The Prostitute Confessions Pt. 1

Recently I have found myself meditating on deep truths found in the book of Joshua, being careful to take into consideration every important theme that God’s Word displays. In the process of my study, I couldn’t help but notice my strange attraction to a woman from chapter 2—the prostitute Rahab. At first glance, it may seem a little odd that a prostitute would grab my attention (it did to me!), but there is, I think, great reasons why this might, and even probably should, happen. In the great scheme of redemptive history, Rahab the prostitute provides extraordinary insight into the very nature and character of God and the Christian life. My intention over the next several posts is to carefully expose what we can learn from Rahab, this pagan prostitute.

(1) That we are to fear the Lord of Heaven and Earth, for He is a God Who will be remembered for His mighty works (Josh. 2:8-11).

After Rahab escapes questioning by the king of Jericho regarding the Israelite spies, she goes to them with a remarkable truth claim,

“I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:8-11 ESV).

Interestingly enough, Rahab, a pagan prostitute, begins confessing and reciting many of the astonishing acts of God in the history of Israel. She fearfully makes mention of God’s power being displayed in the parting of the Red Sea as the Israelites were coming out of Egypt as well as the destruction that the Israelite army brought to other kings and their cities. Due to these acts of God, the hearts of Rahab and her people melted in fear, and it is out of this fear that Rahab speaks an abundance of truth that we should consider.

Primarily, Rahab refers to God as the Lord who is, “God in the heavens and on the earth beneath” (Josh. 2:11). There is virtually no aspect of the created order in which God is not present and of which He does not rule. However, in the history of theology and thought there seems to have developed a misunderstanding of this particular truth about God.[1] Traditionally, there have been two terms used in respect to God’s relationship to the world—transcendence and immanence. As John Frame suggests, “Transcendence invokes the biblical language of God’s majesty and holiness. It often represents metaphors of height as well.”[2] To speak of God as transcendent is to say that He is above creation, is not creation but Creator, and relates to creation in a Kingly fashion (Psalm 113:5, Isaiah 6:1-7). However, in regards to immanence and God, again Frame recommends that, “Immanence refers to God’s nearness, his presence on the earth, especially with his people. It stresses his involvement with human affairs.”[3] Understanding the immanence of God is to know that He is covenantal and therefore involved in and with His creation constantly (Exodus 3, Psalm 113:5-6).

The misunderstanding of God’s transcendence and immanence resulted due to the elevation of one above the other. As in the case of individuals such as Immanuel Kant, Rudolf Bultmann, and Karl Barth, these men have adopted a dangerous version of God’s transcendence. Either God is described as being “wholly other” or He is placed in some kind of “other” world that we can know nothing about, as is the case in Kant’s noumenal realm. Basically, God is so far removed from us that we can only experience Him in some bizarre subjective state in which He initiates, or we don’t experience Him at all, we have to merely assume He were there. On the reverse side, individuals such as Spinoza and Hegel champion types of extreme immanence. This often leads to pantheism which suggests that God cannot be defined apart from the world. Frequently God is defined as the world, or at least reliant upon the world, as is the case in panentheism.[4] Simply stated, God is not distinguishable apart from the world.

It is in opposition to these types of thought that Rahab argues. Her confession of God being the Lord of heaven and earth is exactly the correct balance we need to combat what we’ve seen above. God, although Kingly and above creation, is also near to it and near to His people covenantally. May we then conclude with Blaise Pascal that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not of the philosophers? For Rahab, this is something that was no doubt new to her and for all of the pagan idols that she may have worshiped, this (the) God is much different. Therefore, Rahab’s understanding about God produced a certain fear in her that made her heart melt. She recognized that the plans of the Lord will not be frustrated by anyone so she responded in complete fear and dread. Perhaps we ought to consider the acts of the transcendent and immanent God as Rahab did, and adjust our lives accordingly.

Frame, John. A Theology of Lordship. Vol. 2, The Doctrine of God. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002.

[1] It is possible to trace this misunderstanding back to the early Greek philosophers such as Xenophanes, Lucretius, and Plato and would later influence Christian thought as a result.

[2] John Frame, A Theology of Lordship, vol. 2, The Doctrine of God, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002), 104.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Pantheism and panentheism are very closely related. It is also interesting to note that in many ways, this view fits quite nicely into current day naturalistic evolution in which natural laws are deified to the place of God.


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