Friday, 12 September 2014

What we can learn from a prostitute

You may not think that there is anything you could or would want to learn from a prostitute. If that is the case, let me introduce you to a prostitute called Rahab. Her story is found in the Bible, in the second chapter of Joshua.

Perhaps you are already familiar with her story. Rahab lived in the Amorite city of Jericho right at the time when the people of Israel were returning to the Promised Land after their Exodus in Egypt. Because of the extremely godless and sinful lifestyle of the Amorites, God was about to judge them for their wickedness. But the city of Jericho had built up its defences, including a massive city wall as protection against any foreign attacks.

Rahab, the prostitute, lived inside the city wall. And one day, two Israelite spies came to her house. She had the opportunity to hand them over to the city officials for them to be put to death and possibly would have received a great reward for doing so. But instead of doing that, she protected the Israelites and hid them, probably at the risk of her own life. Both she and the whole city had heard about the Israelite conquests and were afraid. Therefore, Rahab asked the spies to show mercy on her and her family when they would return to destroy the city of Jericho. You can read this story in full in Joshua 2:1-24 and the following chapters.

(Picture: Public domain)

But what can we learn from this prostitute called Rahab?

In the New Testament, Rahab is praised for her faith. In Hebrews 11, the chapter of the great heroes of the faith, we read the following:
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Hebrews 11:31)
I believe there are at least four things we can learn from Rahab's faith:
  1. Learn to fear God.

    Psalm 111:10 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom."

    Now, it was not only Rahab who feared God in this story. All of the inhabitants of Jericho were afraid! Rahab says, "I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you." (Joshua 2:9)

    But there was a difference in how Rahab feared God and how the other people in her city feared God. The people of Jericho feared God and as a result, they ran away from God and built up walls against God. But Rahab's fear of God made her run to God and let God inside. That is why she lets the spies find a refuge in her house. She realises that there is no use fighting against God as she acknowledges His supremacy. Rahab says, "... the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath." (Joshua 2:11b)

    If you fear God, how does that express itself in your life? Do you try to run away from Him and build up walls against Him or do run to Him and let Him into your life?

  2. Learn to trust in God.

    Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

    Rahab realised that she has no chance fighting against God. But she still has hope - hope in God's mercy! Therefore she begs the spies, "Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father's house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death." She acknowledges her own helplessness and expresses her hope in a cry for mercy.

    What are you placing your hope in? Yourself or your own achievements? Or in God and His mercy?

  3. Learn to repent from sin.

    The message of Jesus to the people of His day was, "...repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15b).

    Repentance is a turning away from sin, but not just that, it is also a completely new way of thinking about sin. Repentance and faith always go together. This is how Charles Spurgeon explained it:

    The repentance which is here commanded is the result of faith; it is born at the same time with faith—they are twins, and to say which is the elder-born passes my knowledge. It is a great mystery; faith is before repentance in some of its acts, and repentance before faith in another view of it; the fact being that they come into the soul together.

    Rahab's faith was also accompanied by repentance. She turned away from her old, sinful lifestyle and was accepted into the community of the people of Israel (Joshua 6:25).

    You, too, must repent in order to be saved! Otherwise your professed faith is not worth anything - no matter how many good works you do!

    Jesus warned the people of His day who were trusting in their own good deeds:
    Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:31-32)

  4. Learn to do good works.

    Finally, just as much as faith goes hand-in-hand with repentance, so it also goes hand-in-hand with good works. James makes this very clear in his letter:

    What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14)
    So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)

    Rahab's good works are seen in her hiding and protecting the Jewish spies. She would possibly have received a good reward if she would have delivered the spies. Instead, she risks her life by protecting them!

    A true faith will be seen in good works, just as in the case of Rahab:

    You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:24-26)

    How does your faith show itself?

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