Joshua, chapter two, reads like a sidebar in Joshua’s book. It is not needed in telling the story of the Israelites occupying the Promised Land. If you read chapter one then skipped chapter two and picked up with chapter three you wouldn’t miss anything in the progression. So why is chapter two included? What is the purpose of Joshua 2 and the story of Rahab, the prostitute? Was it so we would be grateful for the past? Was it so we could look back with amazement at what God did?
No. The purpose of Rahab’s story is not to tell us what God did. The purpose is to tell us what God does.
This is a historic moment in which a real God enlisted the help of a real person to bring real hope to his people.
In spite of the three strikes against her—a woman, an Amorite, a prostitute—this woman had at least one thing going for her: Rahab was a woman of faith. Rahab was the only person in Jericho who trusted in the God of Israel. She took her life in her hands when she welcomed the spies and hid them, but in itself was evidence of her faith. “I know that the LORD has given you this land” (Josh. 2:9 NIV), she said. Her faith was based on facts, not just feelings; for she had heard of the miracles God had performed, starting with the opening of the Red Sea. No doubt, she had heard of the Israelites exploits from the men who frequented her establishment.
But that is not all.
Rahab started a new life. Not only did she survive the battle of Jericho, Rahab became a member of the Israelite community. She packed up and moved on with the people of God, following the defeat of Jericho. She started completely over. She later married a nice Jewish boy name Salmon and raised a family of her own. She gained respect in the community.
Rahab established a godly lineage. The first chapter of Matthew chronicles the ancestors of Jesus Christ. Guess who’s on that list? Rahab. “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab” (Matt. 1:5 NIV). Her husband was Salmon. Her son: Boaz. Her daughter-in-law: Ruth. Her descendants became the kings of Israel and Judah. The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, was of a former prostitute’s lineage.
Rahab confirmed a legacy of faith. Jewish tradition holds that Rahab was one of the four most beautiful women who ever lived. She’s renowned as a hero of Israel even today. She is listed in Hebrews 11among the people set apart for their great faith. “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Heb. 11:31 NIV). Her faith became a model for all people to follow.
Rahab is just one in a long line of folks who allowed God to use them. Scripture has quite a gallery of ordinary people who made themselves available to God. History is replete with examples of people that society overlooked, but God lifted up to use to accomplish his purpose and his plan. God specializes in taking the flawed, the broken, the worn out, the despised and filling them with his power and his presence to make an eternal difference. These people believed in a big God. They made themselves available to him. And, God used them.
Here’s the good news for you and me: If God can use Rahab, he can use the likes of you and me. In fact, he best uses the likes of you and me. God has always used the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary, the common to perform the uncommon, the flawed to fulfill the phenomenal. If God can use Rahab, then he can use you and me, too.