She was the talk of the town, but nobody talked to her. Every square inch of her seductive body was lovely, but she was unloved. It was the price she paid for being the town whore. Her name was Rahab. She was a street-walking hooker living in the town of Jericho. Her home backed up to outside wall of the city. Convenient for men to shimmy down the back wall for a quick escape. Women despised her and shunned her. Men leered at her, joked about and used her.
She didn’t have much going for her. In fact, she had three strikes against her.
- She was a Canaanite, not a Jew. Canaanites were hated as a people by virtually every culture and nation that surrounded them.
- She was a woman. A Jewish prayer offered daily by rabbis said, “I thank my God that I was not born a woman.” Women were at best second-class citizens.
- She was a prostitute using her body to earn a living. And like prostitutes in all cultures, she was marginalized by society.
Living on the fringe of society and in a home, that backed up to the protective city wall, God used her to provide harbor and safety to the two spies. There were to gather military intelligence about Jericho before Joshua led the Hebrews into the Promised Land.
She would be the last person one would expect God to use in a significant way. God chooses to use her. God loves to turn things upside-down. He sometimes selects the most unexpected people to accomplish his work. He specializes in using the rejects of society. The broken and flawed. The down and out.
Rahab, while society marginalized her, and women shunned her, and men abused her, God loved her. God looked on her, not as the tramp of Jericho, but as a child in whom he cares and wants to rescue.
There is a wonder about Rahab, about me, and about you. Our identity is not found in our fallen and flawed status. Our past is not our destiny. We may be unlovely, but we are not unloved.
The story of God choosing an outcast like Rahab reminds me of another story. A boy went into a pet shop, looking for a puppy. The store owner showed him a litter in a box. The boy looked at the puppies. He picked each one up, examined it, and put it back into the box.
After several minutes, he walked back to the owner and said, “I picked one out. How much will it cost?”
The man gave him the price, and the boy promised to be back in a few days with the money. “Don’t take too long,” the owner cautioned. “Puppies like these sell quickly.”
The boy turned and smiled knowingly, “I’m not worried,” he said. “Mine will still be here.”
The boy went to work—weeding, washing windows, cleaning yards. He worked hard and saved his money. When he had enough for the puppy, he returned to the store.
He walked up to the counter and laid down a pocketful of wadded bills. The storeowner sorted and counted the cash. After verifying the amount, he smiled at the boy and said, “All right, son, you can go get your puppy.”
The boy reached into the back of the box, pulled out a skinny dog with a limp leg, and started to leave.
The owner stopped him.
“Don’t take that puppy,” he objected. “He’s crippled. He can’t play. He’ll never run with you. He can’t fetch. Get one of the healthy pups.”
“No, thank you, sir,” the boy replied. “This is exactly the kind of dog I’ve been looking for.”
As the boy turned to leave, the store owner started to speak but remained silent. Suddenly he understood. For extending from the bottom of the boy’s trousers was a brace—a brace for his crippled leg.
Why did the boy want the dog? He knew how it felt. And he knew it was special.
What did God know about Rahab, and you and me for that matter? He knows how we feel. He knows that even though we are flawed and fallen, we are usable and worthwhile in his kingdom work. We may be unlovely to society, but God loves us. We are special. We are precious to him. He chooses even the crippled of this world to accomplish his purpose.
I hope you never forget that.
Rahab is just one in a long line of ordinary, crippled folks who allowed God to use them. Scripture has quite a gallery of ordinary people who made themselves available to God. In fact, heaven may have a shrine to honor God’s uncommon use of everyday, unspectacular people. It’s a place you won’t want to miss. Stroll through, see Rahab offering her home as a refuge and her rope as an escape. View the people who assisted Paul to get in the bucket to flee from would-be assassins. See a picture of David in Goliath’s shadow with his sling encircling his head before launching the fatal blow. Take a gander at Samson picking up the jawbone to erase a whole group of discontents. Feel the staff that Moses used to split the sea and smote the rock. Sniff the ointment that Mary used to soothe Jesus’ skin. Touch the parchment that Paul used to write his letters.
Quite a fraternity, isn’t it?
God has always used the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. The common to perform the uncommon. The flawed to fulfill the phenomenal.
Rahab, a prostitute, helped change the world. A nobody that became a somebody. A washed up, discarded refuse that became a supporting cast in Joshua’s story of victory.