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.

The Birds of the Air

Photo courtesy of Mark’s Outdoor Shots, © 2019 Mark Kephart Sr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” –Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

 It was literally the birds of the air that caught my attention one morning during my quiet time.

The morning temperatures were still warm enough to sit out on the back deck and absorb the peacefulness of the woods behind my house. I’d not slept well the night before, my mind whirring with worries.

I know—Christians aren’t supposed to worry, right? But life slams Christians, too. What makes it different for us is how we respond to it.

And I wasn’t responding very well. Not as well as I thought I would. It’s easy to spout Scripture when things are going relatively smoothly. But when the storms come, the winds tear at your faith, and the waves crash over your resolve to stand firm, it’s all you can do to hang on.

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and He’ll sustain us (Psalm 55:22). It’s one thing to read those words; it’s another story entirely to do them.

Now, I’m good at casting. The problem is I keep reeling the burden back in. And casting it out again. And reeling it back in.

That night I cast my burden on the Lord by presenting Him with the whole list of what was worrying me. I claimed Philippians 4:19—that God will supply all that I needed. And, in keeping with Luke 11:9, I asked. I sought. I knocked.

Now if only I could leave the response to Him.

But no. I awoke the next morning with the burden still heavy on my mind, heart, and spirit.

The little gray bird flitting from limb to limb caught my eye first. Then the robin, worm still in its beak.

“Look at the birds of the air,” I heard God say. “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  (Matthew 6:26)

I looked up the Scripture—Matthew 6:25–34. Three times Jesus said, “Do not worry.”

And I remembered Philippians 4:6—“Don’t be anxious or worried about anything.”

I did the second part of that verse—“pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” But peace still eluded me. Because I kept reeling those worries back in again and again.

“Worry is like a rocking chair,” motivational speaker Glenn Turner noted. “It gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.”

I’m not good at sitting and waiting for God to work. I have to be doing something—anything but be still.

“I have come, that they might have life,” Jesus said, “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). Abundant life.

And worry compromises that abundant life by siphoning your hope, your joy, and your energy, and replacing them with anxiety, insomnia, tension, and irritability. In other words, you’re no fun to live with.

So, how do we deal with worry?

First, recognize where it comes from: the enemy of our souls, a lack of trust in God, and a weak faith. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Second, respond to it by praying: cast your burdens on the Lord and leave them there!

Prioritize that worry list. Determine what’s most important and, with prayer, deal with that.

And finally, live in the present.

“Worry is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once,” said Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. “It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.”

Look at your calendar. See that square marked today? Focus on that. Live in one square at a time.

Do you dwell on the what if’s?

Do you focus on the worst-case scenario?

Do you lie awake at night because your worries are whirring through your mind and you just can’t put them to bed?

Maybe, like me, you need more practice with your casting—and learning not to reel them back in.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.  –Psalm 94:18–19 ESV

Read and reflect on Matthew 6:25–34.

 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Mark’s Outdoor Shots, © 2019, by Mark Kephart Sr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.  Click here to see more outdoor shots.