HOW A HOOKER AND HER LIES PLEASED GOD

SELF | 5 mins

If you’re going to read the Bible, you have to be ready for a God you don’t expect. The one you’ll find in its pages is almost certainly not who you think He is. This God may violate your traditions and your theology (you’ve got one; trust me). He doesn’t always reward the “good” and punish the “bad.” The God of the Bible is most interested in the concept of faith (faith = our belief in him and willingness to risk something because of that belief). He’s not so much interested in correct behavior as he is faith. If you read the Bible, you will meet a God who rewards faith even when it comes in a very messy package. Case in point: Meet Rahab.

Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho over 1,000 years before Jesus was born, and somehow this Gentile sex worker ended up in the genealogy of Jesus himself as recorded in Matthew 1:5: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.” (A woman being mentioned in a genealogy is unheard of. And a prostitute? Never!) Except it happened, because the God of the Bible loved her. Rahab’s full story is in the Old Testament part of the Bible in Joshua chapter 2. It’s worth the read. The moral of Rahab’s story is that God’s pleasure or displeasure with us isn’t based on our good or bad behavior; it’s based upon whether we exercise faith in Him. Acts of faith are what please God. And nothing else.

Joshua 2 reports that a couple of Israelite men (Israel = God’s chosen people) showed up to scope out the city of Jericho, which God told them to overtake in an upcoming battle. They go to a prostitute’s house (ummm…) near the entrance to the city and meet Rahab. She helps the men who come to her door, lying about their whereabouts to the king, hiding and protecting them, and sending them off safely. And God honored this whole ordeal by saving her and her family in the battle, marrying her into the nation of Israel, and putting her into the lineage of Jesus. Whaaaaa? Doesn’t God remember that he hates lies? And he hates prostitution? (See, you do have a theology.)

Rahab is actually celebrated in the New Testament by the authors of the books of Hebrews and James. She apparently pleased God with these lies!

“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” - James 2:25-26

“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” - Hebrews 11:31

So why did God love her, save her, and honor her when she did things against his own character? (And, yes, prostitution and lying definitely oppose God’s holiness.) Sometimes it’s stories like these that tempt people to accuse God of being inconsistent and contradictory, but the Bible is clear and consistent about the character of God. We just struggle when that character offends us or violates who we think He should be. The God of the Bible is not a God who always rewards morality and always punishes evil. The God of the Bible is moved to love and reward when he sees real faith.

Rahab’s story displays the few critical ingredients of real faith:

Recognize God as God.

Rahab recognized and believed that the real God was the God of Israel. She said “…for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” She didn’t know Him very well, but what she knew she truly believed. Step one.

Risk something on Him.

Rahab risked her city and her life on this God. With her lies and help, she threw-in with Him! This means that her lies (“I didn’t know who they were…I don’t know which way they went”) were actually her acts of faith in the God she believed in.

Act.

Rahab seized the opportunity to act. It wasn’t enough to just believe it. She had to act on her belief when those men showed up on her doorstep. She was bold and shrewd and asked for the salvation that she wanted in return. “But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.” - Joshua 6:25

Rahab lied, and God loved her. That’s because it was a true act of faith—she both believed and acted on who she thought He was. The God of Israel doesn’t deal with us in high expectations of proper external behavior (phew) so much as he’s interested in the motives of our hearts. So if/as you read the Bible, be open to who the pages actually reveal Him to be. And I challenge you to start right now by reading Rahab’s story. (Surely you’re going to since I’ve linked it to this point three times!)

Pretty words won’t change your life. This might:

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