"Can anything good come from there?”
ericho was a city of Canaanites who were sold to idolatry and wickedness. The inhabitants “had abandoned themselves to the foulest and most debasing. . . . [They] lived only to blaspheme Heaven and defile the earth” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 492). God had ordered Moses, saying, “In the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaan-ites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites” (Deut. 20:16, 17). Jericho was now Israel’s first major force to be conquered as they entered the Promised Land. Jericho and all of its inhabitants were doomed for total destruction.
Encounter of Hope: Seed of Hope
Inside the city lived Rahab, a harlot whose house stood attached to the massive protecting wall of Jericho. She probably was an innkeeper; hence she entertained guests. She also worked to manufacture dyed linen and, therefore, stockpiled stalks of flax that she perhaps spread on her roof to dry. Since she was a prostitute, one can rightly guess that she was looked down upon, rejected, unwanted, and abandoned by the community she lived in. It could be said that her life was nothing but hopeless, filled with despair. The stains on her life caused by her lifestyle remained, and followed her record to this day, as she is still referred to as Rahab the harlot. Like all the others in Jericho, she heard how the God of Israel led His people and granted them victories over the nations they went through on their journey from Egypt. They heard of the opening of the Red Sea about 40 years ago, and the dreadful judgments that befell Egyptians just prior to the Exodus. The story of their journey and the Lord’s miraculous acts were known to all in Jericho (Joshua 2:10). They feared for their lives now that the Israelites were but a few miles away.
The reports about the God of Israel raised great defensive fear among the people in Jericho; they refused to submit to the Lordship of the God of Israel. Rahab’s fear was apparently different. The accounts portrayed an image of a God she wanted to be associated with. Her fear was as to whether this God would accept her. Through these stories a seed of hope was planted in her life. As the accounts were reiterated, the yearning for God grew intense in her soul.
Her growing passion to belong to the God of Israel can be seen at the time when spies entered the city. These unwanted strangers were a threat to the people in Jericho, but Rahab welcomed them into her house at the risk of scorn, anger, and hate of her fellow citizens. The spies’ choice of her house was perceived as her lifetime opportunity to quench that deep yearning of her soul: a craving for belonging, and salvation by the God of Israel. So when the fearful, defiant soldiers of Jericho entered her house in search of the spies, she evaded the naked truth. “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk . . . the men left. I don’t know which way they went” (verses 4, 5). She had undertaken to hide these spies, even if this could amount to an act of betrayal of her country.
Hope came knocking at her door, and the hopeless one pursued it.
She could have refused these people entry into her house. Or she could have used this opportunity to gain favor of those who despised her by simply surrendering them to the soldiers. But they came as spies, and she volunteered to be an informer when she reported, “A great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you” (verse 9). Men and women in Jericho suffered the pains of fear of death, loss of courage and peace. Hope, on the other hand, made Rahab bold, courageous, and peaceful. Hope made her attempt what others in Jericho perceived as impossible. Hope freed her from fear.
Belief: A Tree of Hope
Rahab reached out and took hold of the opportunity that had come her way as she boldly declared her belief, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you” (verse 9). Rahab allowed that seed of hope in her to grow into a tree of faith in the God of Israel.
Hope came knocking at her door, and the hopeless one took hold of it.
Rahab demonstrated her faith and hope by the following:
- She urged the spies to swear to her by the Lord God of Israel, and not by the gods she had served all her life. Like Jacob, she did not let them go unless they blessed her. Hope made her boldly claim an impossible promise, “I saved your lives; you save me too.” Impossible because the spies knew that God’s command was that none in Jericho should be spared. Hope gave her persistence.
- Her confidence of salvation through the Lord of Israel was revealed in her appeal for salvation for herself and her family. She believed that the God of Israel saves those who choose to be saved. This hope gave her the courage to reach out to others for their salvation too.
- Her insistence for a “sure sign” indicated her belief that the Lord God of Israel could be trusted to do what He has promised.
Fulfillment: Fruits of Hope
Hope made Rahab’s obedience voluntary and a delight; waiting was but great joy. Before the spies left, they rewarded Rahab by responding positively to her request, “Our lives for your lives!” (verse 14). Rahab’s faith is rewarded; the spies promise they will be responsible if the life of any family member is lost. But they also urged faithfulness in keeping their part of the agreement: obedience.
Questions for Reflection
1. Who in your life could use a story of hope right now?
2. What kinds of stories can we share about God that could offer hope?
3. How should we live so that others can see the hope that we embrace?
So with great hope Rahab lowers the spies with a rope through the back wall of her house, directs them to the way of safety, ties the scarlet band on the window, invites other members of the family into her house, and waits patiently but happily for God’s promises. I believe that each time she looked at the crimson band at the window, she was even more hopeful.
Hope came knocking at the door, and the hopeless one pursued it, embraced it, and lived it.
On the seventh day Israel rounded the city for the last time. As the walls came tumbling down, the two spies hurriedly carried out the command of Joshua and saved the lives of Rahab and her family. Whereas everyone in Jericho perished, Rahab and her family found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Their hope was rewarded, and their lives were spared. “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Heb. 11:31).
In addition to the above blessing, Rahab was completely adopted into the family of Israel with the right to marry an Israelite. This placed her in the genealogical line that led not only to the birth of King David but also to the birth of Jesus—Rahab’s Messiah. Rahab is among the three women recorded in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:5, 6).
What a journey! Hope led her spiritually from Jericho to Canaan, from a harlot to an ancestor of the Messiah, from an enemy of the kingdom to the true daughter of the kingdom. For this harlot without hope, a journey began with stories of hope. A seed of hope was planted in her heart, it grew into a great tree of faith, and the hope she embraced was greatly rewarded.
Are you still faithfully holding on to this hope?
Geoffrey G. Mbwana has served the church as pastor, teacher, and church administrator at different administrative levels. At the present time he is the president of the East-Central Africa Division.