Have you heard the story of Rahab? Don’t miss out on a Christmas fairy-tale-ending to a harsh historic reality:
– Rahab had to jump up and check on the blood red scarf flying in the dry desert wind in front of her window. The eyes of her family huddled in the small room behind her followed her, the glow of a small oil lamp reflecting off their scared faces. They had felt the deep rumbling of the walls crashing down in their bones. They had listened to the sounds of the massacre and the screams of the dying outside. All of them were aware that the scarlet band tied to the wood beams on the outside was the only thing saving them from death.
Rahab had to touch and grab the silken red rope and tried to calm her hammering heart. Yet, that band of trust kept her from trying to run and flee…
Rahab surely was what some would call a ‘soiled dove’, a woman of wrong career decisions. But just a few days ago, she had made a daring decision that would impact her family for generations to come: Two strangers showed up to lodge in her house. They were peculiar looking fellows with unusual hair styles and foreign clothes. Even though they tried to act inconspicuously, Rahab knew immediately who they were: spies of the invading force from the southeastern desert. The market place was teeming with rumors about these mysterious people – they walked with fire and commanded even the waters! The whole city was in an uproar bordering on panic, the guards checked all defenses – not that the massive walls had ever been breached!
Rahab had noticed she wasn’t the only one who scrutinized the strangers. After they had wolfed down her simple bar food as if they’ve never had a prepared meal, she carefully ushered them into the back room where she usually conducted her business. Her legs felt wobbly as she motioned them out the trap door onto the flat roof. Fully aware of the risk, she had decided to hide and help them. The deep, unsettling notion of fear that she hadn’t been able to shake off the last days had boiled to the surface and driven her to action. She had rolled her dice, and it felt like relief.
No sooner had she hidden her two guests under the stalks of drying flax and discreetly entered her small bar room again, that the door flew open. Two members of the King’s guard barged in. While they were questioning her about the strangers, she studiously kept her voice even. She hoped they wouldn’t notice her flushed cheeks and her racing heart. But they believed her lies and set off in pursuit, assuming the spies had escaped before the gates closed.
She slipped back onto the roof and found her visitors settling down for the night. Quickly she told them the plans of the guards, and recommended an alternate escape route. Then she took a deep breath. ‘I know who you are’, she said, looking them straight in the eye,’ and I have heard of your people and your protector’, and she confided her convictions to them. She bravely demanded that they spare her and her family when they would return with their army, since she had saved their lives. They agreed and promised that every one who would hide under her roof would be save when they came to take the city. The red silk scarf she provided to let them climb down the wall from her window would also serve to mark her house. And that was the last she had seen and heard of them – until now.
A loud bang on the door seemed to echo like thunder through the silence after the fighting. Her mom shrieked and her youngest sister couldn’t suppress a sob. With shaky fingers Rahab opened the door. Surely the promise of the spies and the One whose name they came in was faithful..?
In the street stood a number of men, one of them she recognized as the visitor she had saved. ‘Peace! You are safe’, he greeted her in his strange accent. ‘Lead your family out to follow us to our camp. This city is no more.’
Looking back years later, Rahab, the dark stain of the family, marveled that she would have never anticipated living an entirely new life in the midst of this unusual people under the One she had acknowledged as ruler of heaven and earthly powers – nor falling in love and becoming the respected wife to such an admirable man, Salmon. Nor did she know then that her son Obed would be one of the main figures in the wonderful story that is written down in the book called ‘Ruth’. Or that her grandson would father a king, called David, king of Judah.
Nor would she have ever dreamed that generations down her grand grand…child Joseph would be the earthly father of a child called Jesus.
This all happened to the woman who took heart and stepped out of the rubble of Jericho.
Merry Christmas to all of us Rahabs!
Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5