This Advent meditation is part of the Liberti Church 2019 Advent and Christmas Prayerbook, and it is by Amanda Mahnke.
Growing up, I was always intrigued by the story of Rahab. As a tween and teen, it was somewhat perplexing to me that the Bible celebrated this woman as righteous for lying to protect the Israelite spies. Given Rahab’s less-than-reputable profession —and a wealth of biblical heroes who did far worse than she — I’m not sure why the deceit was my biggest hangup. I do know, though, that ruminating on Rahab’s story was an important step in my journey toward a less black-and-white, judgmental kind of faith.
The story of Rahab begins as Joshua and his army are preparing to destroy the Canaanite city of Jericho as an offering to the Lord. In an act of treason, Rahab hides the enemy spies and lies to her own government officials regarding their whereabouts. We have no real way of knowing why she does this. What we do know is that, somehow, this Canaanite prostitute has heard about the miracles of the Israelite God, and she has believed.
She boldly strikes a bargain: the promise of protection for her and her family in exchange for her protection of the spies. The spies agree, but only if Rahab places a crimson cord in her window, so the Israelite army knows to pass over her house during the impending invasion.
We have to wait four whole chapters to hear the end of this story, but it’s a happy one — at least for one family in Jericho. Rahab completes her task, the Israelites make good on their promise, and her family is spared.
Rahab had no right to this happy ending. According to God’s instructions for the conquest of the Promised Land, all Canaanite people were to be destroyed — without exception. Rahab was part of an enemy city earmarked for judgement.
So too, are we. Like Rahab, we have no rightful claim to the salvation of God. We are not the Israelites who saw God’s miracles during the Exodus — but, like Rahab, we’ve heard about it, and have chosen to believe. We, too, are like Canaanites who hope to live, not die — but we fall short of God’s vision for our humanity, and are due for judgement. We are entirely at His mercy.
For Rahab, mercy comes in the form of a crimson cord, hung in her window. The crimson cord informs the Israelite army to pass over her home, just as the crimson lamb’s blood the Israelites painted onto their door frames in Egypt informed God to pass over theirs, sparing their firstborn. Both scenes point to the larger redemption: the saving power of the crimson blood of Jesus, the Risen Lamb, by which we ourselves are saved.
The Israelite spies fulfill their promise to Rahab; her family is spared. But the Lord’s mercy extends beyond what Rahab has requested. This woman — a non-Jew, a prostitute, and a societal outcast — is apparently welcomed into the Israelite community after her conversion, and “lives among the Israelites to this day.” And according to Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew, not only does Rahab find acceptance in this new society of God’s people; she also marries into a leading family of Israel, and has the honor of being a blood ancestor of Christ.
As a tween, I questioned how Rahab could be considered righteous. Now, I see the beauty in this. Rahab’s story was full of dishonesty and disrepute; but though she was walking in darkness, she saw a great light. God spared her, redeemed her, and gave her so much more than she could imagine — or deserved. So too, with us. Now, because of Jesus, Rahab’s story is the story of all God’s people: liars and outcasts, made right and brought home. And so, we rejoice.
About the Author: Amanda is a lifelong Pennsylvanian. She lives in the Brewerytown neighborhood of Philadelphia with two dying houseplants, and loves traveling, eating, and procrastination. She’s been attending Liberti for three years.
Art: David Schrott, Woman in Red