Reading from the New Testament book of Acts:
17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. Acts 13:16-20 (ESV)
God often works in ways we would never have anticipated. He told Abraham that before inheriting their Promised Land, his descendants would first go down to a foreign nation, which turned out to be Egypt. The entire process took over four hundred years and involved many long days of hardship, doubt, and darkness before the final triumph.
When the Lord brought the Israelites to the doorstep of entering the new land, two spies were sent in to gather intelligence. When the two were discovered and cornered, God used the faith of a prostitute, Rahab, to conceal them and help them to escape under the cover of darkness. For her faithfulness, Rahab and her family were spared by God and the Israelites when the city of Jericho fell.
When Jesus Christ came into the world over a thousand years later, it was often the prostitutes and sinners who would recognize Him for who He was. His grace and mercy encouraged them to faithfully follow and assist Him as he carried out the will and work of the heavenly Father.
Rahab was no different. She not only believed in and was accepted by God, she was even included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ and King David, as found in Matthew 1:
5 Salmon (was) the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. Matthew 1:5-6 (ESV)
Why did Rahab please God in spite of her previous lifestyle? The Lord saw her faith and its resulting actions, which helped further His plan and His works. It is faith which pleases God, and Rahab’s faith as expressed through her bold action honored both the Lord and His chosen people.
When God brought the Israelites into the land, He judged and drove out the people that were living there because of their despicable practices, which in some cases, even included child sacrifice to appease their pagan gods. Rahab’s occupation was very likely a part of the pagan ritual system, and she may or may not have been given a choice in the matter. But either way, God recognized her faith, and she and all her family were saved.
Rahab even receives mention in the “Hall of Faith” section of the New Testament, the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews:
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. Hebrews 11:29-31 (ESV)
This section of the Bible is often difficult to read, with many severe judgments by God inflicted upon the peoples of Canaan. This seems to be a contradiction with the loving message of the gospel that God is extending to all peoples around the world today through the cross of Christ. In our minds, it can be difficult to process the apparent contrast between God’s judgment and His love, expressed for us through Christ’s painful death to permit our eternal presence with Him as believers.
Perhaps the violent death that Christ suffered for us illustrates that there could be no other way. Judgment for sin is required to permit our fellowship with such divine holiness, and Jesus took that judgment upon Himself for all, including Canaanites, who would believe, accept, and follow Him. The extreme punishment Jesus needed to go through was foretold as far back as when Abraham and Isaac traveled to Mount Moriah, the future location of Christ’s crucifixion.
When someone harms someone we love, we demand justice. In God’s world, though He deeply loves all mankind, He also requires justice. Even to the point where His own precious, beloved Son voluntarily sacrificed Himself to fulfill the required judgment.
Upon entering the Promised Land, Israel was divided out and apportioned to each of the twelve tribes, and a time of peace came over the land. The former Canaanite practices were eliminated under God’s new government. Similarly, believers today have a new peace in Christ, but there are still thoughts and practices from our former lives that God wants to help us eliminate from our being. Although we are forgiven by Christ and filled with His Holy Spirit, we still fall far short of perfection. The Lord surrounds us with the resources and people we need to progress in this journey. It is a day by day process of walking with the Lord, a journey of progress, not perfection.
Like Rahab, the shame of our past is gone when we repent and come in faith in Christ. Because of His death, burial and resurrection, we are no longer under the judgment of sin.
We can take a moment of silent reflection before the Lord to confess the areas of sin which still cause us our greatest struggles. We all have them. He still loves us despite our failures and wants to help us to live a better, more fruitful and victorious life.
Lord, we turn to You for forgiveness and for access to Your power to help us overcome our areas of struggle with sin. We long to walk with You with a clear conscience and a grateful heart. Teach us to do the things which please You, and place us where we are most useful for Your kingdom. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Have a blessed day today!