This advent, I am posting about the women of advent- the women who waited with longing and expectation for what they could not see or understand. Last week I wrote about Leah and her abiding hope. If you missed it, scroll down and you can catch up.
The second candle on the advent wreath is sometimes called the “peace” or the “prophecy” candle. The readings for the second week of advent usually have to do with prophecies throughout the Old Testament that were specifically fulfilled in Christ’s coming, focusing on how we can trust God to fulfill his promises and the peace that comes with that understanding. So, of course, I’ve decided to focus this week on the story of a woman whose Biblical history centers on a time of war (not peace), and who was likely unfamiliar with Jewish prophecies as she was not actually Jewish.
Rahab is one of the more fascinating women in the Biblical narrative. Her defining characteristic when she is first introduced (Joshua 2:1) is that she is a prostitute. She likely had a house conveniently located on the outskirts of the city, near the wall, because of the type of business she had. Perhaps that is why our two Jewish spies end up in her house- because of its convenient location near the wall. Maybe there were shadier things going on. Maybe she rented her rooms by the hour and that was all they needed. We don’t know why they ended up at Rahab’s place, just that they did.
But Rahab, the lowest of the low, used and abused by those around her and with nothing to lose, lied and bargained to demonstrate her faith in a God she did not know. Rahab was not Jewish, but word had likely reached her of this strange nomadic people on her doorstep. There must have been legends of some of the strange and miraculous things that had happened to these people and the God they claimed to follow, because Rahab says to the spies,
I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
Rahab says that “we” have heard, and that fear has fallen on “us”, but you don’t find other residents of Jericho tripping over themselves to find the spies and ask for mercy. The stories were not enough to work on the hearts and faith of Rahab’s neighbors, but God used them to work in her heart, to grow her faith in a God she had only heard rumors of, until she could say with confidence,”For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
While I don’t fully understand the morality of lying to help the Israelites, it is clear that God blessed Rahab for the risk she took in saving them. The story goes on and Rahab and her family are saved by this act of faith and sacrifice (Joshua 6), while her new People “…devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” The God of Peace doesn’t work in ways that I understand, and this passing account of a genocide raises more questions than answers for me.
So why focus on Rahab during the season of Advent? First, because Rahab is the ultimate reminder that God dwells in the unexpected. In the home and heart of a prostitute, in the parting of the Red Sea, in a helpless newborn in a manger. God doesn’t just smile down on the downtrodden and outcast and weak, though. He builds his redemptive narrative in them. In Hebrews 11:31, we see Rahab’s faith acclaimed, even with a reminder of her occupation:
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Rahab, by faith, was adopted into the Jewish people, even as far as being adopted into the family line of Christ. In fact, she is one of only four women listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ (Leah, from last week, didn’t even get that distinction). Rahab believed in a future she could not see or touch or plan, and she was willing to bet it all on a God she had only heard whispers of. Rahab lived Advent.
Rahab was all-in with God being able to redeem her, and He did. Are you?
I pray that this week, as we inch closer and closer to Christmas, you would remember the faith of Rahab in a God she didn’t know or understand. I pray that you would have peace in the reminder that God fulfills his promises, just as he did to Rahab, just as he did in Christ, just as he is doing today. And I pray that you would look for the downtrodden and desolate and outcast (maybe that’s even you today) and remember how God used Rahab.
Peace be with you this second week of Advent.