Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Unlikeliest of Heroines-Rahab the Courageous!

The book of Joshua tells the story of how Israel followed God’s commands and crossed the Jordan to take possession of the land promised to them by God.  Moses has died, the mantle of leadership passes to Joshua, whose job is to lead the people into the promise land!  Those other people who happen to live in this territory have got to go!  So, Joshua sends a couple of spies to scope out the territory around Jericho.  This is where things get interesting because the men of Jericho find out that there are a couple of men wandering around that are not from Jericho, so they go looking for them.  The spies end up at Rahab’s house on the outer wall of the city.

Rahab does something very interesting, she doesn’t turn them over to the men that are looking for the spies.  Instead she hides them on her roof and sends the townies off on a wild goose chase looking for them.  Now why do a thing like that?  If she’s caught, it means certain death for her!  I mean, she could have helped the town send a message to those upstart Israelites  by turning over the spies and allowing them to be executed.  As a prostitute, turning these men over probably would have upped her social status a bit.  She would be known as the woman who caught the spies.  Rahab is a smart cookie though.  She realizes, probably long before anyone else in the town, that the one true God is with Israel and Jericho is going down!  She may not know or fully understand the one true God but she knows who is in charge.  She courageously chooses a side-the one true God side.

Before she helps the spies escape the city she decides to negotiate a deal.  In chapter 2 starting at verse 12 here is what she says:
“Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family.  Give me a sign of good faith that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
Prior to this, it is Rahab who recounts the Lord’s mighty deeds and  acknowledges God’s supremacy, not the spies!  And although Rahab asks “deliver our lives from death” whose lives does she specifically ask to be spared?  Her father, mother, brothers, sisters and all who belong to them.  Nowhere in that speech does she ask specifically for her life to be spared.  It is implied at the end, but not specified.  As a prostitute, being the lowest of the low in society, she probably didn’t expect her life to be spared.  But by golly, she was going to do all that she could do to save her family!  That’s pretty courageous!

Before the spies leave, they put some conditions on this agreement-the red cord has to be in the window, her family has to be in her house when they attack, she can’t tell anyone about them.  She agrees with no argument.  We know that Rahab was saved and that she is in the genealogy of Jesus written in Matthew chapter 1, listed  as the mother of Boaz (husband of Ruth).  Now if I counted correctly, Rahab is only one of four women listed in the genealogy of Jesus (not counting his mother Mary).  The significance of this is that women are not normally listed in a Jewish genealogy.  Rahab, a foreigner and known prostitute is listed.   That, my dear friends, is significant!

That great moral of the story is this:  God was willing to demonstrate his saving grace for outsiders even in the Old Testament!  Long before he sent Jesus in the world and commissioned Paul to take the good news to the Gentiles of the world, he was still acting as a loving God full of grace to those who believed.  And it is an important reminder to all of us to remember not to judge by appearances.  God looks at the heart, not the outside packaging.  How many people have we not talked to because we simply wrote them off as “not being someone that God would want to save?”  The guy in prison, the kid with the freakish hair cut and staple thing through the lip.  The power hungry social ladder climber.  I’m sure we could all come up with our own list of examples but the point is the same.  All of us, at some point in life, have judged by appearances.

How do we get beyond such judgments?   That is the question!  I think God gives us spiritual nudges when we least expect it and we have to learn to listen to those nudges.  It takes courage to follow through and sometimes that means we have to step out of our comfort zone.  What did God say to Joshua?  “Be strong and courageous.  I will not fail you or forsake you.”  Rahab, the unlikely heroine, embraced this message.  She trusted God and she chose to be courageous.  It is a lesson, that we all need to learn and embrace again and again and again!

Listen to the spiritual nudge and be strong and courageous!  God is still in the business of Saving Grace!

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