Saturday, May 13, 2017

HEBREWS 11:30-31
Where the world's oldest walled city
and the world's oldest profession meet.

"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down
after they had been encircled for seven days.
By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish
along with those who were disobedient,
after she had welcomed the spies in peace."

God made the walls fall flat,
And lifted Rahab up.

Can you imagine the headlines in the "Jericho Times Newspaper the next day? " After all, they had been putting out article after article of fake news on how foolish Joshua's army was in order to bolster the lagging courage of the entire people.  They almost put it in the cartoon section.  "Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in."  Inside those walls were not only people and prostitutes but it's king and valiant warriors.  Can you  just picture those valiant warriors pretending to laugh into their beer mugs at the local bar while actually shaking in the boots? 

This is not Jericho, but an example of a fortress of stone
where we could imagine Rahab letting the spies out her window.

Joshua and the Israelite army marched around the city, all the men of war circling the city for six days, with the irritating sound of  seven priests blowing on their horns?  The commander of the army within the walls probably said,  "Just let them wear themselves out." But for seven days, those pesky Israelites  wore out those in Jericho by waking the city at dawn as they were marching around the city blowing on those stupid horns. It was enough to give one a  hangover headache (Not that I would know: the only hangover headaches I get are when I stay up into the wee hours reading.)

By the way, I saw a woman in a burqa kinda like this at the doctor's office this week, except she was covered up more than this.  I smiled at her.  She smiled back.  How could I tell since her mouth was covered?  By the crinkle at the corners of her eyes and the sparkle dancing there.  I just said a silent prayer for this beautiful young woman having to live like that, thankful that I had so much more freedom as a woman in my faith and in my citizenship.  May her walls fall and she be lifted up.

I can imagine a conversation with Michael the Archangel and God, with him asking,
"Do you want me to take a legion or two and go down and take care of these guys?"
And God saying, "No, I got this.  Just watch."  Then God blew and the walls fell down.

However, Joshua's army were young and strong.  All the previous generation had perished in the wilderness with Moses.  These were warriors in their prime used to going on long marches, fit and ready for battle right down to their sandals which had not worn out for forty years.  (Must be Dr. Martins brand.)  God told Joshua to tell the people to be totally silent saying,"You shall not shout nor let your voice be heard nor let a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell you, 'Shout!' Then they were told when they heard the long blast, "all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat and the people will go up every man straight ahead."

Ruins of Jericho

Can you imagine the million plus people camped outside Jericho not making a sound?  Imagine mothers gesturing to their children, "Shh!" (I had a way of clicking my fingernails in church--a sound my kids grew to hate--shushing them up in church.  Yeah, it was kinda like that.) That must have been one long week.  But oh my! "Joshua said to the people, 'Shout!' For the Lord has given you the city. The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in in it belongs to the Lord; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers."

Another view of the ruins of Jericho

"The people shouted with a great (pent up) shout and the wall fell down flat."  Joshua then told those spies who had been hidden and saved from the enemy by this woman, "Go into the harlot's house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as you have sworn to her."

Well, her name was not Rabab, but Rahab the harlot.  Is this what her neighbors sneeringly called her? This was what she went down in history named, but not to shame but to exalt as one who rose from the rubble putting her trust in God. She married Salmon and they became the parents of Boaz, who with Ruth begat Obed and Obed, Jesse, and Jesse, David the king.  So Rahab goes down in fame in the linage of Christ mentioned in Matthew in case we forget her.  At least by the time when the Gospel of Matthew was written that began with the lineage of Christ, her name was just plain Rahab. 

Actually, Adam Clarke treats her a little more kindly.  He says that "the word which we translate harlot, should be rendered 'innkeeper' or 'tavernkeeper,' as there is no proper evidence that the person in question was a woman as our translation represents her.  As to her having been a harlot before and converted afterwards, it is a figment of idle fancy.  She was afterwards married to Salmon, a Jewish prince.  And it is extremely incredible that had she been what we represent her, he would have sought for such an alliance.  'Received the spies with peace,' The same as giving them a kind welcome, good fare, and protection." 

John Wesley says of Rahab, "Though formerly one not of the fairest character."  Either way, she is one very brave woman!  She's the true Wonder Woman!  When the walls fell down all around her, she was the last one standing.

Let's dig a little deeper into this Rahab.  In Joshua 2, we learn that when the spies lodged in her house, a place where they might be the least detected since so many men came and went from there (a story children's church teachers have to handle very delicately, by the way).  They had just pledged to Joshua that they would be strong and courageous, but found themselves hiding under stalks of flax Rahab had gathered on her roof. 

So who was strong and courageous?  Rahab.  She told the king to his face when he came and accused her of hiding and abetting the enemy (treason) that she didn't know where these men were from and sent him and his soldiers on a wild goose chase saying, "Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them."  In the meanwhile, she told the spies, "I know that the Lord has given you the land, and the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.  For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt...When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath...Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the wall"  with a promise from the spies that she and her family would be spared.

By faith Joshua.  By faith Rahab.  Polar opposites.  So does that mean we can fit in the middle somewhere with our puny little mustard seed of faith and let it grow?

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