Women of Hope: Rahab

My heart won’t stop pounding. My breath comes in short spurts – I can no longer see the spies running in the distance. Oh, that the God who split the Sea will keep His spies out of the sight of the soldiers hunting them. 

Of course He will.

What a day! The men who entered my rooms today were not the kind I usually receive. But I welcomed them more readily. For them, I lied to the king. The king! Yet my spirit soars! For the first time I feel free! Free to be me. Free to live beyond this wall that has held me captive to my circumstances for so long.

Ack, my mind won’t stop spinning. It begs to know WHY I have betrayed my people and put myself in danger by helping the enemy. But my spirit, my heart – they win out. They remind me that these people who follow the one true God – they are not the enemy. Look how they treated me this day, how they promised to come for me and for my family.

With faith, I hang this scarlet cord from my window and await the rescue that I have longed for, prayed for – hoped for. Yahweh, I know that You are God in heaven above and on the earth below. So I remain here with humble expectancy for your mighty move.

Rahab. A foreigner. A prostitute. A woman with no man to cover her or care for her, thus sinking to the depths, doing what desperate women in her day did to stay alive. The stories reach her ears of a nation, a moving wave of people who overcome the toughest of enemies, the most arduous of deserts, and the deepest seas as they approach the Jordan River – not coming in peace, but to conquer her nation (Joshua 2:10). Fear melts her people as they anticipate the Isrealite’s arrival (Joshua 2:9).

But a different kind of fear overtakes Rahab – a fear of the Lord (Joshua 2:11).1 It’s this reverence, this awe of Yahweh that moves Rahab to do the unthinkable, to risk her life, to save the enemy, and to lie to the king about it all.

In a bold move, she asks the spies, in return for her secrecy, to rescue her and her family when they come back to defeat Jericho. And a deal is struck. 

The distant, unlikely hope that had budded in Rahab’s heart upon hearing the stories of God breaks open in full bloom the day the spies arrive. So, as she watches them run into the distant hills, she knows the stories are true, her faith is well-placed, and her hope for a life among God’s people is possible.

Faith in Action

When her people’s courage fails, Rahab finds strength in a God she has only heard about. When her people back her into a corner of their city’s wall, into a shady, shameful profession, Rahab stands firm with a different kind of profession – that of faith (Joshua 2:11).2

Like Tamar, Rahab’s shame-filled past is not only forgiven but leads her into a future that is blessed because of her faith. It’s her faith that places her in the most honorable, holy genealogy of all eternity: the Messiah’s. Joshua writes that Rahab not only escapes death when Jericho is demolished but she goes on to live among the Israelites for the rest of her days (6:25). And, Matthew fills in the gaps: Rahab marries into Judah’s family, to a man named Salmon, and they have a son, Boaz (1:5) – the one who becomes the great-grandfather of the mighty King David. 

The opening chapter of the New Testament forever memorializes a woman who stood on her faith, against all odds. And not just any woman – a foreign woman becomes a living fulfillment of God’s declaration to Abraham that all people would be blessed through Israel (Genesis 12:3). Rahab proves that the door to God’s family is open to all who believe (John 3:16).

Friends, Rahab stands as a beacon of hope for us, revealing that faith is all we need to stand firm with courage in the face of the worst the world has to offer – a living faith in the God of heaven and earth that is spoken and acted upon.

What a contrast Rahab is to the original ten spies, those sent by Moses to scope out Canaan. Ten men, who had seen with their own eyes the splitting of the sea, the daily miracle of manna and quail, and the power of God to bring water from a rock, claimed a faith in God, but their actions spoke fear (Numbers 13:31-33) – the kind that kills faith.

However, Rahab’s faith carries over into her actions, which is how this foreign prostitute is able to stand alongside the great Father Abraham in James’ illustration of what faith in action looks like (James 2:21-25). Rahab professes faith and steps into action, illustrating James’ point that faith without action is as dead as a body without a spirit (v.26).

Rahab’s brand of belief ushers her into the Hall of Faith (aka: Hebrews 11), making her a forever witness to the force faith can have in our lives.

In the Wait

It might be tempting to read Rahab’s story and think, easy – all she had to do was hang a red cord out her window. 

But what Scripture leaves out is the looooong wait Rahab has to ride out. 

Have you ever had to endure a long wait? Maybe for test results. Or news of a job. Or the coming of a child. Or the drawn-out death of a loved one. Waiting. Is. So. Difficult. Maybe that’s why God has included in Scripture over one hundred words of wisdom about waiting, such as:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him (Lamentations 3:25).

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14)!

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7).

And Rahab waited – while the spies hid, while they traveled to Joshua, while Israel crossed the Jordan then made their way to Jericho. And, while Israel marched around the walls of Jericho for an entire week (Joshua 6:12-17).

She had no control. No say. Nothing more she could do but faithfully, obediently, patiently wait. Once again, Rahab becomes a model for our own faith in action – because as inactive as waiting may feel, it’s actually packed full of choice and obedience. Waiting is an act of faith.

Red as Blood

We can’t move on from Rahab’s story without pausing to consider the scarlet cord she hangs from her window. Like the red thread that makes its appearance in Tamar’s story, we see it woven into Rahab’s. 

Photo by Mari Madriz on Unsplash

The scarlet cord dangles like a red drip of blood, indicating Rahab’s home in the wall as holy and set apart – much like the doorposts of the Israelites during the tenth plague.2 On that night, the angel of death passed over all homes stained with the blood of lambs, and for Rahab, death would once again not enter the home marked with the sacred, scarlet symbol.

In the same way, crimson blood flowed from the Lamb of God as He died on a cross, marking each of us forever. His is a blood that brings life. A blood that saves. A blood that sanctifies.

And if that’s not enough symbolism to make your jaw drop, consider the word for ‘cord’ in Hebrew, tiqvah, which means both ‘cord’ and ‘hope’.3 In Joshua 2, verses 18 and 21, we have a literal tiqvah, a red ‘cord’ tied to Rahab’s window as a signal for rescue, but it’s also a symbol of ‘hope’ in a God who redeems.

Friend, God sees you. He knows your circumstances, your fears, your deepest desires. Just as He sent two of His people to a woman of faith for help, He desires you to be His vessel of hope and help in the world. And, He used those same two men as His means for keeping His promise, and He’ll do the same for you. You can trust that God will make a way because He can be counted on to keep His word.

It’s wild to think a woman of ill-repute and foreign ancestry could become a thread woven into Christ’s family and narrative, but isn’t that just like God? Rahab’s story proves that every one of us is worthy to be loved and utilized by Him. So, let’s keep in this mind as we ponder this woman who had confidence in what she hoped for but could not see (Hebrews 11:1). Rahab helps us understand what it is to put our own faith into action and to trust God in the long wait. Let’s take notice. Let’s grab hold of faith and discover a hope that not only sustains us but pushes us into our own stories of great courage. Here’s to becoming a woman of hope like Rahab.

Father God, your story amazes and astounds us. Your attention to detail, your perfect vision, and your grace-filled way of bringing the outcasts into the forefront give us hope. No one is too tattered, too broken, too sinful, or too lost for You. Yet, we confess that too often we think we are beyond your reach – so today we stand in faith, claiming the truth that your grace covers all sin and that there is no condemnation in You. Lord Jesus, it grows our faith to see You in the pages of Rahab’s story. To see your blood running throughout all Scripture reinforces our belief in You – that Your blood redeems us every single day. Lord, we desire to live with confidence in what we hope for but cannot see. Holy Spirit, breathe your breath of truth into our hearts and minds so that we can believe how loved and covered by the blood of Christ we are. Help us to live each day with a faith that chooses courage in the midst of fear, faith over the temptation to doubt, and hope that renews our hearts, strengthens our minds, and pushes our bodies toward action – even when that action is patiently, obediently waiting on You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Matthew 10:30; Habakkuk 2:3; Isaiah 56:8; Joshua 2:1-21; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:12, 11:1; 1 John 1:7; 2 Timothy 1:7; Galatians 5:22; Isaiah 40:31;4 Psalm 27:14)

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • 1 – Make Your Move,^ a book study by Lynn Cowell, has a chapter about Rahab. I’m much inspired by the ideas in this chapter – such as the contrast of the fear of the people of Jericho that destroyed faith versus Rahab’s holy fear of God that built faith, p.92.
  • 2 – The Faithful^ book includes a chapter on Rahab, and the author, Amanda Bible Williams, uses this play on words about Rahab’s profession in contrast to her profession of faith, p.18. She also points out the beautiful symbolism of the red cord, p.25.
  • 3 – Nerd alert! Annie F. Downs’ podcast, That Sounds Fun, first introduced me to this incredible word, qavah, of which tiqvah is a derivative – both of which can mean cord AND hope. The context for her pointing it out in the third episode of her 2022 Advent series had more to do with hope deferred, so it was with great JOY that I discovered tiqvah in Rahab’s story. I love words!
    • Note: Joshua 2:18 is the first time tiqvah is used in Scripture.
    • And tiqvah is only translated as ‘cord’ in Rahab’s story. Everywhere else in Scripture, it’s interpreted as ‘hope’!!!
    • Other verses you may be familiar with that use tiqvah: Ruth 1:12, Job 4:6, Psalm 9:18, Proverbs 19:18, and Jeremiah 29:11.
  • 4 – Another nerd alert. 😉 The passage we memorized in our previous series, Isaiah 40:28-31, contains a key verse for our exploration of hope: “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (v.31a). The word for ‘hope’ in that verse is none other than qavah, which (remember) means ‘cord’ as well as ‘hope.’ Hear how it’s defined by Strong’s: “wait for (probably originally twist, stretch, with the tension of enduring, waiting; wait, cord; be strong, strength, also strand of rope).” Do you see how the Hebrew language puts the feeling we get when we have to WAIT into words? It gives us word pictures – waiting can feel like the tension of a rope being pulled tightly!
    • Both Annie F. Downs and the Bible Project use the image of a bow and arrow to illustrate the tension implied by the biblical word ‘hope.’ As an archer pulls the arrow back into the string of the bow, tension grows until the point of release.
    • Qavah, unlike its derivative tiqvah, is usually translated as ‘wait’ (rather than ‘hope’). One writer says ‘hope’ and ‘wait’ are often used interchangeably (as is the case for Isaiah 40:31a) “because hope in the Old Testament means to wait for something with expectation and anticipation it will happen.” Just wow.
    • Other verses you may be familiar with that use qavah: Genesis 49:18, Job 7:2, Psalm 25:3, Psalm 37:4.
  • Maybe you can tell — I LOVE Rahab and her story. So for our “Women of Hope” playlist, it was hard to choose one or two songs for her. I limited myself to four — but, JJ Heller’s song, “Scarlet Thread,” could be Rahab’s as much as Tamar’s. So — that’s five. LOL. The other four: “Rahab’s Lullaby” from the Faithful Project, “By Faith” by Keith and Kristyn Getty, “Scatter” by Anne Wilson, and “Echo” by Charity Gayle. What a lineup! I have them on replay, for sure. These songs build faith and bolster courage!
  • Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Did you hear how this verse tucked itself into Rahab’s story — she’s a woman who hoped for what she could not see!? Whoop, whoop! This practice of meditation isn’t so that we become familiar with a famous line of Scripture — it’s so that it becomes part of us, transforms us, strengthens us. Let’s change the translation this week, moving from NIV to the Good News Translation:

      “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.”
    • Have you picked up on Beckah Shae’s use of Hebrews 11:1 in her song, “Faith Is?” It’s fun; it’s catchy — it’s a great way to soak ourselves in our key verse.
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!

Featured photo: The painting is all over the internet, but without any credits to the artist. The signature seems to read, Rekzi Tapkiran. Rekzi, your subject makes a lovely Rahab. Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit 

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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