How did Rahab feel standing on the plains of Canaan looking at the charred remains of Jericho? Her home had been reduced to rubble and all of her friends and neighbors were now dead. They’d trusted the thick walls of stone to protect them rather than submitting to the living God that led the Israelites. For six days the people of Jericho watched with a mix of fear and curiosity as the Israelites marched around the city’s perimeter carrying the Ark of the Covenant. They’d heard the stories about this mighty God, but Rahab alone had chosen to believe and follow Him.
Trusting the God of the Israelites had made Rahab a stranger in her own city. But when the walls came down on the seventh day of the Israelites’ marching, she faced a new challenge as a stranger in their camp. From an earthly perspective, she was an outsider in both places. In Jericho her faith in God kept her apart. With the Israelites, her status as a foreigner and a prostitute probably didn’t win her many friends.
The Bible doesn’t tell us the story of how Rahab integrated into their community. Beyond what’s recorded in Joshua, chapters 2 and 6, we have little information about her. We don’t know how she and Salmon met or when they decided to marry. In fact, it’s not until we read the New Testament that we learn they had a child. Matthew 1:5 tells us that Salmon and Rahab were the parents of Boaz and the great great grandparents of King David. The genealogy continues through the centuries until it ends triumphantly at Jesus, the Messiah.
Still, Rahab had no idea she would end up in the family line of a great king and the Savior of the world. So why did she risk it all? Why did she abandon the people of her city? Why was she willing to accept its destruction? Why did she want to live among the ones who had obliterated all that she knew and loved?
The answer is simple, really. Rahab’s eyes weren’t on her earthly surroundings–they were on God. She told the Israelite spies: “The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11b, NIV) She knew it was futile to fight against Him or to try and preserve her city and way of life. She held those things lightly in comparison with knowing and following the living God.
Long before the words of the New Testament were inspired, she exemplified the call for all believers to live as strangers in the world. We are simply travelers passing through this life on our way to something better. The apostle Peter urges believers saying: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” (1 Peter 1:13-15, NIV 1984 edition)
Peter reminds us to fix our eyes on Jesus and to be holy or “set apart.” Living this way means not placing our hope in worldly things like financial security, physical health, or even significant relationships and meaningful endeavors. The good things we experience in this life are blessings from God, but not our ultimate hope. Followers of Jesus know these things lack lasting value compared to the hope we have through Him. We hold them loosely, knowing they are only a small taste of the true joy, security and peace that await us.
Peter continues writing in this passage: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:17-19, NIV 1984 edition)
Rahab lived as a stranger in reverent fear. She saw God’s power and let her awe of Him guide her choices. She knew what He had to offer was better than anything else. Her example inspires and humbles me. And it makes me wonder. Am I living a life set apart for God? Do I see myself as a stranger here? Do I hold loosely to worldly comforts and pleasures, or do I put my hope and security in them? Am I attaching myself too tightly to material possessions? Am I investing my time in things that are eternal or wasting it on frivolous activities with no lasting value? Am I like the people of Jericho, fortifying my earthly protections when I should be surrendering to the One True God?
Rahab became a stranger in her city when she chose to accept a God no one else acknowledged. And she was an outsider in the Israelite camp because she was a Canaanite. But she was never a stranger to God. He knew her, loved her and had a plan for her. He redeemed her life and then placed her in a family line that would ultimately produce the Redeemer of the whole world.
It couldn’t have been easy for Rahab. There were probably days when living for God meant being lonely. Maybe she thought she would never belong anywhere. I think we can relate with her difficulties. There are days when it’s hard to be set apart. It doesn’t always feel good to live as a stranger in our world. It can be painful, lonely and uncomfortable. But God promises this is all temporary—which is why our hope is in Him, both for this life and the one to come.
Maybe you recognize the symbol in the photo at the top of this post. The “N-O-T-W” on my family’s bulletin board is a simple reminder that we are “Not of This World” –we were made for something more. The song “Strangers Here” by Tenth Avenue North also offers a great perspective on the joys and challenges of living set apart. Click on the link below and be encouraged: