April 4, 2014
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely (rendered innocent) by His grace through the redemption (the ransom was paid in full!) that came by Jesus Christ.”
Romans 3: 23, 24
New International Version
“How God Treats Sinners Who Don’t Know Him.”
“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.”
New International Version
“We evaluate others with a godlike justice, but we want them to evaluate us with godlike compassion.”
“We need not be too strict in seeing –
The failings of a fellow being.”
Her name was Rahab, meaning proud. Her country of origin was the land of Canaan. Her home was perched on the wall of the city of Jericho. Her occupation was a prostitute.
From the outside looking in she could easily have been labeled a “heathen harlot.” But as we will see, from God’s perspective Rahab was a girl with a heart of gold and a soul to save.
Rahab is first introduced in the book of Joshua in Chapter 2. Two spies from Shittim were sent by Joshua, to “look over the land, especially Jericho.” The Bible says the spies “entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there” (Joshua 2:1, New International Version). Now before we think this was some slimy visit to a house filled with “fallen women,” a cultural lesson is in order. In the Old Testament there are two types of prostitution that are described. One form had to do with sex acts that were engaged in as a form of worship to pagan fertility gods. The other form of prostitution involved a commercial element. Archaeologists have discovered in their excavative work that both drinking establishments (what we might call bars or clubs) as well as inns (which we might call motels or hotels) were places where it was common to be offered sexual services. In fact, it was quite likely to go to an “inn” at that time and find that a warm body was made available as part of routine services. So here you have two out-of-town guys, spies no less, coming into Jericho, seeking a place to stay overnight. It is quite likely someone said, “Oh, yes, try Rahab’s place. She runs a great little inn.” Obviously, word spread quite fast that two out-of-towners were snooping around, for Joshua 2:2, 3, N.I.V. gives us this information: “The king of Jericho is told, ‘Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land. So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab, ‘Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.’”
At this moment in time, Rahab the harlot had a decision to make. This woman who from outward appearance looked like a “heathen,” showed her heart was that of a “believer” in the true God. For rather than betray the spies, she put her life on the line for them. Some say she cooked-up a pretty good lie to get the king to go on a wild goose chase after the men. I have a little different perspective. Rahab did at that moment only what she’d done many times before – she protected the people in her care. God’s standard of behavior didn’t change. Lying is not one of the qualities present in the people entering God’s kingdom. However, at that moment, this foreigner – this heathen – this prostitute – did for God the best she knew how. She put her life on the line for His children.
Later, after hiding the men on her roof, she let them down over the wall of the city and gave them specific instructions regarding their safety. Then she asked for a favor. She asked for the same protection for herself and her family that she had given to the men who came to her for help. The spies promised Rahab that anyone in her home at the time of the destruction of Jericho would come under God’s protective care. But they told her to tie a scarlet cord in her window as a sign – the same cord she had used to give safe flight to the spies.
There are three important character traits we see in the life of Rahab:
1) She believed in God (had faith) when those around her did not.
2) She acted for God when those around her defied Him.
3) She longed for herself and her family to be part of God’s family rather than the world she was living in.
The bottom line is that this heathen woman, who from outward appearance looked like a non-believer, had within her the faith, action and compassion of a believer. And how did God treat this prostitute – this sinner? Like He does every one of His children who believe in Him. He not only accepted her, He protected her and her entire family. The great news is that God treats every sinner the way He did Rahab. He loves us, accepts us, wraps His arms around us, and brings us into His family. For we find that when Jesus came to earth, His family tree included Rahab the heathen harlot who became part of the family of God.
What a lesson this story contains for you and me. Outward appearance can be a poor indicator of inward belief. God didn’t judge Rahab by her job, her religion, her nationality, or her behavior.
I love this beautiful story related by Martin Buber:
“An old rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun.
‘Could it be,’ asked one student, ‘when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it’s a sheep or a dog?’
‘No,’ answered the rabbi.
Another asked, ‘Is it when you can look at a tree and in the distance tell whether it’s a fig tree or peach tree?’
‘No,’ answered the rabbi.
‘Then what is it?’ the pupils demanded.
‘It is when you can look on the face of any woman or man and see that it is your sister or brother. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night.’”
May the light of God’s accepting love fill your heart and mine today. And may we extend to those we meet the same love God has given to us, for “while we were yet sinners,” He gave His Son to bring us back into His family, too.
I’m a big fan of author Jane Austen, and while she is known for many English novels, this beautiful prayer is so appropriate as we consider how we treat those we meet in our lives: “Incline us, O God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves.”
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
“We pray that we shall never be so blind
That our small world is all the world we see
Or so supremely satisfied that all we are
Is all we feel we want to be.
God grant us the joy of filling someone’s need.
Make us gracious followers if we were not meant to lead,
And more than all, we pray on through the years,
We will remember there are always new frontiers.”
“Welcome with open arms (she) whose faith is weak. Don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with – even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”
New International Version
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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