Rev. Izzy Harbin
Joshua 2:1-7 Use What God Gives You
2 Then Joshua, son of Nun, sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So, they went and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and spent the night there. 2 The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” 4 But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5 And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went, I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” 6 She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof. 7 So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
When I was putting this series together on women, a friend of mine asked me why I chose to preach on Rahab, the prostitute, as if preaching about prostitutes are somehow a horrid thing to do. To inject a little humor, I told my friend about the TV show Lucifer, a show about the Devil retiring to LA, and being asked if prostitutes are in hell, and he said with a straight face, “No, actually, they aren’t because they are some of the most honest people you will meet.”
This passage challenges our thinking about who God can use and for what purpose. I think her profession is actually quite irrelevant to the discussion, but we must ask, why did the writers include that detail in the story? Does it matter that she was a prostitute?
In verse one of this passage, it tells us that the spies spent the night, but it doesn’t say anything about why they chose Rahab or how they knew. In this moment, I imagine they were trusting their instincts—or trusting God—on where to go and with whom to associate. What is made clear is that Rahab was willing to help protect them. She had heard of the Israelite God and found that God to be the true God, unlike the gods of Canaan.
When soldiers inquired about the men who had visited Rahab, she lied to protect them, and we are told later in the story that she was blessed by God for aiding them in their efforts. What we don’t know about Rahab, though, until the Book of Matthew, is that Rahab ends up marrying a Hebrew man who is in the line of David, who is also in the line of Jesus.
At the heart of this story is Rahab’s willingness to do the unexpected when faced with a difficult choice. She could have turned the spies away or turned them in, but instead, she protected them. In so doing, she changed the course of her life. According to the text and how the writers understood Rahab’s actions, God was able to use her in this moment to further God’s plans for Israel. Through the intel that the spies were able to provide, the Israeli army was able to conquer Canaan.
As a way to protect Rahab, the spies instructed Rahab to gather all of her family into her home and to tie a red piece of cloth to her exterior window. This piece of cloth would protect Rahab and her family from the invading Israelites.
When thinking about this series, I wanted to pair a modern example of a woman or icon with the ancient one, and for Rahab’s counterpart, I chose Rosie the Riveter, the iconic woman who represented all the women who utilized their skills during WWII to aid in the war effort.
I did not choose Rosie the Riveter because of the war connection (that bit just worked out on its own), but rather what she represented in the world of women. The campaign to get women out of the home and into the workforce was driven by the war effort, but what women found once they made that transition was that they could be appreciated for their skills beyond cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children.
At the end of the war, we see an interesting division created among women. Some women were grateful to be returning to their homes and resuming their “wifely” duties. Other women, however, did not want to give up their new-found freedom. They enjoyed making their own money, enjoyed participating in the overall success of the economy, and liked being challenged by the work in which they were engaged. Even though many women were relegated to more “female” oriented professions like teaching and nursing, there were many women who pursued careers in the sciences; careers such as physicists, welders, mechanics, military personnel, and the like.
During the Rosie the Riveter days, women were finding new ways to express themselves and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
I cannot say whether God was pleased with how women found their way into an everchanging workforce, or whether God was pleased with the help that women provided toward a war effort, but what I can say is that God is always pleased when we use the gifts that we have been given.
What stands out to me most in both the story of Rahab and that of the icon of Rosie the Riveter is that they represent the willingness to use the gifts God has provided for the betterment of the whole, however that is defined at the moment. Often, we are quick to dismiss our gifts as not being good enough, useless toward a particular effort, and having less value than others. What stands out, especially during WWII is that women had to step up and use what they had, there really wasn’t any other option.
Without the gifts that the women brought to the table, the American economy would have collapsed in the midst of war, and most likely the American troops would have suffered worse hardships than they already experienced. War is never something that we want to glorify. In fact, we pray that one day we can all know peace. But we can value the contributions of women and how their contributions changed the American landscape forever.
In our present day we are still called to be a part of God’s unfolding kingdom. We are being asked to continue to order chaos and to make things better for the whole of humanity. We can do this by sharing our gifts and talents. God has given to each of us a unique set of abilities that are to be shared. In the sharing of our gifts, we honor God and each other.