Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I gotta step outside these walls

[These Walls, Teddy Geiger]

Last night I was reading in Hebrews 11 in my quiet time. Something jumped out at me; I'm not sure why I've never noticed, nor had this pointed out to me before, but only two women are mentioned in this book referring to heroes of the faith from the Old Testament. Now, a quick tangent- some might say this is evidence that God hates women, or even that the Bible was crafted by men and not God and those men left out the women out of spite... in both cases, people are wrong. God loves women every bit as much as He loves men. In this case He handpicked few in general to be spoken of, and two women happened to show enough faith to be chosen for this chapter.

The two women are Sarah (Abraham's wife; mother of Isaac and first matriarch of the people of Israel) and Rahab (prostitute in Jericho who helped Joshua's spies and thus was saved when the city was sieged by the Israelites; read the first 7 or so chapters of Joshua for her story).

I was particularly struck that Rahab is mentioned. Rahab is a woman of the Bible who is dear to my heart. She was, seemingly, beyond redemption. She was a prostitute! Biblically speaking some of God's harshest moments of rebuke are when He likens the people of Israel to an adulterer prostituting herself to other gods. Ezekiel 16 in particular is heartwrenching, especially when one (I) applies it to her own life and sees how wretched and naked she is before her God.

The point here, however, is that prostitution is often listed amongst the most vile sins (not that any one sin is worse than another, mind you; rather these are sins that carry the most destructive consequences). Rahab is even referred to as "Rahab the harlot" almost with ease. It was so much a part of who she was that her occupation was essentially her surname.

And yet God, in His infinite wisdom, handpicked this broken and battered woman, from the lowest of lows, to not only join in the victory of Israel over Jericho, but so much more- Rahab is in the lineage of Christ. Rahab married a man named Salmon and they had a son named Boaz; he and his wife, Ruth, (more on them in a moment), had a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse. Jesse was the father of a name anyone- even non-Christians- would recognize; Jesse's most famous son was a Goliath-conquering boy who would one day become the great King David. David, of course, was of the tribe of Judah; Jesus Christ's lineage can directly be traced back to David himself, and, thus, Rahab.

A prostitute- and gentile, no less- chosen to be part of the lineage of the Messiah? God's ways are higher than ours, certainly. He uses the base things of this world, that which human wisdom rejects as worthless, frequently to bring about His best work. Speech impedimented Moses. Young Samuel... Isaiah... Timothy. Christian-hunting Saul (to become Paul). Abraham and Sarah, who laughed when God said they would have a baby in their elderly years (certainly post-menopause). Esther, a mere virgin girl whose beauty enraptured a king, and thus she saved the nation of Israel. Peter, whose foot seemed to be in his mouth more often than it was walking with God. Rahab, the prostitute. Harlot. Sinner. Chosen to be in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Messiah of the Jews and the gentiles.

If you've never read the Book of Ruth, do so; and don't make excuses, because it's short. It's one of my favorite passages in all of scripture. It's a beautiful story of courage in tragedy, loyalty, purity, honesty, and faith. Boaz, in particular, sets the bar high with qualities I pray my own husband one day would possess. He's generous, kind, fair, loving, and quietly fights fiercely to make Ruth his bride. One might venture to say that a man of his integrity and valor must have come from good stock; indeed, his mother was Rahab. A great theme in the story of Ruth and Boaz is one of his doing all he can to be her kinsman redeemer. Redemption. It seems to be written deep upon his heart. Again, how could it not be? His mother was Rahab.

His mother was Rahab.

Seemingly, she wasn't just redeemed in that one moment when the walls of Jericho crashed down; she stepped beyond them, outside into a new world in which she lived out her redemption. Her son attests to that.

And then she is mentioned as a hero of faith in Hebrews 11. Even David himself is merely named in a list of faithful men; Rahab gets an entire verse (the thirty-first).

It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute did not die with all the others in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
I pray I would be like Rahab- that I would walk in my redemption and let it be a testimony to all in my life. God's anger at my sin lasts but a moment, but His favor for a lifetime (Psalm 30:5). A lifetime! And He blesses thousands of generations due to faithfulness (multiple passages). I pray I would be molded into a woman like Rahab; you can safely assume her husband and son (Salmon and Boaz) rose up to call her blessed (Proverbs 31:28).