Leadership Lessons from a Prostitute

Today’s reading: Joshua 2:8-21. Key verses: Joshua 2:9-11.

Rahab the harlot is an important figure in the book of Joshua for her demonstration of faith in Yahweh as the powerful God who is giving her land to his people. Though her past and vocation are suspect, and the methods she uses to solicit the spies’ help are not necessarily exemplary, nevertheless her firm conviction that the God of Israel is “God in heaven above and on earth beneath” is the central focus of the chapter.

Leadership Principle 2.5: Good leaders are aware of their situation

Rahab knew what was going on in her world. She was up to date with what the people of Israel had been doing in the wilderness, and how their God had brought them out of Egypt. She confesses that she knows:

  1. God has given Israel the land (of Canaan) – v. 9
  2. The Canaanites are afraid of Israel and have melted away before them – v. 9
  3. The Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea – v. 10
  4. Israel utterly destroyed Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites – v. 10
  5. The hearts of the people of Jericho melted and they had no courage left – v. 11

A good leader is aware of their social, cultural circumstances. They do not live irresponsibly in a hole. Instead, they understand their times and act accordingly.

Leadership Principle 2.6: Good leaders act on behalf of their followers

Rahab hides the spies, committing treason in her city-state of Jericho, and lies to the king about her action. (These activities are not to be emulated by followers of Jesus today, by the way.) We find out a little later in the chapter why this happens. In verses 12-13 she says, “Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” Rahab does what she does on behalf of her household.

Good leaders act selflessly. They do not think primarily about their own advancement or well-being, but instead about how they can help others. The best leaders do not ask “how can I get others to do what I want?” but instead ask “how can I help support and assist my followers?” This is the kind of servant leadership model that Jesus employed in his ministry.

Leadership Principle 2.7: Good leaders keep their word

They do what they say they are going to do. Rahab promises to keep the spies hidden and their interaction secret. This promise is kept from chapter 2 all the way until the conquest of Jericho in chapter 6. Because she is faithful to do what she says she will do, the spies of Israel ensure that she and all in her household are kept safe.

Faithfulness is honesty to your word. Too many leaders today are double-tongued, saying one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. The best leaders seek to follow through on commitments and promises made, even seemingly small ones. Do you show up to appointments on time, or keep people waiting? Do you remember things you say to people in casual conversations, or consider those unimportant because they were not “official” office interactions? Godly leaders do what they say they will do.

Rahab demonstrates great faith in the Lord. This faith is admittedly fear of what he is going to do in Canaan, with Jericho first on the hit list. But her faith causes her to act in favor of Israel, and because of that she is remembered by the authors of the New Testament:

By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” (Hebrews 11:31)

In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25)

Summary in a Sentence

Good leaders are aware of what’s happening in their world, act on behalf of their followers, and are true to their word.

JJ Routley

Jonathan J. Routley (JJ) serves as Professor of Bible and Theology at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa. JJ also serves on the Board of Directors for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR). He holds a PhD in Theological Studies from Columbia International University, South Carolina. JJ and his family reside in Dubuque, Iowa.
Blog: jjroutley.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JJ_Routley
Posted in ,
Tagged with