That Damnable Label

Wednesday, May 17, 2023
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Joshua 2:1 – Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. (NIV)

I dislike how damnable labels get attached to people. It can harm their reputation. Yet, in Scripture we see that damnable label, "prostitute", attached to a woman named Rahab — five times! We're given no insight into her conduct. She seemed to function well in her ancient city-state of Jericho — at least until she deliberately defied her king's order: she refused to turn in the two Israelite spies whom she hid in her home. She arranged their escape, thus collaborating with the overthrow of Jericho. Now, that is damnable conduct!

What made Rahab risk being condemned as a traitor? What made her risk angering the Canaanite gods by giving allegiance to a foreign deity? Furthermore, what made the Israelite spies entrust their lives to this alleged prostitute? I say, that was not foolishness, but evidence of faith in the living God.

Jericho had become paralyzed by terrifying reports about the advancing Israelites. Rahab, however, took note of their God and realized that He was, indisputably, the living God, the God above all gods, the God of judgment and mercy. Rahab put her trust in this God and believed that Jericho was facing divine judgment. So, after sending off the spies, she warned relatives and others to prepare. Only those staying in her home would be saved. Thus, when the Israelites conquered Jericho, several lives were mercifully spared — as the spies had promised.

Hebrews 11:31 – By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (NIV)

Why, I ask, is that damnable label "prostitute" retained in both Testaments, like a red light glaring over Rahab? To me it's a vexing distraction. Maybe that's the point. It makes me face myself by asking, what am I more readily drawn to: that damnable label or God's amazing grace? What's easier to discuss?

I recall an after-church discussion about Rahab many years ago. It was all about Rahab's morality. The actual content in Scripture received barely a footnote. We didn't mention how Rahab's faith is evidence of God's kindness. We didn't catch the scandal of God's mercy, how a prostitute's home became the only way of salvation, and a prostitute became God's messenger. We couldn't see God's blazing grace outshining that damnable red light. Our Christianity, it seemed, was more centred on works than grace. That's always a danger. Yet the evidence of grace keeps on shining through Rahab's name listed among the ancestors of Jesus in Matthew 1:5.

Perhaps, we feel misjudged because of certain labels hovering over us. This might include the derogatory term first used for Jesus-followers and increasingly used that way: the word "Christian".

Here's the good news: regardless of any disgraceful labelling, our primary duty is like Rahab's: to keep our eyes on the living Lord and entrust ourselves to His grace. No damnable label can squelch Christ's light or dampen our hope in this liberating promise:

Romans 8:1 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Prayer: Lord, open our spiritual eyes that we may be more enthralled by Your breathtaking grace at work in and through sinners. Halleluiah! What a Saviour! Amen!

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About the author:

Diane Eaton <>
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Amen, Diane.

    Thanks for your devotional.

    Thank-you Diane, that was well written.

    A powerful truth Diane!

    Good morning, Diane,
    What helpful insights. Thank you so much.

    Thank you for your insightful insights in relation to God’s grace and how Rahab was used and blessed even though she was labeled.

    Well done, Diane! You drew an excellent lesson from a familiar passage and made me think — again! — “There but for the grace of God, go I!”

    Hi Diane, thank you for this powerful teaching today. It has helped me in my own struggle in faith, to understand and see how God’s grace can and does work through people whom I disagree with. I really appreciate your writing.

    Thanks for your devotional today, Diane. It is a strong reminder of the “power” of words. They can be very sweet or very hurtful and therefore we need be very mindful of the words we choose to speak.
    Blessings for your special writings.

    Diane, what a good perspective and lesson on God’s awesome plans to bring salvation to the world using whomever and whatever He chooses whenever He chooses. His ways are higher than our ways and He is faithful forever!
    Thank you for writing this.

    Could not agree more Diane.
    I have a son who is deemed ‘challenged’. Years ago there would have been even more horrific labels. While it is true, he was diagnosed as having a mild intellectual deficiency, he works every day, pays taxes, and is an amazing and loving son.
    He will never be a scientist or doctor, but he makes his own way in society.

    Thank you for your enlightening words about Rahab. I daresay if men were referred to as fornicators it would seem peculiar language. Your point is well taken. I see her as a sinner like so many of us and yet a child of God and a strong woman of faith. Those of us who fall victim to life’s vagaries are still worthwhile to God. Addictions can be overcome. Sins can be forgiven. We can change our ways with God’s help. All things are possible with God. All the best.

    Hi Diane….In my days of teaching, we often debated whether children with learning or behavioural needs should be labelled, as the “label” was thought to be for life, and was feared by parents. Yet, if a child wasn’t tested, or identified as having needs, then they often fell ‘through the cracks’ when it came to getting extra educational assistance. What to do?? Even today, over 20 years after retiring, I still can’t decide whether a label is best. Yes, it can be ‘damnable’.
    I always admired Rahab’s courage and determination in saving her family. God knew what He was doing, in sending the spies to her house.
    Thanks for today’s devotion!

    My brother admitted to me a number of years ago that he had been a drug dealer. He was dying at the time, although he had not confessed, he knew he was terminal, he professed hope of recovery.
    It was my belief he thought he would shock me with his confession, that I would be disgusted by this damnable label he attached to himself.
    “You are my brother and I love you” was my response. I believed my brother rejected God because he felt judged and unforgivable.
    My brother confessed his sins on his death bed, asked for forgiveness and stated, “I will see you at the Gates of Heaven.”
    No sin is unforgivable, but some believe they are tainted by their past mistakes, and they withdraw from those who love them, including God. It took the threat of death for my prodigal brother to return to us.
    Rahab may have been honoured to be trusted and shown some respect for the first time in her life. Widows and unmarried women were often pariah in ancient societies with no means of support. Young girls were sold into prostitution and didn’t have means of escape because of the social condemnation that hung over them. The shame is not on the women but on the men who used them. Without a paying client these women would have had to find another means to support themselves.
    We must withhold judgment of Rahab because only God knew the truth of her circumstances.
    Thank you for this devotion and pointing out the grace and forgiveness of God is paramount in this story, not the sin of a woman.

    Thank you, Diane, for sharing this encouraging devotional with us today.

    Thank you, Diane. This is a very interesting study of Rahab’s life. I just returned from a trip to Israel and in the Jericho excavations they have a room they say was Rahab’s.

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