“And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, ‘Go view the land, even Jericho.’ And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.”
Joshua 2: 1
King James Version
“Where Did You Come From”
“We cannot segregate God’s Word from the historical reality in which it is proclaimed. It would not then be God’s Word. It would be history, it would be a pious book, a Bible that is just a book in our library. It becomes God’s Word because it vivifies, enlightens, contrasts, repudiates, praises what is going on today in this society.”
What lessons have I learned from women in the Bible that apply to my life today?
“Our faith in the God of revelation cannot be lived and understood abstractly, in some atemporal fashion. It can only be lived through the warp and woof of the events that make up history.”
“The cuckoo lays her eggs in any bird’s nest; it may be hatched among blackbirds or robins or thrushes, but it is always a cuckoo; A (woman) cannot deliver (herself) from (her) ancestors.”
Amelia E. Barr
Every summer, the little town where we live has a Shakespeare festival and three selected plays are presented on an outdoor stage by a traveling troupe of actors.
The stage is set up in an alley-way in an outdoor market. Believe me when I say, the stage-hands get a tremendous workout, for unlike stages designed with lifts that move props up and down or in and out, all the scenery and background for our local extravaganza has to be relocated by human hands, which is absolutely necessary, for the backdrops and landscaping give character to the play, and also place the story in context.
This is what we need to do today as we begin to study the life of Rahab, a Canaanite woman living in Jericho, who is called a harlot in Joshua 2: 1.
Our backdrop begins with the children of Israel mourning the death of their beloved leader, Moses, and then being encouraged by his successor, Joshua, at God’s instruction, to cross the Jordan River and possess the land God had promised to give them.
In order to evaluate the local “scenery,” Joshua, we are told in Joshua 2: 1, sent two spies to Jericho to check out the situation. At that time, Jericho was what we would call the gateway to the Promised Land. It was the only “walled city” located at the southern end of the Jordan River. Called the “City of Palms” in ancient times, Jericho presented a huge challenge with its large walls which needed to be penetrated successfully before the children of Israel could take possession of the Promised Land.
When the spies arrived in Jericho, we are told they headed to Rahab, the “harlot’s house.” Both Jewish writers and Christian commentators have at times attempted to turn Rahab’s home into a lodge, perhaps something like our current day Bed-and-Breakfast. However, neither the Hebrew nor Greek equivalent “permits this rendering.” The fact is, it would seem quite possible that entering what we would call a “brothel” would attract much less attention, especially if you were two spies on a reconnaissance mission. You can imagine these two men, mingling with the crowds of people going in and out of Jericho, then heading to the house of a prostitute where they may have felt they would not be recognized.
As for Rahab, we must remember that for over 450 years, the people where she lived had little or no contact with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. While they may have heard rumors about this God, they had no direct interaction with Him or His chosen people. What they had heard put fear in their hearts as we will see, and the talk of a God of power served as a catalyst to make these nations say, “We’ll show you who is boss!”
But it wasn’t just the power of God that the Canaanites defied. In their worship practices, they also ignored the holiness of Israel’s God by replacing it with a sensual worship that indulged the physical desires over the spiritual longings of the heart, to the point that even acts of prostitution were sometimes viewed as religious rites.
This is the backdrop, the scenery, and the props that surrounded the life of Rahab the harlot. And you and I would do well to remember this as we look at the path God laid out for this woman to walk in her lifetime.
I believe the story of Rahab, from beginning to end, is the story of each of us. You may be saying, “But I’m not a prostitute!” However, I believe we can all agree that throughout our lives, we’ve been tempted at one time or another to sell ourselves for something – money, power, position or even the adulation of others. Yet, as with Rahab, God steps into the walled city of our lives and offers us a choice and the scarlet cord of His love.
You see, as we begin our study of Rahab, it’s easy to say she was a heathen and a harlot. But I’d like to suggest that she was a “PF” – a “potential follower.” And so often, we look at the Rahabs we meet, and way too quickly we label them with some nasty, name-calling tag when in fact, they too may well be “potential followers.”
The problem is that because of history, geography and heredity, people we meet and their ancestors may have lived in Canaan and been surrounded with all that Canaan has to offer.
As I have read and reread the story of Rahab, I’ve come to the conclusion that God’s dealings with all His children are a history of loving-kindness, as with cords of love, God draws “PF’s” (potential followers) from Egypt, from Canaan, and today from Jamaica, Uganda, Russia, Scotland, Kenya, Portugal, Peru, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and from every continent and island on planet Earth.
God’s “potential followers” don’t have to be born in a certain place, schooled in a certain place or live in a certain place – for all of us are “potential followers” if we choose to open the door of our hearts.
“What are all histories but God manifesting Himself.”
Thankful For Those Who Preceded
“Our Father, You who have mothered us by giving us good forebears, we thank you
for those who have preceded us. Without them, faithful and unfaithful, we would not be. Often we little understand what they must have been like, yet they passed on to us a sense of how wonderful it is to be Your people. May we be capable of producing yet new generations born of Your hope. AMEN”
Prayers Plainly Spoken