As we read about the lives of people in the Bible, we see over and over again people who began at the bottom of the barrel and rose to be a mighty force for God. Moses, David, Esther, and Saul had weaknesses that, in our eyes, would have labeled them unfit for use. Moses was timid and stuttered. David was a strapping teenager and the youngest of the family. Esther was an unknown maiden, orphaned as a child. Saul was a murderer of God’s people. Each – and others – had their own hang-ups, yet God used them to change the world. It leaves our minds branded with a giant question mark. How could God find them suitable when there were thousands of others that could have better fit the requirements for greatness?
Despite our incredulous thoughts, God’s qualifications are very different than ours. Our human reasoning automatically looks at what we can see on the outside: physical looks, skill, talent, possessions, and smarts. While we look at the “outward appearance,” God “looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). He considers the “thoughts and intents of the heart” that can only be seen with a supernatural eye (Hebrews 4:12). His eye can see beneath the weaknesses and inabilities, and see faith and devotion to Him. He only needs someone’s trust in His ability to work through them.
One of the greatest examples of rags to riches is the story of Rahab, an Amorite in Joshua 2. Belonging to an idolatrous people, she already had one strike against her. To add to the “inadequacy,” she was a harlot, what we would call a prostitute. She held very little hope that the Israelites, much less God Himself, would show her favor.
Again, God had the final say. As the Israelites surrounded Jericho in preparation for victory, He saw how she saved Joshua’s spies from certain death, risking her own life in the process. Greater than that, He looked beyond the sinful lifestyle and saw a heart that believed in Him:
“Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof,and said to the men: ‘I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.’” (Joshua 2:8-11)
Because of her faith in the one, true God, she rose from a world of harlotry and became the wife of one of the two spies, Salmon. She later became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth. Ruth gave birth to Obed, father of Jesse, and grandfather of King David. From the line of King David Jesus, the Savior of the World, was born. (Matthew 1:5-6)
Even the most sinful of men and women can be accepted and used by God if they believe. Rahab obviously didn’t stay in her sinful lifestyle, but made the God of Isreal her God. It was that same faith that spurned her on to risk her own life to save the spies. It was that faith that inspired her to give up everything she had ever known to embrace her new belief. For that she was honored with the mention of her name in Hebrews 11:30-31, the Great Hall of Faith:
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.”
Rahab’s life is a beautiful story of spiritual rags to riches that only God can perform. All things are possible when God’s transforming power is at work. Forgiveness is found when trust is put in the Blood of Jesus. Not one person is ruled out, no matter how tarnished their past. When the world sees ugly, God sees stunning. When man says failure, God says victor. When the devil cries guilty, God cries innocent. It’s the Blood of Jesus that God sees, a beautiful sign that declares our innocence.
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:26-30)