by Barbie Fischer
Rahab is often referred to in scripture as a harlot. Yet, she is the great grandmother of King David, a man after God’s own heart, and is one of five woman mentioned by Matthew in the lineage of Jesus Christ, God’s own son. Even though she is known as a harlot, she is also mentioned in Hebrews among the faithful. How could this be? In the story of Rahab documented in the book of Jeremiah, we see that Rahab’s faith led to great hospitality, leading to a victory for Jeremiah and the Israelites over the land of Jericho. The story of Rahab is a reminder that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), yet our faith in Christ as seen in our actions, such as hospitality, saves us. After all, James 2:17 says, “even so faith, if it has no works, is dead.”
Joshua told the spies to go view the land, especially Jericho. “So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there” (Joshua 2:1). Large houses near the city gates would often serve as the city hotel for traveling caravans. Rahab and her family operated one of these inns right on the wall where travelers would pass. Many of these establishments had a little extra emphasis on the “bed” available for the right price. Most likely this is how Rahab got her title of harlot.
Rahab would have known of the Israelites as they could be seen across the river from Jericho in their camp. She may have heard how they miraculously escaped from Egypt and the people of Jericho knew of how the Israelites has conquered other nations. Thus Rahab and others in Jericho knew the Israelites were most likely coming to destroy Jericho.
Rahab, knowing all she does of Israel, not only welcomed the Israelite spies — she risked her life and that of her family by hiding them on her roof when the King’s army came calling for them (Joshua 2:2-7). Joshua 2:8 clearly shows that Rahab offered hospitality at the risk of her life because she believes in the Lord, stating that she knows the Lord has delivered Jericho to the Israelites. She believed. She had faith. She not only offered hospitality because of this — she risked her life.
How many times have Christians judged someone like Rahab. Someone living a life we may disagree with and claiming that they must not be a believer? Could it be that in fact they do believe but need some more discipleship, like Rahab? Yet as Christians do we invest in getting to know these people whose lifestyles are different than our own, strangers to us, or do we offer them hospitality?
The Israelites’ lifestyles were different than Rahab’s; they were strangers to her, yet Rahab offered them hospitality and they accepted it. Her life led to that of King David and Jesus Christ our Lord. Perhaps, we should not write off those different from us so quickly. Perhaps we should offer and accept hospitality from them. After all, we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and we are all God’s creation (Colossians 1:16).