Day 7 of Unopened // A Harlot's House

Welcome back! I’m so glad you’re here. As I write, it’s an honor to think about the women on the other side of the screen. Many of you are strangers to me, and yet here we are together, en route towards uncharted waters; destination unknown.

Today  I want us to think about our lives and packages as if we were chartering a boat, accompanied by our unopened packages. We’ve got a couple options: we can sail on, interested and curious—with our anchor in Christ. Or, we can trudge along in a weighted-down boat, heavy with unopened packages. Life will sail on, no matter what boat we take, but the journey will look much different depending on the weight of the boxes, and the baggage we bring along.

Will you take a moment to pray over that list from Day 1, and prayerfully consider how much weight you might be bearing from your packages? Or, to switch it up, ask your nearest and dearest people what they think your packages are. Are those things on your list as well? Either way, it’ll help clue you into what you are talking about and publicly struggling, whether you realize it or not.

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The next three days we are going to study Rahab. Her reputation proceeds her, and many of us ‘well-behaved-Sunday-School-girls’ get all uncomfortable because we don’t quite know what to make of a woman with a history like hers. And yet, here she is, a part of the story. A part of our story.  

Let’s jump in. Please find your way to Joshua 2:1-21, then read, highlight, or jot down anything that grabs your attention.  

2:1 - As Joshua sends the two unnamed spies into the city, they stop at Rahab’s place. The Asbury Bible Commentary says it like this: “A harlot's house would be a place for strangers to avoid unwanted attention. Josephus relates the tradition that Rahab was also an innkeeper; women sometimes were both harlots and innkeepers in the ancient Near East.”

Which I think is quite strange, but apparently not for culture of the time. Also, I’ve seen it said several places that the spies going directly to Rahab’s “Inn” would have been logical. Many of her visitors would have been travelers, soldiers, or officials; people with info.

2:4 What does Rahab do to protect the spies?

2:8 What does Rahab say to the spies about their god?

2:12 What is Rahab’s request in return for hiding the spies?

2:15 How do the spies end up escaping Rahab’s house?  

I’ve come to this simple conclusion: no young woman makes plans to sell her body for money. Articles cite poverty, drug addiction, and history of sexual abuse as main twentieth-century reasons why women get involved with this industry. I’m going to take a leap and assert that the top reasons haven’t changed a whole lot since Rahab’s time.

The All Women of the Bible commentary says this: “Like many a young girl today perhaps she found the restrictions of her respectable home too irksome. She wanted a freer life, a life of thrill and excitement, away from the drab monotony of the home giving her birth and protection. So, high-spirited and independent she left her parents, set up her own apartment with dire consequences. Frequently women like Rahab are more often sinned against than sinners.”

Though prostitutes of ancient Israel were ‘accepted,’ they were definitely looked down on and considered social outcasts. Leviticus 19:29 is clear Old Testament instruction that parents should not let their daughters become prostitutes. Deuteronomy 23:17-19 is also absolute in its law against Israelite daughters selling sex. But! Prior to her encounter with the spies, Rahab was not an Israelite daughter, and would have been without the same teaching and protection, as would her family. So she might have seen prostitution as a life of excitement and freedom, but there had to have been more to the story. A girl who might have wanted a certain adventure, ended up wanting escape from it, and a new future; because selling respect, self-worth, and reputation for a few dollars can never offer the same freedom and worth that a relationship with Christ can.

Isn’t that so like our culture today? When we are not well-versed in our own belief system, it is incredibly easy to begin to see things as our culture wants us to. What is actually dangerous and harmful is often advertised as trendy and charming. God’s outlines for our lives, especially when we are young, may sometimes seem to cramp our style-but they are always ultimately for our protection and our good.

Rahab had a family. Where were they? Why didn’t they help? I can’t help but wonder if they were all so completely consumed with Jericho’s fast and furious culture that an easy-to-miss chain of events lead her to where she ended up.

No matter what her past was, or what she did or did not choose, she must have had packages. Little girls do not choose to grow up to be prostitutes. Little girls dream of homes and babies, grand travels and love, a reputable education, a career and becoming a leader: not broken homes, snide looks, and violent men.

Can you relate to caring deeply for your family, even though there’s a complicated history? 

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Back to the text: in verse 2:4-5 we see Rahab lie to the guards about the location of the two spies. She’s quick-witted and seemingly calm here, even in the face of danger.

She made up her mind to ‘cast her lot’ with the Israelites and didn’t look back. The two men instructed by Joshua, and Joshua by God, offered her a way out. A fresh start. This God of the Israelites became real to her, and she was ready to make a true confession of faith.

We don’t know if she had been content at some point, but we know she, like most of us, had been waiting for a hero – and she heard of this God, who could lead people to redemption and freedom. She was waiting for rescue. In a people of false gods—was she aching for something real, a god who could save her; The one, true God.

In Joshua 2:14, we see “Her newfound faith empowered her to trust these complete strangers—and a strange, new God—to save her life. Their seasoned faith enabled them to trust a harlot wearing her changed heart on her sleeve to save them from death.” I love how Liz Curtis Higgs acknowledges the movement of God in all three adults here.

Rahab listened intently to the stories of the Jehovah God. No matter how and when she heard about Him, she didn’t forget, she didn’t brush it off. She heard and believed.

Upon her confession of faith in verse 2:9, she gets right to her point. She takes a big risk by asking the spies to promise the safety and protection of her family. We know that she at least brought them shame by her occupation, and probably didn’t see them very much as prostitutes were quite the social outcasts. However, when she saw an opportunity to protect her family, she gambled her own future for theirs.

Which leads us to this next question: when exactly did Rahab hang up the scarlet cord? (2:21)

The cord being scarlet was no mistake. I love the details here; Rahab was a scarlet-letter woman if there ever was one. But you know what, when it came time to declare allegiance to her new God and identify herself to Joshua and his men as “the prostitute who helped the spies,” she made quick peace with it. She acted with immediacy.

When we know what we need to do, we need to do it. Don’t wait. We can’t keep living in the sin we’ve received freedom from. Declare and deal with the sins of the past, but move on.

In Joshua 2:16, Rahab instructs the spies. She tells them where to go, how long to stay in hiding, and guides them towards safety.

Our two faithful spies got what they needed from her: information. Rahab was useful to them, because of her knowledge, intellect, calm demeanor, and quick wit. They came for help, and she stepped up. I wonder how she felt as they ran off to safety. There were no sheets to clean, no clothes to put back on. No guilt, no shame.

A scarlet cloth hung, like our savior, Jesus Christ did on the cross. The cloth, and the cross, represent new life, new inheritance, and a new future.

Rahab had been brought low. But through her confession of faith, God meant for her to be released and redeemed. He provided rescue for her as she put her faith and trust in Him and He wants to do the exact same thing for you.

In Christ, we are a new creation, and useful to God. We are useful in the pretty and ugly times. We are useful because of our stories, not in spite of them. That’s how our God operates. He washes us clean, and gives us assignments. Verses like 1 Corinthians 15:58 affirm that our lives’ work can transform from broken and belittling to holy and honorable. “...stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

  • What did you already know about Rahab before today?
     
  • What packages do you think Rahab might’ve had?

Liz Curtis Higgs says in her book, Bad Girls of the Bible, that “Stories of how God changed lives aren’t intended to glorify sin; they are meant to glorify God’s grace.” Do you ever have a hard time looking past someone’s past?

What about your own past? Do you ever struggle with moving forward or forgiving yourself? What about your family?

Are you willing to admit that like your own salvation, your ability to forgive others is wholly dependent on Christ doing this through you? Good news-He WANTS to do this for you. Grab on to that scarlet cord!

Please share your response in the comments section below or join the conversation with our Facebook Community Group. #undividedwomen

// Rachel