RUTH WEEK THIRTY-TWO
Epilogue (Part Two)
(Click here to listen to the next Ruth teaching)
Verse of the Week
“BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!” Joshua 1v9 NASB
More Words from the Father
1 Peter 3v4-6
From my Heart
What is it You Want?
Rahab was a woman who knew how to get what she wanted. And what she wanted was what we all want: security, wealth, recognition, family, influence, health, and safety. One thing was missing from her list, though - love. Rahab was willing to sacrifice love in order to get her grasp around every opportunity that came her way. And she had that rare inborn entrepreneurial ability to recognize opportunity which can make certain men and women wildly successful. In our day, I have no doubt Rahab would have been heralded among the rich and famous. Paparazzi would have hounded her while People magazine splashed her face and figure on the cover page.
Yet reading her story, I can’t help but wonder - What happened to Rahab that propelled her into prostitution? Why would this woman give up on the dream of being pursued and sought and valued? How could Rahab choose wealth over love? Security over romance?
And why would I?
Why would I sell my soul for cheap trinkets?
I want everything that Rahab wanted. I want security. I want to feel safe. I want to know that I will have all I need and maybe a little more all the way up until its time for me to go home to heaven. And I want wealth too, sure I do. Be honest with yourself, you do too! I am far from content with the bare basics. I want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise - surrounded by a family who adores me. Is that so bad?
If those wants and wishes drive me to pursue them at the cost of love. If, instead of surrendering my life’s circumstances to the One who loves me like no other, I strive and connive to get what I want no matter what.
How about you? What have you sacrificed to get what you want? What you think you need? Have you lost a little of your passion for your Redeemer along the way?
If you have, then this story is your story.
Somewhere deep inside, Rahab held on to a tiny spark of hope for something more. When she heard about the Israelites camped down the road, and about their God who had such power, that spark leapt into a raging fire. The moment she got her chance to come under the protection of this God, Rahab risked everything she had. All her wealth, her home, her security, her reputation, and her safety. Even her family! How could she know if they would go along with her plan?
Rahab’s life was transformed by the power of faith. She thrust herself at God’s feet and got up to aggressively go after Him with every ounce of her being. And in so doing, Rahab’s life was rescued from all the ugliness and emptiness she had filled it with.
God is still in the habit of rescuing broken women. What He loved about Rahab - enough to put her into His son’s heritage - was her unerring trust in His goodness. Rahab risked everything of value to her in order to belong to Him. She proved her faith by her actions. She set aside her fear, her worries and her illicit patterns of self-protection in order to entrust herself to God.
I can’t help but admire this woman. And, strange as it may be to say it, I find myself wanting to be like this ex-prostitute (please don’t tell my kids I said that!). She is both bold and beautiful, courageous and crafty. Rahab, more than any woman I know, had the guts to go after God with her whole heart.
And that’s something to think about.
From my heart,
Rahab was a successful woman. She ran a thriving hotel, entertained powerful men, had the attention of her city-state’s ruling monarch, invested in the growing commodity market of linen, and owned a house which was the envy of every woman in town.
How do I know all that? Well, read up on her in Joshua, chapter 2.
Two spies were sent by Israel’s new leader, Joshua, to spy out the city of Jericho. With the million-strong encampment of the Hebrews camped uncomfortably close to the walled city, security in Jericho was at level red. In order to slip in unobtrusively, these two spies made their way to the bustling hospitality business Rahab ran from her home.
In a day when there were no Comfort Inns, Rahab took advantage of her city’s strategic location at the only major ford between the Jabbok River and the Dead Sea. She regularly took in travelers, no doubt charging them exorbitant prices for her enviable location.
And sometimes she did more than give them a room. She gave herself – for a price. Rahab watched her nest egg grow at the expense of her soul. Somehow she managed to harden her heart against the inner loathing every woman feels when she sells her body in exchange for survival.
Rahab was ambitious. She wanted more. Seeing the rising trade in linen from far away Egypt, she figured out a way to obtain the stalks of flax from which fine linen was made. The flat roof of her house rising high above the city made a precipitous place to process the tough fibers. First soaking them in water, then dragging them to the rooftop to soak in the sun was not a task for the timid. But Rahab wasn’t afraid of hard work. She was driven by the insatiable thirst for more.
Protecting all those assets in a male dominated society kept Rahab’s stress level on alert at all times. When a rumor reached her ears that the march of the dreaded Hebrews was headed her way, she took inventory of all she owned and searched for a solution. The power of the Hebrew god was too great to stand against.
Never before had Rahab heard of one god who controlled the weather and the sea and all the natural world. The gods of her experience were puny, competitive deities who were easily appeased with rituals and sacrifice. Listening to the city leaders debate strategy, Rahab knew they didn’t stand a chance against such power. Let them talk all they want, she would do what she must to secure her future.
Rahab’s vigilance apparently paid off. The Hebrew spies sought lodging in her home.
As a logical location to blend in with other travelers. It didn’t take Rahab long to see through their disguise, nor did it take long for rumors of their whereabouts to reach the ears of the king of Jericho.
As Rahab hurried to hide the men amongst the flax on her roof, she must have weighed her options. Turn them over to the authorities and incur the king’s favor with its lucrative reward, or hide the men at great risk to her life in the hopes that they would be obligated to return the favor if and when the Hebrews attacked. She chose the latter.
Their hiding place would not have endeared her to these men. The stalks of flax were soggy, having been soaked in stagnant water to separate the fibers. It would have been a ripe incubator of all sorts of insects. The unbearable stench choked the men as they lay in the midst of the mess wondering if Rahab had led them into a trap.
But Rahab had made up her mind, and when she decided something, she didn’t back down. Downstairs, she used all her cunning and probably a few feminine wiles to convince the guards that she had seen the spies heading out the gate near her home, headed for the hills. The soldiers set out after the phantom men as the city gate was lowered behind them.
Before Rahab led the spies to safety, she gathered her years of business acumen to negotiate a contract which would ensure security for herself and her family. Letting the spies down the massive wall with a woven rope put Rahab in a position to bargain - her life in exchange for their safe escape. When the Israelites attacked the city, Rahab would set out an identifying strand of scarlet cord. This was to be the signal that her house and her entire family were to remain under the direct protection of the men whose lives she had saved.
Sure enough, on the day of the invasion, Joshua directed his men to “go into the harlot’s house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as you have sworn to them.” As her city was being ransacked, Rahab was led to safety, bringing not only her family with her, but also “all she had.”
What now? They couldn’t live alone on the outskirts of the ruins of Jericho. Once again, Rahab’s forward thinking saved the day. The family followed the Israelites, living at first on the outer edges of their encampment. At some point however, Rahab must have embraced the God of the Hebrews for whom she held such great respect. Though the men of Israel were not permitted to associate with the women of the foreign lands they were invading, they could marry one who converted to their faith. One of these men, a man by the name of Salmon, chose Rahab to be his bride. Elevated from her former reputation as a harlot, Rahab now had full legal and social protection as his wife.
A nice story, you might say. Indeed, but it gets even better.
Rahab and her family are absorbed into the wandering nation of Israel. She settles in a little town called Bethlehem, married to a man of standing. There, Rahab begins a family of her own, eventually bearing a son by the name of Boaz. When Boaz grows up, he follows in the footsteps of his father and finds a wife of somewhat shady heritage but stalwart character (that would be Ruth). She presents him with a son, whose name is Obed.
As Rahab’s physical beauty gives way to wrinkles and grey hair, the beauty of her life lived under the protection of Yahweh blossoms. Her grandson grows up to have a son of his own, whom he names Jesse. Around the family hearth, Jesse hears stories of his great-grandmother’s courage and his great-grandfather’s love for her. Jesse has seven sons of his own. The youngest, born long after Rahab has passed into the presence of God, grows up to be the king of Israel.
By this time, Rahab’s story is but a distant memory - her name left out of the patriarchal genealogies of Hebrew history. But God has a way of remembering His own. In the opening pages of the biography of His Son, God inserts Rahab’s name into Jesus’ biological line of descent. There it is, right in the forefront of Jesus’ family tree - Rahab. It’s almost as if God is proud of her!
Jump ahead a few decades, and her name pops up again. In that famous tribute to men and women of great faith, Hebrews, chapter 11, we see this inscription: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she welcomed the spies in peace.”
Flip over a few pages to the epistle of James and Rahab is once again used as a fine example of faith that works. This woman’s sordid story is told all over the pages of our Bibles! Why? Because Rahab was real. Like us, she struggled. Like us, Rahab’s life was all about choices - both good and bad. Some of those choices came back to haunt her. But in the end, she had the guts to follow her heart – right to her Redeemer.
I can’t help but wonder, as I study her story, if Rahab had any idea that God would use her so? As she picked up the pieces of her shattered life after the fall of Jericho, did she ever despair? Did she think her usefulness was over?
And why did God give us her story? Why stretch it out, this history of harlotry and intrigue? Could He have had Rahab in mind when he wrote in 1 Peter 3 of His “precious” women from former times who put their hope in God?
And one last question:
Could it be that your story could end like hers?