Of Prostitutes and Promises

         

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab . . . – Matthew 1:5 NIV

… was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? – James 2:25 NIV

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

The year: circa 1400 BC. The place: Jericho, the most fortified city in the land of Canaan.

Having served their sentence of forty years in the wilderness, the Israelites were knocking at Jericho’s gates. Even though God’s chosen people were still on the other side of the Jordan River, the inhabitants of Jericho—10,000 strong—were terrified. They’d heard all about how the Red Sea miraculously parted so the children of Israel could walk through on dry ground, and how the pursuing Egyptians drowned. They’d heard about how the Israelites, a fugitive nation with little or no military training, had annihilated the Amorite kingdoms of kings Sihon and Og.

And now, here they were, just across the river, poised to strike. Yep, the citizens of Jericho were shaking in their sandals.

But the Israelites didn’t know this. Not until Joshua, their leader, sent two spies to the city. It should come as no surprise that these men ended up in the house of the only person in Jericho who would protect them—a prostitute by the name of Rahab.

When the king sent his heavies to Rahab’s house to arrest the spies, she said they’d already left.

“If you hurry,” she told them, “you can catch up with them.”

Then she went up to the roof, where the spies were hiding under stalks of flax laid out for drying.

“I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you,” she said, adding that they’d heard what had happened at the Red Sea and to the two kings. “Everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God of heaven above and on the earth below.”

Her words jogged their memory: “I will put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven,” God had promised not too long before. “They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you” (Deuteronomy 2:25 NIV).

Rahab then asked for protection for her and her family when they conquered the city. The spies promised, tying a scarlet cord in the window that would identify her house to the invading Israelites.

You know what happened. The walls of Jericho fell down flat, the Israelites conquered and burned the city, and Rahab and her family were saved.

But did you know that Rahab, the former harlot, married Salmon, who is believed to be the son of Caleb, one of the two spies who came back with a good report forty years earlier? The union of their son Boaz and Ruth produced Obed, the grandfather of King David, an ancestor of Jesus the Messiah.

This is a story of faith and faithfulness: the remarkable faith of Rahab, which distinguished her for the future “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11), and the faithfulness of God, who always keeps His promises.

Take note: Jericho fell a few weeks after the flax was harvested—in March, the time of the Passover. The crimson blood of the Passover lamb represented a promise, a covenant, between God and the Israelites. The scarlet cord in Rahab’s window identified the one to whom a promise was made.

Fast forward 1,400 years, to the night one of Rahab’s descendants, a man named Jesus, held up a cup of wine, and proclaimed, “This is My blood of the new covenant …”

This blood, the blood of God’s only Son, fulfilled the promise He made at the dawn of civilization, when the sin of our first parents created a chasm between them, and hence all mankind, and a loving Creator.

If Rahab—a common prostitute who lived in a nation whose wickedness aroused God’s wrath and marked them for total destruction—could believe the promises of a God she’d only heard of at the risk of her life, how can we, who have God’s Word and His Spirit, not also believe?

Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art. Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.*

*From “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” by Charles Wesley. Public domain.

Read and reflect on Joshua 2.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons © 2018 Michele Huey.

Surprise Party

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7 NIV

When I was in grade school, I always wanted to have a real birthday party – you know, when you invite the whole class at school. Every year when I asked, though, my mother’s answer was always the same: “No.” Maybe the class size of nearly fifty had something to do with it.

“Please, Mom,” I’d plead. “Everyone else has one. Why do I always have to be different?”

No amount of begging, whining, or pouting, however, changed her mind. Her lopsided cakes were for family only.

One year, though, I was determined to have the kind of party I wanted, in spite of my mother’s usual “no.” So I invited all the kids in my third grade class to come to my house on Saturday, November 5, for my birthday party. My mother, of course, knew nothing about it.

I bowled in a youth bowling league on Saturday mornings, and when I left the house that day, I still hadn’t told my mother about the party. The walk home after bowling was the longest walk I ever took in my life! I trudged the eight blocks home in the cold, damp November wind, thinking of how much trouble I was going to be in once the kids started showing up at my door.

Not only was I going to be in the doghouse at home, but I’d be the laughing stock of the whole school once word got out about the party with a lopsided cake, and not enough ice cream and pop. Don’t even mention games. That was not my mother’s forte.

When I stepped into the dining room at few minutes before two – the time I told everyone to come – I gasped in surprise. There in the middle of the table, set for a party, was a big, decorated birthday cake!

“How did you find out?” I blurted to my mother.

“Vivian’s mother called to ask me what time your party started,” she said.

Thank you, Mrs. Bludis, I thought, breathing a sigh of relief.

“We’ll talk about this after the party,” my mother said quietly as someone knocked. “Go answer the door.”

For the next three hours, I tried to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d probably be grounded for the rest of my life. When the last guest left, I hurried to help clean up, grateful to my mom for helping me save face and hoping my initiative would lessen my punishment.

“What would you have done if Mrs. Bludis hadn’t called?” my mother asked me after we were done.

I shrugged.

“I didn’t understand how important this was to you. I’m sorry,” Mom said, “but I hope you realize you were wrong to go behind my back.”

I nodded.

As it turned out, my only punishment was three agonizing hours imagining what my just desserts would be when I could have been enjoying my birthday party.

My mother taught me an important lesson in mercy that day. While it isn’t easy to forgive someone who has done something wrong, showing undeserved kindness blesses both the giver and the receiver, and brings healing to broken relationships.

I deserved justice. Instead I received a birthday present I never forgot.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Thank you, God, that Your mercies are new every morning. I sure need them everyday. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 18:21–35.