied or that it was forced upon her, I know that the lens in which we view this story does not change the truth in the principle you share. That is, “…that God does not allow our past to define us.”

    I know that is fact; however, I don’t actually believe it. Secretly, I believe that my past disqualifies me from receiving a full measure of God’s love and kindness. Please, would you ask God to help my unbelief?

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Dearest Sandra ~

    Thank you so much for sharing your input, dear friend. I agree and think that your perspective on Rahab’s situation may be exactly what happened.

    I love how you described her heart: “when I consider Rahab’s testimony of belief found in Josh. 2:9-11, I sense that she had been looking for this God to come as a deliverer for her. I believe that it was, in part, her desperation for deliverance – a deliverance that she recognized could only come from the one, true God – that prompted her to risk her life for the two spies and trust them to keep their promise to her.”

    YES! You portrayed her great need so beautifully. She was desperate for deliverance and she placed her trust in the only One who could provide that deliverance. Your insight is spot on, and you have a keen grasp of spiritual principles, but precious friend, I pray your heart enlarges to believe God grants to you what He says He does: full forgiveness and steadfast love (1 John 1:9; Romans 8:31–32, 38).

    Your past does not disqualify you from receiving God’s full measure of love and kindness, but it may actually allow you to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of His grace.

    Remember the “sinner woman” of Luke 7 who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair? She had perhaps a greater capacity for appreciating the forgiveness she had received. She may have viewed herself as “damaged goods” or “disqualified from receiving a full measure of God’s love and kindness.” But read what Jesus said about her:

    “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

    Before He knew that she would be a “sinner woman” before any of us became “damaged goods” God had already committed His full measure of love to us, before we experienced anything that has now become our past (Eph. 1:4–6). We may feel that because of our past, we’re disqualified from the full measure, but Sandra, He committed the full measure of love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy–before the foundation of the world. What is now “your past” came as no surprise to Him when it happened. He is fully committed to you as not only your Deliverer, but your good Father who loves you fully and completely–knowing every intimate detail of your life.

    None of us deserve to receive a full measure of God’s love and kindness, but thankfully, He doesn’t pour it out on those who “deserve it” but He pours it out on the basis of His character. He is the deliverer who steadfastly loves those broken and needy ones that receive His deliverance. And He loves them in full measure, nothing held back.

    Praying that you receive tangible evidence of this in your life. In fact, you have already received tangible evidence, so actually I’m praying that you see it and believe it.

    Praying ~

  • Vivian Etherington

    Sandra, I hope you see this! I know the feeling. There was certainly a time when I felt my past defined me! But God’s grace has been poured out so abundantly and I now understand that who I am in Christ defines me! Kim knows all about my story and how God has worked! She gave you some great Scriptures! Praying for you right now!