By Melissa Holmquist
We all love stories don’t we? Just look at how many versions of the movie Cinderella have been made. Why? We love that story! We’ve all felt like Cinderella – unfairly treated, overworked, under-appreciated, abused, ignored, scorned. And then, POOF, bibbity-bobbity-boo, her fairy godmother appears out of nowhere and her life is changed forever! She becomes the princess.
As much as I love fairytales, my favorite stories are the true stories of people’s lives. We all have a story to tell: the story of our lives from the day we were born until today. And because you are sitting here reading this, still breathing, I know that your story is not over yet. The final chapter has not been written.
The Bible is full of stories of women just like you and me. Women who faced barrenness; women who faced the death of a loved one; women who were married to a man that did not love them; women who had a “past”. One of those women is briefly mentioned in several places in the Bible and although she is not among the Esthers and Marys and Sarahs that are so often talked about and who we are urged to model our lives after, she is a woman who was changed forever because of her encounter with God. Her name is Rahab.
The Israelites had been traveling a little more than two years (Num 9:1) when the Lord told Moses to send 12 men to spy out the land of Canaan. The men came back with amazing stories of the land that truly did flow with milk and honey. But they also came back with stories of strong people – walled cities and giants! This news, of course, threw the people into complete pandemonium. Imagine the sheer chaos. The Bible tells us there were 600,000 footmen, so we can assume these were men of the age to fight in battle. (Num 13). Adding in the women and children would put it well over 1 million people panicking over this news. Two of the men, Caleb and Joshua, tried to calm the people and remind them what God had promised them – He would give them the land of Canaan! But nothing would calm them. God’s judgment on their unbelief was to lead them back out into the wilderness for forty years until that generation of adults was gone. Only Caleb and Joshua would remain alive.
The thing that always amazes me about God is His provision and blessing in the midst of trial, temptation, and discipline. Here He was disciplining the Israelites for their unbelief, and it was hard wandering around in the wilderness for forty years waiting for the last one of that generation to die so they could go up to the promised land. But in the midst of that, God does yet another miracle for these stubborn hard-headed people. Deuteronomy tells us two times that neither their clothes nor their shoes wore out in those forty years. I am sure some of the more fashion conscious women were wishing their clothes would wear out so they could get some new ones! But seriously, think about it! Knowing that brings a whole new light to the passage on worrying in Matthew 6:25-34.
Finally the forty years pass and the people are ready to obey the Lord and take possession of the land flowing with milk and honey (Josh. 1-2). At this point, Joshua is their leader. Moses had passed on. Joshua sends two men to spy out the land. I find it ironic that he sends out two instead of twelve. Remember forty years ago, twelve went out but only two came back believing the promises of God. The other ten turned the whole encampment away from obeying God.
These two men were shrewd. They headed straight for Rahab’s house, one of the local prostitutes in Jericho. They weren’t quite as secretive as they thought though, because word got back to the king that these Israelites had sneaked into the city. He sent word to Rahab to hand over these two men to the king. Rahab lies and says they left the city and encourages the king’s men to go after them quickly to overtake them. All the while, the two men are hiding on her roof under stalks of flax. I googled a picture of stalks of flax and it is very possible for two men to hide under them and not be noticed.
“Coincidentally” the king’s men headed out to pursue the Israeli men just before the city gate closed for the night. Rahab had time to help the Israelite spies make their escape before their pursuers returned. The Bible records her conversation with them before she helped them escape. She tells the men, “I know the Lord has given you the land.” She tells them how the people of Jericho heard the story of how the Lord dried up the Red Sea and after hearing that, “our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above and in earth beneath” (Josh. 2:11).
Wait just a minute! Are you remembering that this incident of God drying up the Red Sea happened at least 42 years before her conversation with these men? The Bible does not tell us how old Rahab is at this time. Technically, the Red Sea could have happened before she was even born. Has there been an event in history that happened 42 years ago that continues to impact your community to the point that every man’s heart turns to jelly? Just let the historical facts sink in for a moment. She not only mentioned the Red Sea crossing but the utter destruction Israel brought to King Sihon and King Og.
Apparently while the Israelites were busy complaining about not having variety in their diet, the surrounding nations were tracking their every move based on the miracles God was performing. While the Israelites were crying that they were going to die even though God saved them at every turn, the pagan nations were recognizing the Lord as God in heaven above and in earth beneath!
Has that happened to you? Have you become so obsessed about the little details in your life that aren’t turning out the way you would like that you are missing the awesome miracles God is performing in your life? If you are breathing right now, you have been given the miracle of life. If you are reading this post, you have been given the miracle of eyes and a brain that function the way God intended them to. Look back over your life and trace the hand of God at every turn. Don’t wait for the unbelieving world to point out your God to you.
Obviously, Rahab truly believes that God will destroy the city of Jericho based on His past performances, because she begs the men to save her and her family alive. The men promise that anyone in her family who waits in her house, which was built into the outside wall by the way, would be saved. She would also have to leave the scarlet cord she let them out the window by, hanging from her window. If she did not follow these two instructions, she would not be saved. Ladies, I am hear to tell you she followed their instructions exactly! She bound that scarlet cord in her window immediately. And it hung there 16 days or more until those city walls came down and she was saved.
The spies had not given her a day and a time, they simply said, have your family in your house and the scarlet cord hanging from your window. How many of us would have done that? After a week we may have started doubting and reasoning our way of it. “I mean, it has been a week and nothing! And I am really tired of my neighbors asking me about the scarlet cord hanging out my window. What was I thinking? This whole thing is crazy! I am just going to forget about it!”
God’s timing is not our timing, and oh, how we love to use that phrase on someone else but choose not to believe it for ourselves.
The day arrived and God told Joshua that He was giving Jericho into his hands. We know the people of Jericho believed it because Joshua 6:1 tells us that the city was shut up and no one went out or came in. Can you just imagine them living in complete terror and fear of what would happen to them and when it would happen? Chapter 6 of Joshua lays out the process God took the Israelites through to conquer Jericho. For six days they were to walk in a certain order around the city without saying a word and then go home. It would appear that at this point the Israelites were trusting God no matter how crazy the plan seemed. No one botched this one up with a war cry at the wrong time! On the seventh day, God gave new instructions. They were to circle the city seven times. Six times silently as before and on the seventh time around, the priests were told to blow their trumpets and the people to “shout, for the Lord has given you the city” (Josh. 6:16). The next verse reminds the people that the only ones who were to be kept alive in the attack were Rahab and all that were in the house with her. After every living thing had been destroyed in the city, Joshua sent the two spies to rescue Rahab and her family. Joshua 6:23 tells us that her entire family was saved that day. Her faith impacted all of them! Verse 25 tells us that Rahab joined with the Israelites and stayed with them.
Her story and the impact of her faith do not end with her miracle rescue. Matthew 1 sheds more light on what her future held. She married an Israelite man named Salmon. The Bible does not specifically tell us he was one of the two spies she helped but tradition does. One of their sons was Boaz. We meet him in the book of Ruth. Rahab was the great-great-grandmother of King David. The Bible tells us that Jesus, the Son of God came through the family line of King David. What an honor was bestowed upon her to be a part of the family line of Jesus! She is one of a few women even mentioned in the genealogies. This tells me that God values women. She was born in a time in history when women were not valued by society, but God makes a point to put her story in the Bible for all of us to read and learn from.
One last amazing thing about her life is her daughter-in-law Ruth. Ruth was a foreigner also, but that did not turn Boaz away from her. He recognized that she had submitted her life to the one, true God and that was all that mattered to him. I like to think that because his own mother was a foreigner he had an understanding and ability to love and accept Ruth for who she was in spite of her background. The book of Ruth tells us again the value God places on women. He wrote a whole book on a woman, two actually, Ruth and Esther.
What is your story? How has God impacted your life? Are you sharing that with others? Perhaps you have not yet recognized God in your life. He created you (Gen. 1:27); He loves you (I John 4:19); He is pursuing you (John 10:10). Take some time to reflect and trace the hand of God through your life. Give Him thanks and then go share your story with someone else. Your story is not over yet!