(Reading List Theme 2.5)

This section of the reading list, theme 2, is about “Walking in Faith.” As we read the chapters in this theme it looks at the book of James and other places in the Bible that correspond to those themes. James 2:25 mentions, as an example of active faith, Rahab the prostitute: “She was made right with God by her actions – when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road.”

Rahab is definitely a character worth reading more about. The idea of a righteous prostitute ought to be enough to pique your interest. The story is found in Joshua 2 and 6. Moses has just died, and on the verge of the promised land, newly appointed leader Joshua sends spies into the land. First, this is a second chance for Israel; the first time they were on the verge of entering the promised land, they sent spies who came back with fearful reports. Since Israel gave into fear instead of trusting God, they were doomed to wander in the wilderness, waiting forty more years before receiving the promise. This was a second chance to enter the land, and this time, it turned out well.

Second, it is also a second chance for Rahab. The Bible doesn’t say why she became a prostitute, or if that was a respected profession in Jericho, or why the two Israelite spies took refuge with her. Let’s just assume it was a place they thought they could safely remain anonymous. Whatever the case, it turns out to have been a wise move, for Rahab was clever, she seems to have been trusted by the city officials, and we know she feared and believed in the Lord (2:4-11). She saw her moment to save her life, and the life of her relatives, and she took the second chance – the chance at a new life. She asked that her family be spared when Israel took over the city. She took a step of faith, and it was rewarded. As the spies had promised, she and her family were saved. Not only that, but Matthew 1:5 tells us that she married an Israelite man (which means she gave up prostitution), and was in fact King David’s great-great grandmother, and an ancestor of Jesus. 

As I thank God for being so gracious to give second chances – whether to his own people for a lack of faith, or to those who are just coming to know him – I can’t help but think about Saul when I read this chapter, especially in light of 1 Samuel 15.  

Reading 1 Samuel 15, it can seem that Saul had a short moment of weakness which cost him his dynasty. Take a quick look at Rahab and it can seem like a short moment of trust granted her a life and legacy. Does that make sense to you? One bad action of one of the people of God and disaster? One good action by a heathen and full redemption? 

But see, we don’t know the whole story. In fact, no one can ever know another person’s whole story. God’s grace can change everything, but only God knows the whole story – the real heart of a person. As I said in my earlier post on Saul, when we look at the rest of his life, we see a series of failures, and the incident in question was the tipping point. The rest of Samuel’s books show a pretty big descending slide after this as well. Saul was an Israelite, but just being in the right country did not mean he had real faith. Just like growing up in church doesn’t mean you have real faith. Saving faith isn’t something you are born into – it is something each person must choose, and it is revealed by the choices we make every day. 

Though not much else is said of Rahab besides these two chapters, this is also her tipping point. Whether she was forced into prostitution or chose it, when it came time to make another choice, she chose to stand with God. That is a choice she built her life around thereafter, as she married an Israelite and settled down to what we assume was a godly life. Hebrews 11:31 also commends her faith. Saving faith isn’t something you are excluded from by your past – it is something each person must choose, and it is revealed by the choices we make every day. 

Another difference I notice between Saul and Joshua in this story, is that unlike Saul’s half-hearted obedience, Joshua, in chapter 6, followed exactly the Lord’s instructions. (And by the way, the curse Joshua made in 6:26 fell in 1 Kings 16:34…just in case you were wondering.)

As I turn to prayer today, I think about all those in my path that do not yet know the Lord, who have not had that moment as Rahab had, of declaring faith, acting on it, and having a life changed by God’s grace.

God, I lift up friends and family to you today, acquaintances, people who have come to my church but not made a decision… sometimes it seems impossible that some of them would come to you, and I don’t know how to help them see you for all your goodness and love and ability to change their lives for the better… Help me to be a friend, to show you, and to remember them often when I pray. Work on their hearts as only you can, and I pray that just as the spies found their way to Rahab that day of her decision, you would guide your people into their paths when they are ready to choose you. Thank you, God, for being One who gives second chances… for me, too. Amen.