Have you lived long enough to understand how a tiny, everyday decision can have a life changing effect? Sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. When it is bad we talk of of the 'law of unintended consequences'. When it is good we look back and say 'That was God'.
The singer Jewel has a song called 'I Do' and one line observes:"Life can take a long time if you make the wrong choice." We can repent, but we still have to walk it out. Forgiveness is about the vertical, how God loves us and forgives us. But the other component is the horizontal, the consequence, the impact of our decisions. We can be forgiven of the sin in the vertical, but the injury in the horizontal must be lived to its conclusion - redemption or destruction.
And sometimes we look at a situation and access it properly, understanding the time and season, and are waiting for our chance.
The Moabite woman named Rahab was just such a person, in such a time
The whole of the newly formed Israeli nation was a short distance from her home on the inner wall of Jericho. Joshua sent 2 spies to gain intelligence for the upcoming battle. They stayed at Rahab's.
The Hebrew word translated here as 'harlot' or 'prostitute' is 'zonah', which can be translated 'innkeeper', and there is little doubt that was one element of why the 2 spies spent the night there. But both Hebrews and James* call her a 'harlot' or 'prostitute' and the Greek has no variability in its meaning:She was a prostitute. In her inn keeping duties it seems she picked up a cash on the side. *Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25
When a lie is honored
But the New Testament tells us she had great faith in the God of Israel, and it was counted to her for righteousness. And she was very brave. She lied to the authorities when she hid the 2 spies, and made them promise that she and her household would be spared.
Let me take a side-trip here to talk of her lie. The king of Jericho asked in Joshua 2:3-4 for her to turn over the spies, but she told him they were no longer there and she didn't know where they went, when in fact she had hidden them inside.
In Exodus 1:15-21 we see 2 Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, being told by Pharaoh to kill all the male newborns by throwing them in the river. They feared God more than Pharaoh so they disobeyed. When called before Pharaoh they lied, saying the Jewish women gave birth faster than the Egyptian women. Verses 20-21 tells us God blessed them for their actions and gave them each families, or 'gave them houses' (families).
In both cases the people involved obeyed God rather than man, for the 'royal law' of God outweighs man's law. Similar behavior can be seen in the hiding and rescue of Jews from the Nazi's of World War 2. I've visited both the home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam and the home of Corrie ten Boom in nearby Haarlem many times, and am amazed at God's grace in those difficult times.
Deception and lying were required to protect the people from the Nazis. Stories all over Europe of heroes helping the Jews are told of falsified documents, and even fake health reports, all with the more honorable intent of saving lives against unjust and ungodly laws that would have all the Jewish people murdered.
This isn't intended to be a full study of the topic, just food for thought. Back to our story...
The taking of Jericho, the saving of Rahab
You know the story, how Joshua circled the city, the walls fell, and Rahab and family were saved because she hung a red 'cord of redemption' out her window to identify her home for the conquering army.
Matthew 1:5 tells us a man named Salmon married Rahab in a wonderful story of redemption. Some speculate he was one of the 2 spies that stayed with her, seeing her heart, her potential, her bravery. We don't know, but we do know Salmon and Rahab married and she had a son named Boaz.
It was this Boaz who met a beggar woman, a widow named Ruth who was from Moab, the same area where his mother was from. Ruth was under the tutelage of Naomi, herself widowed, and Naomi encouraged Ruth to do something quite remarkable for her day:She told her to propose to Boaz rather than waiting for him to get around to it.
In Ruth 3:1-11 we find Naomi tells Ruth to wait until Boaz is asleep, then lay down at his feet and put his clothing over her. Today in Judaism there are variations of this. One is for the groom to cover his bride with a cloth, and another is to have both bride and groom wrapped around their shoulders binding them together with a prayer shawl, a tallit. In ancient days the groom would throw his robe over his wife, symbolizing their unity and that he is now her 'covering'.
By instructing Ruth to lay at the feet of Boaz and cover herself with his clothing, she was proposing to him. This is confirmed when Boaz reacts in v11:"Fear not, I will do all you ask..." This means Rahab became Ruth's mother in law - how wonderful of the Lord to give this godly widow a new husband, and more than that, a mother in law from her homeland!
Boaz and Ruth went on to have a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David. David's great grandmother was Ruth, his great-great grandmother was Rahab.
Who would have known when the prostitute name Rahab sized up the situation, believed in the God of Israel, protected the spies, and married into the family of Israel, that she would be the great great grandmother to David, and therefore in the lineage of Jesus? Who would have known? The law of unintended consequences - for the good.
What we see in the lives of Rahab, Naomi and Ruth, is that in spite of the difficult circumstances each did the right thing. The moral thing. The results of doing things the right way in the midst of difficult and even life-threatening circumstances, was life. God was able to weave together all the happenings into something beautiful.
What we see in this story is God's ability to change a prostitute's life and to honor her by being in the lineage of the savior. We see the Lord being gracious to a grieving widow in a strange land, giving her a husband, and mother in law from her home country. We see the Lord weaving the events of multiple lives over decades to bring His will to pass on the earth. He is doing the same in our lives, among our loved ones. Trust Him. Trust amazing grace!
Our last example next week, until then, blessings,
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