Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Written into God’s Script

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss points out: When God led His people to destroy Jericho, He choose to save a prostitute.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God didn't somehow look down into Jericho and say, "Oh, there's a good woman. I think I'll rescue her before I judge the city." Isn't it interesting that God chose to plant the seeds of faith and grace in the heart of a woman who was a failure, an outcast, someone low-down, someone who was not noble? She was at the low end of the social and moral scale, and God said, “That's the woman I want to save.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, February 20.

If you've ever felt like a failure, get some hope today as we begin studying the life of an unconventional biblical hero. Here's Nancy in a series called, Rahab and the Thread of Redemption.

Nancy: Back in the eighties, I was the executive producer for a one-hour prime-time television special that aired all across the United States called, “America, You're Too Young to Die.” This special, this TV special, involved some dramatic recreations of historic scenes, and so we needed some actors.

We hired a casting director from Hollywood to help us select the different actors to play these various roles—Ben Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. The casting director took these people who applied for this position and checked them out, checked out their resume, what they had done, what their background was, their training, their experience, their skill set—trying to help us determine who would be suitable for each of these different parts.

In our own ministry, I was involved for a number of years in the human resources department, involved in recruiting staff for our ministry. As we would recruit staff, we would have them fill out an application. Then we would ask them for some references, people who could attest to their character, and we'd say, “Do you have a pastor's reference, a former employer?”

With this application and these references, we were trying to check these people out. We wanted to know what they had done, what their previous employment was, what they'd been involved in, and again, would they be suitable for these different positions that we had on our staff.

The Scripture, the Word of God, is really a story, and it's a drama. It's a drama of redemption, and there are roles that God has for different people in that drama. In that drama, God works with groups of people, such as the Israelites in the Old Testament, His church in the New Testament. God works with individuals. He casts them. He uses them in different roles to fulfill His redemptive purposes in this world.

When God is out casting for people to use or He's out recruiting people to play a part in this drama of redemption, it never ceases to amaze me that God doesn't use the same criteria that we do when we're casting for a TV special or we're recruiting somebody for a staff position. God often chooses people who are entirely different than the kind of person we would have selected if we were in charge of casting or recruiting.

I think in the Old Testament of how Samuel was sent by God to anoint and appoint a king for Israel. Samuel was a prophet, and he was a godly man. He had his ideas of what the perfect candidate would look like, but God was the casting director. God had a whole different set of criteria, and so God told Samuel, “Don't focus on the obvious, outward characteristics.” God said, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks,” where? “on the heart,” on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

In this series, we want to look at a woman in the Old Testament who played an important role in the drama of redemption, someone that if we had been the casting director for a Christian film or we'd been the recruiting director for a ministry, we probably would not have even considered this woman for the job. If the Scripture had not highlighted this woman, and if God had not written her into the script, she would have probably been considered a loser, a nobody.

In fact, she would have faded into oblivion. We would have no idea who she is. We certainly would not be sitting here talking about her life today, but I'm so thankful that God is the casting director, not only back then, but today. The fact is, God chooses and uses sometimes the least expected, the ones we would think are the least suitable for the job.

The Old Testament devotes an entire chapter to this woman's story and part of another chapter, and then in the New Testament, there are three references to this woman. She's an Old Testament character but with three references to her in the New Testament, and each of those references places her in a very significant context.

Over the next several days, we're going to look at her story, first in the Old Testament. Then we're going to trace her in the New Testament and see how God used her. So let me ask you to turn in your Bibles, if you have them with you, to the book of Joshua, the book of Joshua, chapter two.

Now, let me give you the setting here. The Children of Israel have spent 400 years in slavery in Egypt. Then God has delivered them, taken them through the Red Sea, set them free from their captivity, but they have spent forty years wandering in the wilderness because of their unbelief. God is wanting to take them in to the Promised Land, and now they're finally getting ready to enter in to the land.

Joshua, after whom this book is named, Joshua has succeeded Moses as the leader of the Children of Israel, and the Israelites are camped out several miles east of the Jordan River. The Promised Land is west of the Jordan River; the Children of Israel are east of the Jordan River, so what stands between them and the Promised Land? The Jordan River.

That's the border, and they're camped at a place that, in the Scripture, most of your translations, is called Shittim, S-h-i-t-t-i-m. Joshua secretly sends two men into the land to check it out, to see what it's like, and to bring back a report. So we read in Joshua 2, verse 1,

Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and they lodged there.

Now, let's stop there and just follow the background here. These two men cross over the Jordan River. They ford through it. They wade through it, and they go to this town of Jericho, which is located about five miles west of the Jordan River.

It's an important city. We'll study it in further detail in this series. It's the crossroads, so to speak. Once you get past Jericho, you can follow a road north or south into Palestine. From Jericho, the Children of Israel could conquer the other cities that God wanted them to take over so that the Promised Land could be theirs.

The two men crossed the river, and they go to Jericho. The first person we are introduced to in the Promised Land, the very first one, is a woman named Rahab. Now, we're not told how the two spies ended up at Rahab's house, but there's no question that the providence of God was involved in directing them to that particular house and that particular woman, Rahab.

We'll talk a little bit more in the next session about how they may have ended up there, but for the moment, let's take a look in this session at Rahab's background. What do we know about her? What kind of woman was she?

First, her cultural background—we know that she lived in the city of Jericho, which was an important city in Canaan. She was a Canaanite, or sometimes you will see the people of Canaan referred to as Amorites. Those terms are used, generally, interchangeably in the Scripture. When you see Canaanites or Amorites, it's usually talking about the people who lived in this area of Palestine at the time.

The Canaanites, the Amorites, had been a wicked, violent, pagan culture for centuries, going back at least to the time of Abraham. One Bible dictionary I read said that the Amorites stood for everything that is abominable in the sight of God. The Amorites, the Canaanites, of which Rahab was one, hated everything God loved, and they loved everything God hated.

Throughout the Old Testament, you'll find repeated references to the corruption, the wickedness, of the Canaanites, of the Amorites. In fact, when God, later in the history of the Children of Israel, when He wanted to point out the wickedness of His own people and He couldn't think of anything worse to refer them to or to compare them to, He used the Amorites as a comparison.

He said in Ezekiel chapter 16 to the Israelites, He said, “Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite” (v. 3). In other words, you are just like your parents. You're acting just like these pagan people. You're acting like that's where you came from.

“You've walked in their ways, and you have done according to their abominations,” He says to the Children of Israel. He says, “You trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and you lavished your whorings on any passerby” (v. 15). He's saying that's what the Canaanites were like. That's what the Amorites were like. That's where Rahab came from.

God promised Abraham and his descendants, hundreds of years earlier, that one day, He would give his people rights to the land of Canaan, and God told Abraham why. He said, “Because of these abominations that these people have committed,” the Canaanites and the Amorites, “the Lord your God is driving them out before you” (Deut. 18:12). God said, “I'm going to spew them out of the land. Their wickedness is such that I'm going to bring them to judgment, and I'm going to give you and the Children of Israel the rights to the land.”

Hundreds of years before Rahab—and this background helps give us a context for her life—hundreds of years earlier, God had declared that His judgment would fall on the Canaanites and that Abraham's seed, the Jewish seed, would be given the land. But God said to Abraham, “I'm not going to do it yet. The time is not yet right."

“First,” God said to Abraham, and we go back to Genesis chapter 15 to read this prophecy, God said, “Know for certain that your offspring, [Abraham], will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there” (v. 13). Where's He talking about? The land of Egypt where the Israelites were slaves for 400 years.

“And they will be afflicted,” He says, “for four hundred years” (v. 13). That's a reference to the bondage of the Children of Israel in Egypt, and then God says the Children of Israel will, "Come back here in the fourth generation,” which, in those days, a generation was measured as 100 years. “They will come back here . . . for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (v. 16).

Now what does that mean? God had waited for centuries while His children were suffering in Egypt. What was God doing? He was not willing that any should perish.

God wanted to give the Canaanites, the Amorites, an opportunity to repent, to turn from their wickedness. So for 400 years, God extended grace. God extended mercy while His people, who belonged in the land, were suffering in Egypt.

Remember when you're suffering, that it may not be for your sins. It may be that God is wanting to give someone else an opportunity, a chance, to repent so that they will not have to perish. But the Amorites, the Canaanites, had not repented. Now the cup of their iniquity was full. It was running over, and it was time for them to be judged.

That destroying, judging, of the Amorites, took place, was fulfilled, in the book of Joshua when Joshua and the Children of Israel marched into the land. They destroyed the Canaanites as God told them to do, and they settled in the land.

What was so wicked about these Canaanites? What were they being judged for? Well, back in the book of Leviticus chapter 18, God gave His children a whole series of laws, laws against incest, adultery, bestiality, sacrificing children to pagan gods. God said, “You cannot do any of these things. These are an abomination to Me.”

Those are the things that the Amorites and the Canaanites were doing as a way of life. They were God's sworn enemies, and Rahab had grown up in that culture. She part of that culture. She was a product of that culture.

Now, we see not just her cultural background but her religious background. Like everyone else around her, like all the other Canaanites and Amorites, she was a pagan. She was an idolater.

The Canaanites worshiped many gods. They had shrines, temples, idols everywhere across the land of Canaan, and their religious practices included such things as ritual prostitution, child sacrifice. Now these things are unimaginable to us, but they were involved as a matter of course, as a part of their religion, in these unspeakable acts.

Rahab didn't know anything else. She didn't have the written Word of God. She'd never heard a preacher. She didn't have a church. She didn't know any other believers. She grew up in utter, absolute, spiritual darkness.

What was her moral background? We've seen her cultural background, her religious background. What about her moral background? Well, we're told that she was a prostitute. Some of your translations say she was a harlot.

Some have suggested that she may have even had a lucrative business out of her prostitution. We don't know that for a fact, but we do know that sexual sin was a way of life for Rahab. It was a lifestyle. It's how she made a living. We know that she was enslaved to the lusts of her flesh. She was a sex addict.

Now, what we don't know is what her family upbringing was like. We know she had a mother and a father and brothers and sisters. We'll see that.

We don't know what kinds of wounds or hurts she may have experienced in her past. We don't know what might have been done to her. We don't know any of that, but we know that she herself became involved in sexual sin as a way of life and as a means of providing for herself.

Now, some commentators and ancient scholars suggest that Rahab was not a prostitute, that she was simply an innkeeper, and the word in the Old Testament Hebrew that is translated "prostitute," could also be translated "innkeeper." I think perhaps these older commentators and scholars may have wanted to remove the stigma associated with this woman who became an ancestress of Christ.

How could Jesus have a prostitute in His background, in His lineage, but there's no question that this woman was a prostitute. The word that is translated "prostitute" in the New Testament for Rahab occurs twice, “Rahab the prostitute,” and there is no question in the Greek language that this is a prostitute. In fact, it's the word related to porne in the Greek, from which we get our word pornography.

She may have been an innkeeper, but unquestionably, she was also a woman of ill repute. I think it's important, as we look at this woman's life, that we realize that she was not just a product of a wicked culture, though she was that, and she was not just a victim of her upbringing. She was not an innocent bystander. She was an active participant in the wickedness that characterized her culture.

She had knowingly participated in the evil, and she had personally profited from her culture's debased appetites. You put all this together, and you say, from our perspective, Rahab was an unlikely candidate for the grace of God. Would you agree? Think about the background, and Jericho was an unlikely place for grace to grow or for faith to be found.

We have a whole chapter in the book of Joshua, Joshua chapter two, that is devoted to her story. As this story unfolds, we see that her life is a contrast to the rest of the Canaanites. It's a contrast to the city of Jericho. We see in her story the themes of judgment, which Jericho went through, and salvation, which Rahab experienced, and you'll see these two themes of judgment and salvation juxtapositioned all the way through the Scripture—two major threads or themes through the Word of God.

Now, God didn't somehow look down into Jericho and say, “Oh, there's a good woman. I think I'll rescue her before I judge the city.” Isn't it interesting that God chose to plant the seeds of faith and grace in the heart of a woman who was a failure, someone low down, someone who was not noble? She was at the low end of the social and moral scale, and God said, “That's the woman I want to save.”

Humanly speaking, Rahab is the last person you would expect to find interested in becoming a believer. You would not have expected to find genuine faith in a woman with this kind of background, would you?

The story of Jericho that we're most familiar with is the part about the walls that came a tumblin' down. Everything, everyone was destroyed, and that's an important part of the story of Jericho. It is a story of divine judgment. It's a story of deserved judgment.

The story is a warning for individuals and cultures that shake their fist in God's face, but the story of Jericho is not just a story of judgment. It's a whole lot more than that.

  • It's a story of hope.
  • It's a story of grace.
  • It's a story of mercy.
  • It's a story of salvation.
  • It's a story of how God, in His incredible, amazing love, found an unlikely person in an unlikely place, and before God judged that wicked city, God showed mercy.

God granted this woman and her family grace and faith and saved their lives from destruction, and I'm so thankful that we still have a God who, though He will one day have to pour out judgment on this wicked, corrupt world, we have a God who is out seeking to save sinners, a God who says, “I can reclaim and redeem failures, sinners, losers and make something out of their lives.”

Leslie: It's amazing how God can speak through the life of a prostitute to remind you and remind me how needy we are and how great His mercy is. Today's program begins a series from Nancy Leigh DeMoss called Rahab and the Thread of Redemption. It's a powerful teaching on how God chooses even those who feel unloved and rejected.

I love this kind of thorough Bible teaching for women that Nancy provides, and it's resonating with a lot of other women, too. One woman wrote to tell us she'd spent the first forty years of her life making a series of foolish choices, but someone introduced her to the local Christian radio station in her town. She wrote to us and told us that God used Revive Our Hearts to turn her life around.

She writes, “I've gone back to church, have an active prayer life, and started researching ways to study and understand the Bible.” She also ordered a copy of Nancy's book, Choosing Forgiveness, and calls reading it, “A turning point in my life.”

She writes, “I never thought I was worthy of forgiveness as some of the sins I've committed are inconceivable, and I didn’t know how to truly forgive others who had truly wronged me. I also had to move beyond my anger with God. Your book truly was a Godsend in my life.” Nancy, we get a lot of letters that let us know that God's doing something special through Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: Oh Leslie, I cannot tell you what joy it brings to my heart to hear these kinds of stories and receive these kinds of letters, and I know that only God can change lives. From the beginning of Revive Our Hearts, we’ve been asking Him to use this program to build His kingdom, and I'm confident that without the prayer support of our listeners, we would not be hearing these kinds of stories.

I'm so thankful for our Ministry Partner team, a group of people who've committed to pray for this ministry, to share the message of Revive Our Hearts, and to support it financially on a regular basis. It brings me a lot of peace and encouragement when I'm in the middle of studying, praying, and recording, to know that there's a team watching out for our prayer needs and for our financial needs.

The steady support of our Ministry Partner team allows the leadership of Revive Our Hearts to focus on the ministry to which God has called us: calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. So I hope that you'll consider undergirding this ministry by becoming a part of this very special group of people that we call our Ministry Partner team.

As a member of that team, you'll be among our most informed listeners. You'll receive unique resources each month and regular updates from me.

You'll be able to attend one of our Revive Our Hearts conferences each year at no cost. This year, let me just remind you, that means that you can attend the True Woman Conference, and the registration will be our gift to you as one of our Ministry Partners.

There are other benefits as well, and I hope that you'll find out more about becoming a ministry partner at ReviveOurHearts.com. You'll find all the details there. If you'd rather call, you can do that toll free at 1-800-569-5959.

Leslie: Tomorrow, we'll continue our look at the life of Rahab, and we'll find out how God is still at work even in the most corrupt settings, so please be here. Join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.