Friday, November 30, 2012

Rahab: Beauty for Ashes

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.  (Heb 11:31)

I've always felt kind of sorry for Rahab because she is forever saddled with the moniker, "the prostitute".  Talk about not being able to live down your past.  But she's actually a pretty inspiring person.

If you're not familiar with her story, you can find it in Joshua 2.  The Israelites sent spies into Jericho to check things out before attacking, and Rahab hid them and snuck them out of the city.  Her reason?

She tells the spies that everyone is in great fear of the Israelites because they've heard of the miracles God did for them to bring them out of Egypt and into Palestine.  And she, Rahab, is convinced that "the Lord has given you this land . . . for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below."  Interesting that everyone in Jericho was afraid of this God, but only she switched sides.  Only she had enough of an inkling of who the Lord their God really was to be willing to submit to that God's will.  Nothing but an inkling, perhaps, but it was enough, and she acted on it.

I was really struck by the fact that she referred to him as "the Lord your God."  He's your God.  He's clearly greater than my God, but he's not my God.  However, her name appears in the geneology of Christ as the mother of Boaz, so apparently she made her home with the Israelites after this and, presumably, did the Ruth thing: "Your people will be my people; your God my God."  Interesting enough, three of the four women mentioned in the Matthew 1 geneology (Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba) were known for their immorality -- specifically their sexual immorality.

Personally, I find it encouraging that God can take someone from a place of ugly sin and use them for his kingdom.  We don't even have any certain record in the Bible that these women really turned their lives around or anything, although I think most theologians presume that they did.  But maybe they didn't.  God still used them -- how much more can he use a broken me when I do allow him to turn my life around?  But in any case, God intentionally wanted the names of these overtly sinful women included in the human geneology of his Son.  He wanted us to see how he can create beauty from ashes.

That phrase is Biblical, too -- from Isaiah 61, the passage that Jesus read in the temple to announce his purpose for coming to earth:  to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Folks, we can never dig ourselves into a pit too deep for God to pull us out.

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