January 2013 - Heroes of Faith

Heroes of Faith.  Week 2.  Rahab.
Joshua chapter 2 and 6.

Family:  Rahab’s Grandson was Boaz (Book of Ruth)  Rahab’s Great Great Grandson was King David
Lived:  Jericho
Occupation:  Prostitute and Inn-Keeper
Let’s set the scene.  The people, led by Joshua are on the verge of the promised land.  It’s a momentous time in the history of Gods people.  This is the point to which their whole journey has been leading.  Since God called them out of Egypt they have been working towards this day, undergoing trials and testing, refining, to make them fit to take hold of what God has given them. 
Joshua sends two spies in to check out the lie of the land.  The last lot of spies that went in failed miserably and Israel spent 40 years walking the wilderness as a result.  These two must get it right.
We read very simply that the spies went straight to the house of Rahab the prostitute. 
No of course the obvious question is why? 
Did they know her? 
Did they know she was sympathetic to their cause?
Or did they go for something else…?  We cannot know.
Rahab is found out.  The King becomes aware that she’s harbouring enemy spies and men are sent to capture them.  But Rahab lies and protects them. 

All good so far, just the sort of hero of faith you’d expect – a deceitful prostitute. 

Q: At the very start of the story we’re faced with an unlikely person and for many of us we’re exposed to our natural inclination to judge others and discount their value in the purposes and plans of God.  How do you respond to this?  How quickly does the natural tendency to judge appear?
Rahab offers the spies shelter in return for them sparing her and her family when the city finally falls.  It seems that she knows more about them than they do about her? 
It’s worth pausing here. Her insight is remarkable. 
She has understood the desire of God to give the promised land to his people.
She has seen Israels recent history unfold and she has correctly identified that it is God who is behind their success.  She has correctly interpreted the human in the light of the divine. 
Just a few centuries later the Prophet Isaiah would rebuke Gods people for their failure to do this, for their failure to see written in and through and behind the events of this world, the hand of the creator and sustainer of all. 
It seems, as we read scripture, that sometimes the most unlikely people see with clarity the ways in which God is at work in the world.
People who may be unacceptable, unclean, outcast, mired in sin and definitely not ‘the right sort’ – see and understand God at work in ways which those who ought to sometimes don’t.  I raise this because it’s a corrective to spiritual pride, that great sin of the Pharisees.  The pride that says our status as those on the inside, those in the loop with the Lord, know and see.  And that those who we don’t think are in the loop don’t and can’t.   It’s just not the case.   People of all classes, cultures, lifetsyles (yes even those we might disagree with) are people to whom God reveals himself and his ways. 
Q:  Have you experienced this?  If so what did it teach you?  If not, do you think you would be open to such an experience or would you preconceptions make it impossible? 

An interesting exercise might be to think of the sort of person on whom you’d frown the most, and think about how you’d respond if they spoke to you of the things of God.

So, Rahab protects the spies.  The armies of Joshua assembly outside of Jericho, the trumpet sounds and the walls crash down.  The Lord gives Jericho into the hands of the Jews as he promised, and as Rahab knew he would. 
The spies go to Rahab’s house.  They find her and her family and ensure that they are not harmed as the city of Jericho is raised to the ground. 
You see Rahab plays a part in the most important event in the life of Israel after their escape from Egypt.  Her actions allow the people to take the promised land and claim their inheritance.  It’s not as though she plays a minor role in a small event, she plays a pivotal role in a key event as God brings his purposes to completion.
As we move forward to Joshua ch6 we read a final reference to Rahab.  We are told that she lives among the Israelites to this day.  Did she keep up the old profession?  Well it seems not as we learn that Rahab married Salmon and began a family.
Rahab made her home with the people of God.  As she saw and interpreted and understood what God was doing in the world through his people Israel, she came to the conclusion that “The Lord your God is the God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
She sees, she interprets, she professes. 
This story reminds us that God is a missional God.  A God who is not parochial, a God who is not concerned only with a certain subsection of the community.  The story reminds us that from the very beginning God welcomes to himself anyone who will see, interpret, and respond to him.  His invitation to draw close to him and worship him isn’t confined and narrow, but is wide and generous.  And people of all sorts can find a home with him. 
Q:  Again, how does this make you feel?  Does it make you uncomfortable to think that the Lord welcomes even those who we wouldn’t choose to welcome? 
As a church, or as a housegroup, how open are you to those people?  The ones who don’t fit for whatever reason, cultural, social, or behavioral?
Later in the scriptures in Hebrews 11 Rahab is praised for her faith.  She is a name on an impressive and important list.  She is commended for responding to the God in heaven above and on the earth below.  She is commended for allowing her recognition of the Lord to translate into action as she played a willing role in one of the most important events of the Old Testament – the taking of the promised land. 
She’s an unlikely heroine, but her story tells us something important about God, about our attitude to others, and ourselves. 
It tells us that God is able to use the most unlikely people.
It tells us that the most unlikely people are able to see and respond to God at work
It tells us that our attitude towards others is often far harsher than that of God.
It tells us that even with our own shortcomings and failings we are still called to play a part in the mission of God.

Simon Butler, 10/01/2013