Don't Let your Past Determine your Future
Rahab is a woman of contrast in scripture. She appears only for a little while in Joshua where she is described as a resident of Jericho and a prostitute. She has a sinful past. She was from a city of godlessness. However, when she hears about God, she demonstrates her faith in God by hiding the men who are searching out the city. She tells how she has heard about the God of Israel, and how she wants to be saved by the people of God. “When we heard this, we lost heart, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Josh. 2:11 HCSB She hides the Israelite spies and sneaks them out through a window and they escape. They promise to save her and her family. She, like so many women, lived the only life she knew, until she heard about God. Her story is very encouraging to those who did not have the privilege of learning how to live biblically from an early age. She simply did the best she could with the knowledge she had. However, once she heard the truth, she believed, and she was forever changed.
She and her family of origin were rescued from the falling walls of Jericho as promised. The last thing we read about her in Joshua is that she and her father’s household are spared and she continued to live in Israel because of her faith and kindness to the spies. “But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent to spy on Jericho, and she lives in Israel to this day.” Josh. 6:25 HCSB At this point we think the story is over. However, we find out later in Matthew that she is the mother of Boaz and great-great grandmother of King David. “Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered King David…” Matt. 1:5-6a HCSB It is logical to assume that Boaz favored Ruth, the Moabitess since his mother was also a God fearing foreigner. Rahab became quite well known and respected in Hebrew history, since she reappears in Matthew, in Hebrews, and once again in James. Matthew, who wrote to the Jews with many references to the Hebrew Scriptures, thought it important to list Rahab and Ruth in his list of ancestors in the line of Christ. Only two other women are mentioned in this linage. What made Rahab so famous in Israel? Hebrews and James both give us the answer. Hebrews lists her in the “Hall of Faith”, right along with Noah, Abraham, Moses and others. “By faith Rahab the prostitute received the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed.” Heb. 11:31 HCSB She was made famous by her faith in God. James also lists her as an example of faith alongside Abraham. “And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as the body with out the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” James 2:25-26 HCSB James tells us she is honored because she was one who lived out her faith by her actions.
When I reflect on her life, I too am amazed at this remarkable woman of faith. She risked her life to save the people who were going to destroy her city! Had the authorities in Jericho found her out, it would have meant certain death. Harboring spies was not looked upon favorably. If that was not enough, she obviously changed her lifestyle, was married and continued to learn about and follow her new God. Otherwise the Hebrews would not have continued to regard her so highly in their history, especially since she was not a Hebrew by birth.
I am reminded by this story that anyone, no matter what their past, can be used by God. The past is over. We can learn from it, but we can’t change it. We have to be focused on the future, which can be changed. God only asks that we believe in Him and act on our beliefs. Then, we too can have a life worth remembering, in spite of our past.