This blog post is adapted from a sermon I gave on Palm Sunday at Pearland FUMC based on the story of Rahab found in Joshua 2.
Being a young person interested in going to the clergy, you hear lots of interesting questions from fellow young people. In this age of “The Rise of The ‘Nones’”, those who do identify their religious belief as ‘None’, I find it fascinating to answer their questions about my faith. One question that keeps popping up that I had honestly never thought about before is, “Why is the Old Testament important?” These “Nones” say that they understand the New Testament is about Jesus, but the Old Testament takes place hundreds of years before. My response is that we can see ourselves in these Old Testament stories; we can see God at work long before Jesus, and these stories have a lot to tell us about God’s grace and God’s love.
To further this point, I’d like to take a minute to talk about Rahab. In Joshua Chapter 1 we see that the Hebrew people have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. We know that God had lead them to freedom from slavery in Egypt through Moses and was providing for them as they wandered through the desert with Manna. The Hebrew people were growing restless, fearing that they would never find the Promised Land; in fact, many of the people had lived off of nothing but Manna and knew nothing but a nomadic lifestyle. Moses died as he overlooked the Promised Land and Joshua was appointed by God to lead the people as a military commander.
Joshua set his sights on Jericho, a large and well-protected city, arguably the biggest and baddest of them all. He knew a frontal assault would fail, so he sent spies to look for weaknesses and to gauge the mood of the city. It was within the walls of Jericho that the spies met Rahab.
Rahab was a citizen of the Kingdom of Jericho, who worshiped pagan Gods. Rahab was most likely a divorced woman and was forced in to prostitution because women couldn’t hold jobs and she had no man to take care of her. Many women in this era were essentially forced into prostitution as a means to support themselves. Rahab had known nothing of the God of Israel; she was most likely raised in the faith of her fathers and, if anything, had been told by the government to be suspicious of the Hebrews who were wandering the wilderness, but she heard of the power of God and she believed.
I believe she felt that the gods she prayed to hadn’t helped her; she must have learned at an early age that she can only rely on herself and that she couldn’t trust any man, but these spies from the landless Nation of Israel come to her house and she lets them in. Rahab gives them shelter and she gives them safety. She commits treason to her own people because, from the little that she has heard, she knows that God is on the side of the Hebrews, and woe shall come unto those who stand against them.
Rahab doesn’t seem like a likely savoir of Israel. A woman. A prostitute. A pagan. Just one of these things would incline us to believe that she isn’t fit to help save a young nation, but that isn’t who God is and that’s not who Jesus was. God lifted up Moses, a murderer, to be the leader of the Hebrew people, He would go on to make David, a philanderer and liar, the greatest King Israel has ever known, and his son Jesus would count another prostitute, a tax collector, and the man who would eventually betray Him as His closest friends.
I dare say that we can see ourselves in Rahab’s story, people who are a slave to things in this physical world: to our wants, to our needs, but the God of grace and glory comes to us and offers something so much more. Rahab came from a world with no Sabbaths, where no prophets had spoken, where the weight on her heart was almost too much to bear, and she heard of these Hebrew people, these people whose God has lead them through the wilderness, and she saw the tenderness of God.
In a place of faithlessness and hopelessness, God gives God.
Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in Lent in which we remember Jesus’s sacrifice for us. We celebrate God giving us his only begotten Son, God giving Himself, God giving God.
For her faith, God blesses Rahab and her family is spared when the Hebrew people capture the city of Jericho. After the battle she meets Salmon, a great Prince of the House of Judah, and together they have a son, Boaz, who himself would fall in love with another foreigner, Ruth.
Rahab would go on to become the great-grandmother of King David and one of the few women mentioned in the Gospels in the lineage of Jesus.
Through this we are shown that great faith is the greatest equalizer, the greatest definer, and the greatest eraser. Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, helped create the line that eventually bore Jesus.
Today, I invite you to think on Rahab. How this woman who knew only darkness, was blessed and brought into the light by the grace of God, just as we, a people who were once in darkness, have been blessed and brought into the light by the grace of God, through Jesus.