We are often told God uses unlikely people to do His greatest work. Abraham was an old man married to an old barren woman, yet God used him to become the father of many nations.
I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:17-18
How honored Abraham must have felt to hear God tell him of his pending greatness. A bit overwhelmed and humbled, sure, but the human condition must have left him feeling at least a little pleased.
Moses, an orphan with a speech impediment, was used by God as one of the greatest leaders in history. Sure, he missed out on the final moments of his life’s mission to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land, but with God’s help, he had brought them out of slavery in Egypt, across the raging Red Sea, and through years of wandering in the desert wilderness. That takes great leadership, stutter or no.
Then there was David, an adulterer and murderer, who became a great king, lyricist, and poet. Paul, a persecutor of Christians… Unlikelies used for greatness. The list goes on.
When we hear of those who are not so great, it’s easier to discount them. The lowly, the bad parents, the drains on society. One such not-so-great was Rahab, a prostitute living in the sin-ridden city of Jericho. Her story in Joshua 2:1-14 reads like a great action flick.
Rahab was a bit of a mess. She was in the lowliest profession, she lied to the king of Jericho, and she committed treason by hiding spies in her home. And why? Somewhere in her soul there was a seed of faith. A tiny seed planted when she witnessed miracles by God and actions by His obedient followers. She trusted God’s workers, the spies, at their word and did what she thought best to save her family.
James 2:25 asks, “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?”
The story of Rahab is fascinating. The Bible is our guidebook for laws, grace, and love, yet it tells us of a sinful woman who lied, committed treason, and caused others to sin through her very profession, but then later to refers to her as “righteous.” It’s nothing short of a mystery begging to be unraveled.
Sure enough, her story gets even better when we skip ahead to Matthew 1: the genealogy of Jesus.
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, …
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
Rahab, the great-great grandmother of King David, listed in the genealogy of Jesus. This liar, traitor, prostitute, was a person by all human accounts who should be discarded by society, but when she was offered a tiny seed, she believed. God took the crumpled mess of a woman and He allowed her to be used, not for greatness itself, but in the line of greatness.
I consider Rahab a sister, of sorts. It is only through the seeming randomness of birth – time and place – that I have not suffered a fate as lowly as hers. That any of us haven’t. But I am no less a sinner. My past and daily life are full of poor choices and outward acts of disobedience. Treason against God, so to speak. But if God could use Rahab, He certainly can use me!
During my mission trip to Honduras, we spent ten days helping at the Heart 2 Heart Children’s Village orphanage and school, playing with the children, and truly being fed through their love and warmth.
My heart was shattered as we drove through Honduras, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, where it is commonplace to find children foraging for food among piles of trash, families living in tarp-covered shacks the size of my minivan, and people burning plastic inside their homes to eliminate bugs carrying malaria and dengue fever. It’s not right, how these people live. The kids at the orphanage seem to be the lucky ones. Removed from their abusive, neglectful parents to be raised in a group home, fed three simple meals a day, and given a Christian education. They’ve got it good!
But what do they do after? When is their opportunity for greatness? They’ll grow up, and what?
Go to college? Not likely.
Be adopted? Not from Honduras, a corrupt country with no ties to the Hague Adoption Convention.
Get a job, find a nice home, and start a family? Hopefully, but the statistics are not in their favor.
Greatness in Honduras and in many parts of our world seems as elusive as clean water and decent medical care.
On our second day at the Village, I came face to face with a heartbreak no mother should experience. I watched a woman bring her five children to the orphanage, sign paperwork, and leave them. Esther, Luis, Johanna, Lorraine, and Naomi range in age from 8 to 1 1/2 – the littlest the same age as my little Audrey. And just like my daughter in strange new environments, little Naomi clung to her mother. I saw the vacant look in the mother’s eyes as she tore out her own heart and prepared to walk away, knowing the orphanage is a better home than the one she was providing full of ill health and abuse. No one should be faced with that choice, yet this woman acted so bravely, knowing she did what was best for her family.
She is just one example of many. People around the world and throughout the ages seem to us to lack the potential for doing anything great. But we aren’t called to judge potential. We are called to obey God’s commands, perform miracles in His name, and plant seeds of faith.
A seed of faith is all Rahab had. She observed God’s people following His commands, performing miracles, and proving His omnipotence. This unholy woman from a town of idolatry and false gods proclaimed, “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” She stepped out in faith to protect God’s people and was spared not only her own life but that of her whole family.
As I look back on the people of Honduras and others in similar situations in our world, on the children, on the humble women who tirelessly serve meals to 80 growing children each day, or on the mothers who relinquish their children in that last desperate act of maternal love, I wonder where greatness is happening. Through love and seeds of faith, it is growing. Through people like you and me who are willing to obey God’s call to go or send our resources, God is making a difference. We might never get to see the greatness unfold. But what an honor it is to know everything we do in love – every. little. thing. we do in God’s perfect love – is used to further His kingdom. When we travel to the depths of poverty and oppression, when we collect school supplies or tutor disadvantaged students, when we share the Gospel and our own personal stories of redemption with friends and neighbors, we might never know what seeds are planted or what greatness will unfold, but we have faith God’s kingdom is growing.
So, what do you say? You, me, our questionable pasts, our sin and disobedience, along with the desperate mother, the prostitute, the exhausted missionaries, and everyday seed-planters – Let’s act obediently, in faith, align ourselves with God, and allow His greatness to unfold through us.