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/FreeDigitalPhotos.net