Why did the spies lodge with a prostitute (Joshua 2:1)
The text which tells us that the spies came to lodge with Rahab is given in just one verse, which includes no hint in itself of what led them to this particular house (Josh. 2:1) Fuller information comes from Rahab’s own testimony in verses 8 through 14. To shorten this passage I have edited it to highlight certain aspects.
[Rahab said to the spies] “I know that the Lord has given you the land, …. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, …. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, … 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.” And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death!”
She was met where she was
It is remarkable that nothing of the actual meeting between the spies and Rahab is mentioned. We do not know if they met her in the marketplace or knocked on her door. This is significant because as a picture of redemption it shows by omission that the Lord can meet us anywhere. The Lord chose fishermen busy with their labors and Saul (the apostle Paul) on the road to take and imprison Christians living in Damascus.
She expressed belief in the report
The first statement by Rahab is fundamental to her expression of faith. We read in Hebrews “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6). So, Rahab believed in the Lord and that His people would possess the land. She had heard a report, believed it, and acted upon that belief (Jas. 2:25).
The report affected her (it was not just “head knowledge”)
Second, she admitted that the report affected her and her neighbors in Jericho, “our hearts melted.” Then, she acted on that faith by requesting assurance from the spies, “give me a sure sign.” She left the scarlet cord as the sign in her window through which the spies were let down the wall. This red cord then becomes a picture of the blood of Christ, saving her and her family from certain destruction. So, we read in Hebrews “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” (Heb. 11:31).
She was a needy person but her need and condition did not prevent her from seeking help. In fact, it was her very condition that was the basis of her receiving help. The Lord Jesus said of himself, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Lk 19:10) This was one of the criticisms that pious religious leaders had of the Lord Jesus saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Lk. 15:2)
There was a consequence
Finally, the commemoration of Rahab’s faith won her a place in the very genealogy of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 1:5. Despite her past (and nearly every time she is mentioned in the Bible, her profession is mentioned as well), she was brought into the full blessings of the people of God because of her active faith.
The apostle Paul described himself as “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” (1 Tim. 1:13) But, he continued to say “I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.” Writing to the Corinthian saints he gave a long list of evils that describe those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9), but then says “such were some of you. But you were washed.” (v. 11) It did not matter what they were. It was what they became that mattered (2 Cor. 5:17), thus Rahab gives today’s outcasts hope. No matter how deeply we sin, forgiveness and a relationship with God is available.