She had a reputation no woman would ever want: she was a harlot, a prostitute. But she was also a woman whose courage and faith in God would transcend her reputation and place her in the lineage of the Messiah.
Rahab owned a house, built on the outer walls of Jericho. When two Israelite spies came to town, Rahab turned the roof of her house into a hiding place for them—an act which took courage. The people of Jericho were terrified because they had heard of all the miraculous things God had done for His people after their escape from Egypt. When commanded by the rulers of the city to turn the men over, Rahab concealed their identities and whereabouts—an act of faith in God.
Rahab had come to believe in the spies’ God: “The LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11). Knowing the Israelites would conquer the land, Rahab asked the spies to spare her life and the lives of her family members when the assault came. The spies agreed to do so if she would keep their secret, place her family ssafely inside her house, and tie a scarlet ribbon in her window as a signal to the Israelite army to spare her home.
Later, when Joshua and the army appeared and attacked the city, only Rahab and her family survived.
For her courageous faith, this woman with a bad reputation was enrolled among the faithful in the book of Hebrews—the only woman, besides Sarah, named there (Hebrews 11:31). James used Rahab as an example of how a character can be transformed by a living faith that yields works (James 2:25). And eventually, she was no longer known as the harlot who hid the spies but as the wife of Salmon, the mother of Boaz, and the ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5–16).
If you have a past you’re not proud of, don’t despair. God’s grace is sufficient to transform a bad reputation into a sterling one. All that is required is faith—faith in the One, Jesus Christ, who came through the lineage of a harlot. And when someone reminds you of your past, courageously stand and declare: “What I once was, I am not now. I am a new person, for the One who died once for me has given me a new name—daughter of the Messiah.” (See Romans 6:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 2:17.)
Excerpted from Derrick G. Jeter, “Rahab: Demonstrating Courageous Faith,” in The Wise and the Wild: 30 Devotions on Women of the Bible (Plano, Tex.: IFL Publishing House, 2010). Copyright 2010 by Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide.