I've written before about Rahab, the remnant prostitute of Jericho who faithed her way into the lineage of Jesus. She is one of the characters we talk about fairly frequently when telling the Bible story. God used a prostitute, we say. A prostitute! If He can use such a woman...
But Rahab isn't the only Rahab in the Bible. There is another by the same name. Not a woman, but a demon.
This Rahab is in the book of Job.
Job is speaking with his friends about the futility of arguing with God (9). As one of many examples of God's incredible power and His so otherness and awesomeness, Job says, "Even Rahab's helpers bow humbly in front of him." (v. 13b) Then, in the footnotes, lest we confuse such a thing, the translator explains, "Rahab is the name of a demonic creature who opposes God."
It would be an easy thing to confuse. By this point in the Bible, we have already seen Rahab, the prostitute. Here, Job is talking about Rahab as being demonic. So you start to wonder how it is that the saving grace of the Israelite spies, the woman with the scarlet rope, the remnant carefully woven into the genealogy of Jesus has come to be synonymous with the demonic creature who opposes God. Sure, she had a reputation, but demonic? That's a little harsh for a common whore.
But the story is backward. Job is considered by many Biblical scholars to be actually the oldest, most distant-written, book of our Bible, even though it is a full twelve books beyond the story of Joshua in our standard Bible today. That means that long before the woman Rahab was conceived, the demonic Rahab already had both presence and lore. Many hundreds of years later, a woman has a daughter...
...and names her after the demon.
No wonder the woman had such a struggled life.
From the very beginning, our Rahab, the prostitute, was set up to fail. She was set against a reputation that wasn't even her own, at a time when she was probably struggling to figure out who she was going to be. People saw her in the streets and whispered and pointed, "There's Rahab!" probably before she even slept with her first john. She had the moniker of a demon; how great a woman could she ever have been?
I can't help but think this is part of the reason her faith was so deep. Even though she lived in a foreign nation detestable to the Lord, she'd heard the stories. She knew about Him. She knew about His power, shown through His people, about the way He strengthened them and guided them and led them through the wilderness. She could see the promise written on their faces before they even broke into her little town to scout out the territory. And I can't help but think she was hoping for some of that for herself.
She was hoping there was a God who could redeem her, a God who would strengthen her and guide her and help her get out from under this name that carried so much weight with it. Maybe she hated her reputation, but with a name like Demonic, what else is a girl going to do with her life? Then she hears about this God who is coming in His people, and she wants that. It has to be better than this. She starts to wonder what her face might look like painted with promise instead of with rouge.
There are people in our lives that seem set up to fail. The world has come after them from the very start. Maybe it's a reputation they have to overcome, a name that brands them before they have a chance to make their own name. Maybe it's a family name that holds them hostage to a preconceived notion. Maybe it's economics. Or location. Or relationships. Or upbringing. Or lack thereof. Or a disability. Or a disease. Or a circumstance. There are things that seem to take hold of some of us stronger than others, and it's tough. I mean, it's really tough to even dream of being something different.
Yet there is a blessing, too. For those who cannot be wholly defeated, there is this incredible capacity for faith lurking just beneath the surface. Even while they're living the less-than-stellar life they seem destined for, they have one eye to the horizon, watching for the sign of the God who is coming. They are hearing the stories of the God who strengthens, the God who guides, the God who leads and defends. They are seeing the glow of the God who promises on the faces of His people, and they want that. They want that so bad. And they are drawn to it.
Because even the things that hold up their name, even the helpers that keep them trapped in their own Demonic, bow humbly before the Lord. The very things that seem to be set against these persons are the very things that humble them before God. Isn't that cool?
Then they find their place in God's story, and it's a good one. It's an awesome place. You look at these people and you know where they came from, and then you see them in the story of God - even in the lineage of Jesus - and you just think, wow. Wow! A prostitute! If God can use one even like this...
It's the power of God in story and the strength of God by name, to overcome the name of this world and write a new ending for you. It's the awesomeness of God to take a woman like Rahab, a woman named demonic, a woman trapped in prostitution because maybe she thinks she's worth nothing better, and introduce her to her Second John:
To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love because we share the truth. I'm not the only one who loves you. Everyone who knows the truth also loves you. We love you because of the truth which lives in us and will be with us forever. - 2 John 1b-2
And don't we love her? Don't we love Rahab in God's story?