Pastor Jen: This morning, we are going to learn about Rahab. Rahab is actually covered in Scripture in a number of different places. We will be looking at a few of them for the start. I actually give as my text James 2:25-26, but we’re actually going to read about five verses this morning, and I’m going to let you know where we are in the process. I’m going to ask you to stand for the reading of the word this morning, and I’m going to start in James 2:25-26.
Pastor Jen: In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Pastor Jen: Hebrews 11:31. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
Pastor Jen: Matthew 1:5. Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.
Pastor Jen: Joshua 6:25. But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
Pastor Jen: Let us pray.
Pastor Jen: Hide me behind the cross, Lord. Articulate your heart through my voice to your people. Let the transformation of our lives be wrought thoroughly by the Holy Spirit in response to your truth. In this Lenten season and always, let us faithfully remember the sacrifice you made on our behalf to draw us to you. In your name, we pray. Amen.
Speaker 2: Amen.
Pastor Jen: You may be seated.
Pastor Jen: As I was thinking about Rahab, I thought it was really interesting the way that Rahab is described throughout Scripture. You will have noticed that she is often described specifically by what her occupation was. It reminded me of one of the tours I went on in Scotland. It was kind of a funny thing. In Scotland, there’s all this history, literary history. Lots of literary people were from Scotland, especially Edinburgh, where we were for a period of time. There’s Arthur Conan Doyle went to university to become a doctor there. There is Robert Burns, who was a big poet. All these people. As we went on this tour and the guide took us to all these little places, one of the things he said was, frequently, “You’ll see there’s nothing marked here. You’ll see there’s nothing marked here.” As we went on the tour, it became pretty obvious that apparently nothing in Edinburgh was marked. In fact, he told the story. He said when his kids were little, one of the first things they learned to say was “there’s nothing marked here.”
Pastor Jen: I tell you that story because sometimes when we’re trying to figure out how things work, we get to places where there’s nothing marked. One of the conversations that we had as a part of this tour was that names matter. The places that we go, the things that we do, those names and the things that happened in a particular place, they matter. So it is that we come to the story of Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute, and we see over and over in Scripture that that’s how she’s called. What that means in her time was that she served in the king’s palace in a very particular function. She lived there for a period of time, until she got to an age where she was no longer able to and then she got moved. She was obviously wealthy because she lived in the place outside at the edge of town near the top near the gates, which meant that she had some means and was doing pretty well for herself at that point in time, which probably means that she was retired as well.
Pastor Jen: She was there, and here come these spies. To set the stage for you, Joshua was at one time a spy into Canaan himself. He was sent with Caleb. Once upon a time, Moses sent him and 11 other people into Canaan to investigate. They came back, and Joshua and Caleb said, “Let’s go,” and everybody else said, “Eh, not so quick. Not so fast. Let’s … brakes. Stop.” So this time, when Joshua sends, and everybody listened to the 10 and not Joshua and Caleb, and so God punished them by telling them that they had to wait 40 years. So now all of the people who were of age when Joshua and Caleb came back, except for Joshua and Caleb, have now gone on, and all that’s left are the younger generations, who are now going in to take what was rightfully theirs, what was promised to them by God in the first place. Joshua sends a couple of spies just because he wants to know exactly what’s happening, but he does it secretly. He does it quietly. He sends them in, and they get to town, and they probably are pretty obviously Hebrew spies because they don’t wear the same clothes, and they don’t talk the same way.
Pastor Jen: Pretty quickly, they get picked out of the crowd. They happen to knock on Rahab’s door, and she’s like, “Get in here, you idiots. When you’re spying, you’re supposed to fit in.” She brings them in and hides them up on her roof under some bags of flax. Not before too long, here come the counterterrorism unit from Jericho. That’s probably not what they called it, but the guys who were looking for them, they come and knock on the door, and she’s like, “Mmm. I don’t know. Maybe they went that way. I’m not quite sure.” She sends them on a wild goose chase that apparently takes them three days. Once they’re gone, she calls the spies back and she says, “Hey, look. Let me tell you something. I’ve heard about you guys. I know who you are. I know who your god is. This is why I’m helping you because I know that your god is going to wipe us off the map if that’s what He chooses to do, and I want to be on the side of right.”
Pastor Jen: They promise that they will protect her and her family as long as they’re in the house when the time comes. Mind you, nobody here, nobody in this story knows exactly how God is going to accomplish the conquering of Jericho. We all know the little song, Joshua fights the battle of Jericho and the walls come tumbling down. They don’t know that song because it hasn’t happened yet. They’re actually sitting there going I don’t know how God is going to go through 20-foot wide walls to get us into this town, but God said he would. Even Rahab believes that somehow the God who walked the Israelites across the Red Sea is going to make it possible for them to defeat this walled city. So the spies tell her, okay, hang out a cord, a red cord. Throw it out the window. We’ll know it’s you. We’ll come and get you, and we’ll make sure that you guys aren’t among those who get taken down.
Pastor Jen: Some time goes by. They get out of town. They hide for a couple days. They figure out. They see the spies, trackers come back into Jericho, and they leave after they get back to town. Then there’s some time that happens. It’s several months before they actually get to the point where they come to Jericho. They go through this … When they get there, I can only imagine what Rahab is thinking when she’s sitting in her house, and for a week, these crazy Hebrews are walking around the wall because that’s how God did it. God had them walk around the wall once a day for seven days, and then on the seventh day … or for six days, they walked around it once, and then on the seventh day, they walked around it seven times, and at the end of that seventh time, they shouted and blew their trumpets, and the wall fell. What? Can you imagine? If you walked around this building — please don’t do this, by the way — but if you walked around this building once a day for six days and then on the seventh day, you walked around it and you blew a trumpet and you shouted and it fell. That would be ridiculous. Sometimes, that’s how our God is. He does the ridiculous to prove that He’s God.
Pastor Jen: In any case, Rahab and her family are where they’re supposed to be, and they’re rescued. The rest of the town is defeated. But that’s not the end of Rahab’s story. Rahab is one of very few women from the Old Testament who is mentioned several times in the New Testament. She is always mentioned as Rahab the prostitute, which is like our hook for where we find her. It’s the marker. In Edinburgh, nothing’s marked. Rahab has a mark. Her mark is Rahab the prostitute. That’s how she’s known throughout all of Scripture. Do you know why she’s known that way? Because God is saying, “Look. This is what she was, but here’s where she wound up.” Because let me tell you where she wound up because it’s pretty cool. She wound up staying with the Israelites. She didn’t have to. She could have gone anywhere she wanted. There was no requirement that she stay with the Israelites when she came out of Jericho. She could have gone anywhere she wanted to. She could have done anything she wanted to at that point, but she stayed with them. She stayed with them to the point that she married a man named Salmon. She gave birth then to … Let me get the names right. Make sure I get this right.
Speaker 3: Boaz.
Pastor Jen: Boaz. Thank you. Boaz, who married Ruth, who was the great-grandmother of David. You might remember David. He was the king in Israel once upon a time. So she was not only rescued from this place where she could have died, but she became a part of the full story of redemption. She became a part of the story of Jesus. That’s why we read the passage in Matthew because it tells us the lineage of Jesus, and there she is. Rahab. We hear about her in Hebrews, when they’re giving a long list of the faithful in Hebrews. The cloud of witnesses includes Rahab the prostitute. It’s all because Rahab heard the stories about what God had done and believed that God could do it again. She was rescued. She joined the Israelites. She became a part of the lineage of Jesus, and she becomes a representative to us of what it means for faith to be acted out.
Pastor Jen: The best part of Rahab’s story is that even though Rahab is always known as Rahab the prostitute, that is not who she wound up being. She started there. That’s where God found her. That’s where she was at the beginning, but that’s not where God left her. That’s the same for us. Wherever God finds us, that may be who we are at the beginning. Maybe I am Jennifer the angry. I don’t know. That’s not who I am anymore. But that’s who I was when God found me. And then God flipped the script. Whatever we were, God rewrites our story so that the label everyone else gives us is not our ultimate truth. Instead, our truth is that God’s faithfulness and mercy change us, transform us into the continuation of God’s story in the here and now.
Pastor Jen: Today, as we worship at the table, I ask you to remember the ways in which God has reclaimed you, the ways He has remade you, renamed you. Remember God’s mercy and faithfulness as you receive today the gift of communion.