The history of how women transform and shape the world is often hidden in our sexist world, and the church is no different. Ok, lets be fair, the Church is probably a bit worse. And when I think about women in church history who have done amazing things, my starting point is often Rahab.
Rahab was around before the Church began, and long before Jesus came. While the Israelites were wandering pointlessly in the desert, Rahab was working as a prostitute in Jericho. We don't know how she got into that situation, but given that women in that time and place were powerless without a man to support them it seems likely to me that her husband had died and left her no other option. Whatever reason it was, on the social hierarchy she was about as low as they come, not only a woman but a fallen one at that.
And we know very little about Rahabs life, she appears only a few times in the bible. Israel are on the search for the land that God has promised them, and their leader Joshua sends spies out into Jericho to see what the situation there is. Fairly typical prewar actions, because war was certainly what was coming. The spies went to Jericho and while they were there they stayed at Rahabs house (by the by, it was my sister at aged ten who first suggested to my Dad that they were doing something other than sleeping there). When the king got wind that these spies were in Israel he sent messangers to Rahab to tell her to turn them in, but instead of doing this, she hid them and then made up a cover story for them. This was ridiculously brave, if she was found out she would probably have been killed and if she had turned them in she could have been rewarded. All she asked the men to do was to spare her and her family WHEN the Israelies defeated the city. Much as I hate the idea of the war that was coming, there is something to this that suggests to me that she already knew this God that her people feared so much. God always chooses the forgotten and the oppressed to do God's will and this was no exception.
And when disaster struck Jericho and so many innocent people died, Rahab and her family were not among them because they were saved by these men. And centuries later, when Jesus had lived, died and risen again, Rahab was the only women listed as one of heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. And I like to think that when Jesus had dinner with prostitutes that He remembered Rahab, and her bravery, and that there is a special place in the heart of God for this group of women, some of the most oppressed in the world.
God chooses to use and to honor people that the world utterly rejects. Rahab is just one example of these. While there is much I still don't understand about her story I want to remember her and to honor her. "Heros" tends to conjure up images of big men with swords, but God has always done things in ways we don't understand, and Rahab is one of God's heroes. The world doesn't tend to honor women like Rahab, but we have been called to do things differently. So next time you see a prostitute, don't despise her, don't just feel sorry for her, but honor her. She is in a sad, desperate place, but she is capable of being a hero.