She knew these men were different. They were not interested in her body. They just wanted some information about her city. She listened to them speak and figured out what was different. They were Israelites. She had heard great and wonderful stories about these people and their God.
Their God dried up rivers and made food appear in the desert. It was strange, but she often found herself thinking of this God who answers prayer. Would He notice her, or was his favor only something for those who were good enough?
Turning her attention back to the two strangers, she realized they were asking for her help. Their God told them to take this city. No one had ever successfully launched an attack on Jericho. However, the Israelite God had powers none of the idols ever had. Surely, the city would be taken. Everyone in town was already afraid.
She motioned for them to come inside. There would be trouble if anyone saw her talking to the Israelite spies. She answered their questions as best she could. Realizing that it was now too late for them to leave, she sent them up to the room. Rahab hid them under some grain.
It was just in time too. Her king asked for the whereabouts of the foreigners she had been seen with earlier. Rahab rolled her eyes. Why did everyone assume, just because of the nature of her business, that she knew where they were? Well, this time she did, but she was not going to tell. They were men of God and she desperately needed his favor. She lied to the king’s soldiers. She told them the travelers had left the city at dusk. She held her breath to see if they would buy into the lie.
Once she heard the city gates being opened, she ran upstairs to check on the men. They were surprised and thankful that she had saved them. They asked her how they could repay her. Rahab had one desire. It seemed like it was huge, but it really was the only thing she wanted. When the battle came, would they spare her and her family? She loved her parents and all her siblings. She did not want to lose them.
Yes, they promised.
All who stayed in her house would be saved. She needed only to hang a scarlet cord out the window so they could distinguish her house from all the others along the city wall. Rahab started looking immediately for a cord. As she searched, she told the men where to hide from the soldiers.
Rahab waited. It had been several days. She knew the battle was coming, it was just a matter of when. She dared not remove the cord for an instant because she needed to be prepared. One morning she awoke to strange music. She looked down to see the Israelites marching around her city. Surely this was the beginning of the battle, although she thought that the trumpets were not the best weapon.
Seven days later her whole world had turned upside down. The Israelites had conquered and burned the only home she had known. Before they torched the town, the men kept their promise made to her and her family. Rahab was not used to men keeping any sort of promises to her. Her family was safe. God had kept her safe. She was taken to a spot near their camp and treated as if she was one of them. She wasn’t sure, but she thought one of men looked her in her eyes and smiled at her. No one looked her in her eyes.
It was a wonderful change.
Although God acted in an unexpected way, he was faithful both to the Israelites and to Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho. She trusted that the promise would be fulfilled in due time. In so doing, she discovered that God loved even those who had done a whole lot wrong in their life. God’s promises are for those of all walks of life. Although we do not hear much about the rest of Rahab’s life, I do know that nothing was ever the same after she encountered God.
I love the imagery of this story. It struck me as particularly profound that she had to hang a scarlet cord, and not one of any other color. I immediately thought of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
That is the hope of Christmas. The Messiah, God’s own son, would enter into the world he created to defeat sin and death. Just like Rahab was given a new life after the fall of Jericho, you are given the gift of new life through Jesus.