One of the arguments opponents of the Bible and Christianity like to make is that the God of the Old Testament was an angry/wrathful God. That’s an easy (and unfounded) accusation to make by those who don’t have much contextual knowledge of the bible. When I read through the Old Testament I see many examples of God’s love and grace extended to people. One of my favorite stories is that of Rahab in the book of Joshua chapters 2 and 6.
Rahab was an employee of what has been called “the oldest profession”. No, not politics. Prostitution (although the two seem to be intertwined together, don’t they)? She lived in the city of Jericho at the time of it’s imminent destruction from Israel as they took possession of the land God had promised them.
Joshua had sent spies to scout out Jericho and they came to Rahab’s families house and lodged there. The King of Jericho heard about this and demanded she release them. But Rahab hid them and told the King they had already left. She then made a deal that if she helped them escape then they would save her and her family when they destroyed Jericho.
12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”
So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
In Joshua 6 we see the fulfillment of that commitment as Rahab’s family was saved by the same men who had spied on the city:
22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” 23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her.
But the story doesn’t end there. And here’s where it gets fascinating and we realize WHY God protected and saved her. In the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 we read this:
1 This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
So Rahab was the great-great-great grandmother of King David! I don’t know about you but that gives me chill bumps.
And Rahab is listed in the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
There are several applications we can take away from this story:
- Rahab was a believer in God before she encountered the spies:Joshua 2:10: We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
- The scarlet cord is the focal point of this story. It represented Rahab’s faith in God and led to her salvation. This is a prophetic reference to the blood shed on the cross by Jesus the Messiah to save us from our sin. Also, that same cord was used to save the spies as they were lowered to the ground to escape. What powerful imagery.
- Rahab was non-Jewish. A Gentile. Sometimes when we read the New Testament it seems that salvation for the Gentiles was something new. But this was God’s plan all along. Did He not tell Abraham that ALL the world would be blessed by his descendants (which would encompass the Messiah)? The Old Testament is full of stories of Gentiles coming to faith in God. Nebuchadnezzar was a most fascinating one. Here was a supremely evil man that God used to punish Israel yet the last time we saw him he was giving glory to the true God (albeit AFTER God struck him with boanthropy to punish his arrogance) :Daniel 4:37: Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.What’s incredible is how everyone missed all this in Jesus’ day. Even with Israel under Rome’s thumb, the Pharisees arrogance made them blind to it (actually they were blind to their own salvation as well). And even the disciples missed it! Paul was the one who had to straighten them out on it!
- Just as Rahab escaped destruction and death from the invading Israeli army, so too we are saved from God’s wrath through the sacrifice Christ made for us. We have escaped thanks to God!
- I can see a possible parallel between the spies and the three wisemen. Both came from another country and were told to leave by a different route in order to escape harm from the king.
- But the most important lesson from this story is that God can (and often does) save those we might consider beyond saving. No one is out of God’s reach. And neither were we. Faith will sometimes come from people least expected, even the house of a Canaanite prostitute.
The lyrics to one of my favorite songs (The Scarlet Cord by Southern Raised) sums up the story of Rahab’s salvation – and ours:
The Scarlet Cord brought salvation
To Rahab’s house that day
And it would stand as a picture
Of the price our Lord would pay
If you’re looking for a way out
From the judgement that awaits
The Scarlet Cord of Jesus’ blood
Is the only way