If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Hebrews 11:15-16 ESV
A few weeks ago I quoted the above passage as I discussed how faith moves forward. I pointed out that the people of faith in the Bible didn’t long for where they came from; they moved forward into what God had for them. For what is in store is much better than what has been (You can find that post by clicking here).
Yet on Sunday as I listened to my pastor share about Rahab, God brought to mind this verse again with a new perspective: just as we must let go and let God as we walk in faith, we must also stop reliving the old once God has made us new. In other words, we must walk in newness of life; we must live as the new creation we are. We must stop letting our past define our future.
As we read the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, we read about Rahab:
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Hebrews 11:31 ESV
Rahab wasn’t perfect, but she had faith. She may have been well known by her people for shameful reasons, but the One who knew her before the world began knew her heart. And God saw a heart that yearned for more–for something better. Even though up until meeting the spies, Rahab may have only known prosperity through prostitution, she knew there was hope in the God of Israel. She could see her future in Him–and it was bright. So when the spies entered her dwelling, Rahab didn’t hesitate; she saw her chance–her chance at a new beginning–and she took it. By faith she protected the men of Israel–she believed, knew, and trusted that by protecting the men God would protect her (and He did!).
Rahab chose God. She chose to let go of the past. She chose to move forward–and to keep moving forward in spite of adversity. It took faith to keep quiet about the attack she knew was coming. It took faith to gather her family together and to tie that scarlet cord outside her window. It took faith to trust that the way of the God of the Israelites was indeed the way of redemption. It took faith to not turn back.
And by walking forward in faith, the old Rahab walked into a new life.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying she never had the opportunity or the temptation to go back. I’m also not saying there were never repercussions from her former choices, for all choices have consequences. But what I am saying is that even though the Bible does not give specifics, based on Satan’s track record, I’m pretty sure he did his best to lure her back to the old ways. I am sure there were days that demons from her past tried to haunt her present. Yet I also believe Rahab knew full well that what God had in store for the future was much better than what was in her past. I believe Rahab knew no worldly pleasure could compare to the joy of knowing God. I believe Rahab consciously chose not to think “of that land” of prostitution because she desired a “better country.”
And you know what? She got it. No, the Bible doesn’t say she lived happily ever after. The Bible doesn’t say her life was one of simplicity and ease. It really says nothing except that she lived with the Israelites after that. But as I said, she got that city. For if we read Matthew 1:5-6, we will again find Rahab’s name. She’s not listed as a prostitute, however. She’s actually King David’s great-great grandma–and ultimately in the lineage of our Lord and Savior Jesus.
How awesome is that! God took a prostitute willing to change and determined not to look back and made her a matriarch of kings, even the King of Kings! No, He didn’t erase her past. But He transformed her future.
And he wants to do the same for you.
So I encourage you today not to look back. Don’t look back to the life you once had and think it’s too much for God to redeem. Don’t begin thinking that life was easier before God took hold of your heart. Don’t begin thinking back on the land of your old self. For by doing so you most likely will have “opportunity to return.” Instead, remember that what may seem impossible with man is possible with God. Remember that you are never alone. Remember that if God is for you, then nothing formed against you can or will ever stand.
Keep looking forward, keep walking forward, and keep trusting in God. Desire that better country. Know that God is preparing for you a city, a city not built with human hands. It is a city of rejoicing and of hope–one with no tears and no shame. It is a heavenly one.
Sing with me the words from the age old hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”: no turning back, no turning back.
And finally, encourage yourself today with the words of Paul–a man who God transformed from perscutor to persecuted–a man who went from seeking souls to destroy to seeking souls to save–a man who knew his past wasn’t perfect but his future was bright because of God:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 KJV
You are not beyond redemption, my friend, and there is nothing too difficult for God. So do not let your past define you and do not think about the land from which you came. Rather, fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and know “…that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”
(Philippians 1:6 KJV). No turning back, no turning back.