Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rahab: Woman of Unshakeable Faith

Do you know what I absolutely love about God?  I love that He loves us so much, He set a grand design into effect: a master plan to bring salvation to us sinners and to still provide a place with Him despite the Fall. I love that He recognizes our foibles and flaws and loves us anyway, still views us as His stunning creation, intimately knows each of His children and draws us unto Him.  Rahab is a fabulous example of God's redemption and one of my personal heroes of the faith.

Rahab, a former mistress of the king and city prostitute in Jericho, risked everything in order to be in line with the God of Israel and to keep the Israelite spies safe:

          "Before the spies went to sleep that night, Rahab went up on the roof to talk with them.  'I know the Lord has given you this land,' she told them.  'We are all afraid of you.  Everyone is living in terror.  For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt.  And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed.  No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things.  For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.  Now swear to me by the Lord that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you.  Give me some guarantee that when Jericho is conquered, you will let me live, along with my father and my mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families.'
          'We offer our own lives as a guarantee for your safety,' the men agreed.  'If you don't betray us, we will keep our promise when the Lord gives us the land.'"   ~Joshua 2: 8-14

 Revisiting the story of Rahab as an adult, I was startled by the sweet hand of God in her life.  With the perspective and knowledge of an adult, I realized that Rahab was very much a trapped woman.  Most likely she was given to the king by her father for some kind of profit or to advance the position of the family.  From a very young age, Rahab faced the fact that her time spent as a mistress would seriously limit her future prospects and her future hope.  Once the king was done with her, she would end up begging if her father would not take her back into his home.  No man would ever take Rahab as his wife knowing that she spent time as the king's mistress.  Her intelligence and resourcefulness obviously led her to grasp onto influence within the city as an information-gatherer for the king. And so she became a public prostitute when the king was done with her, earning herself a home of her own and the fineries that affluent life in Jericho could offer. This Canaanite woman had no background knowledge of God, no believing parents to lead her to belief, and certainly no personal worth from a worldly standpoint.  Yet she felt something inside when she heard the stories of the plagues on Egypt or the destruction of other kings who did not fear the Lord.  Something inside of her grasped on to these testaments about God's great might and His grace; perhaps God filled her ready heart with a feeling of assurance, a quickening of her pulse that drew Rahab to know more of Him.   But I do not want to diminish Rahab's faith.  She sensed the omnipotence of God and risked everything -- her standing with the king, her livelihood, even her very life -- to connect with the Israelite spies and make a place for herself and her family among God's chosen people.

Imagine having to convince your entire family that a foreign God they've heard very little about is really THE supreme God of heaven and earth. Imagine having to convince your entire family that the walls they have so much faith in would not withstand the army of God.  Imagine secreting goods, food, and clothing in your home for days on end to prepare for the coming siege.  Imagine packing four or five families into two small rooms and then feeding them, admonishing them to have faith, while the army marches around and around the city, day after day, with the walls standing firm.  Rahab had no past experience with God's faithfulness to bolster her belief, she had no like-minded support from her pagan family, and she had no sign from the Israelites other than an oath that she would save her family and see the fruits of her labor.  In those tense days before the walls of Jericho fell, Rahab had many opportunities to despair that God would not come for her, a sinful harlot.  But Rahab did have an ear to the still small voice of God, heard the whisper that told her He was true:

           "Then the Israelites burned the city and everything in it.  Only the things made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron were kept for the treasury of the Lord's house.  So Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute and her relatives who were with her in the house, because she had hidden the spies Joshua sent to Jericho. And she lives among the Israelites to this day."  ~Joshua 6:15-25

How overwhelmed and loved Rahab must have felt to know that God not only provided for her family and accepted her as one of His own, but that he sought her out in the midst of a brazen and heathen city. It was no accident that Salmon and Ephraim found Rahab in Jericho, that God gently prodded Rahab's heart to soften towards Him and recognize His people. Rahab probably counted it an unbelievable blessing to be adopted into Israel as one of God's own.  But our loving and generous Father had even bigger plans for her. He planned to bless her beyond her wildest dreams. Rahab had no expectation of esteem among God's people, but centuries after her death it was written:

          "What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see....It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute did not die with all the others in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies." ~Hebrews 11:1, 31

I am in awe of our loving God who not only reaches out His hand to us as He asks us for faith but who also blesses us richly beyond all we could ask for.   The moving denouement of Rahab's story is the honor given to her in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, where she is listed in the lineage of Jesus Christ:
          Rahab and Salmon had a son, Boaz.
          Boaz was the father of Obed;
          Obed, the father of Jesse;
          Jesse, the father of King David.
         And from the line of King David of the tribe of Judah
         came the promised Messiah,
         Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

Thank you, Rahab, for your legacy of faith.   Thank you, Father God, that no one is beyond the reach of grace.

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