She lived alone.
I'm not really sure what that meant in her city during those days.
Was she a pariah? An outcast?
I mean, probably.
She was a prostitute.
Maybe it was for religious purposes -- a cult prostitute.
Maybe she was poor.
Maybe she was trying to provide for herself. Maybe her parents were elderly and could no longer work. Maybe they had no income.
Maybe she hadn't meant it to be this way, not forever -- but one thing led to another and this was the only life she knew.
She had her own house. Maybe she was classy. Maybe she wasn't.
But this was her life.
Her name was Rahab.
They had all heard the rumors.
Israel was coming.
This ragtag mass of former slaves had suddenly and unexpectedly arisen out of the dust of Canaan, and they were on a rampage.
They were slaughtering Jericho's neighbors and enemies alike.
Israel had victory wherever they went.
And the rumors rose up like desert sand and swirled around them:
Jericho was next.
Some people said, Don't believe everything you hear.
After all, they had heard that the God of the Israelites had parted the waters of the Red Sea, and that the people had walked across on dry land.
To be clear. The Red Sea was the largest body of water in the region, after the great Mediterranean itself.
They had heard that the pursuing Egyptians had been defeated by the walls of water crashing back down upon them.
They had heard of the utter obliteration Israel had wreaked upon two neighboring kingdoms.
The king of Jericho was probably quaking in his sandals, just a little.
Because they all knew the stories.
Rahab did, too.
And as the days went by, the people of Jericho knew it was only a matter of time before the crushing force of Israel and their mysterious God Whom no one knew arrived at their doorstep.
The clock was ticking.
You know, when someone says that something arrives at your doorstep, they are usually speaking metaphorically.
But for Rahab, that's actually what happened.
There was a knock on her door one night.
Maybe she thought it was a client. Who can say?
She opened the door.
Maybe they were trying to blend in, but their eyes said they were from out of town.
Maybe they knew who she was. Maybe not. But they asked if they could stay the night, and she said yes.
After all, there wasn't much more she could do to become more of an outcast than she already was.
I imagine the married women of Jericho looked askance at her. I imagine they avoided crossing paths with her.
I mean, why do we think she lived alone?
At any rate, she let them in. Prepared her spare room. Maybe she made them dinner.
She could sense it in the air. She could see it in their faces. She knew who they were.
So when she heard loud shouts, maybe soldiers yelling, Open in the name of the king! -- she wasn't that surprised.
She took them men up to the roof of her house and hid them among the stalks of flax that covered it. And there in the dark, under the stars, she spoke out. Took a chance.
She told them, I know who you are.
And we are afraid.
We have heard what the Lord has done for you. That He has given you the land. We have heard what you have done to our neighbors.
You see, for her, the God of Israel was not the mysterious force that no one knew.
He was mysterious, oh, yes.
But something about Him seemed different.
Maybe she was tired of her life in Jericho. Maybe she wanted to start fresh.
A new life.
But all we know is that she said to the two spies on her roof, When the Lord hands Jericho over to you, remember me and how I have rescued you. Remember me and my family, and rescue us as I have done for you.
You can almost hear the longing in her voice.
Something about the God of Israel appealed to her. Called to her.
Something about a new life.
The men swore to her. Their word of honor. As the Lord lives.
There was a knock on her door.
Actually, it was more like someone beating on the door.
She rushed downstairs and opened the door. Looked the messengers of the king in the face and said, "Yes, they were here, but I didn't know they were Israelites. And when it got dark, they left, and I don't know where they are now. But if you leave quickly, you should overtake them."
The messengers left in hot pursuit, and as soon as they had gone out, the gate was shut on them. But that's another story.
It was only a matter of time.
Rahab's house was built into the city wall, so she let the men down the wall through her window with a rope -- better to avoid detection, she said.
Before they left, one of them pressed a length of red cord into her hands.
"Tie this in your window when we come to destroy the city," they said.
Rahab noticed that they said when.
"When we come, make sure you get all your family into your house -- your parents, your brothers, the whole family."
It is not lost on me that Rahab had brothers, but there is no mention of sisters -- much like myself.
"If anyone leaves your house, his blood is on his own head. But if anyone who is with you in the house is slain, then his blood is on our heads."
"If you tell anyone this business of ours, you're on your own."
I imagine she could do nothing but nod.
And then they were gone.
I imagine she breathed hard for a few moments -- and then she took and tied the cord in the window.
We don't know how long she had to wait.
We don't know how long her neighbors were left wondering, Why does Rahab have that odd piece red rope in her window?
It doesn't match her curtains.
I imagine that she would occasionally pull on the red rope when no one was looking. Fingering the frayed edges. Pondering. Wondering.
And they did look like a ragtag bunch of slaves.
The people of Jericho had heard that their leader was an old man with a staff. But not so! This one was young.
His name was Joshua.
He didn't speak, nor did anyone with him.
There were seven priests, each carrying a trumpet made of ram's horn. They were walking in front of a group of priests that carried a large golden box.
A murmur went through the crowds of Jericho, perched high up on the wall.
They had heard about the golden box.
Israel called it the Ark of the Covenant.
It was where the power of their mysterious God was said to reside.
But the seat between the angels' wings looked empty.
And with no explanation, no word, the entire army of Israel...
began to walk around the city.
With Joshua and his armed men in front, the priests blew the trumpets. More armed men followed behind the Ark. But everyone was quiet.
And they were just... walking.
I imagine the people of Jericho held their breath.
But the army of Israel went around the city once -- and then went back to their camp.
And the next day? They did the same thing.
And the day after that.
And the day after that.
For six days they did this.
I imagine how the people of Jericho laughed and mocked and sneered.
I imagine that Rahab looked from her wall window in silence. Brow furrowed. Wondering if this was why she had put her life in danger.
Wondering if she had been a fool.
Wondering if there was anything to the stories, after all.
Resigning herself to the way her life had always been.
I imagine she turned away from the window with a sigh and went to open the door to another client.
And life went on in Jericho.
More of the same.
The trumpets blew. The people marched.
They seemed to march for longer this time. Seven times around the wall.
I wonder if Rahab had a premonition. Something that seemed a little crazy, but too persistent to ignore.
She went and got her parents. Her brothers. Her whole family. She brought them into her house, where the red cord was still hanging from the window.
I wonder if she told them why. If they laughed at her, if they believed her. If she made up an excuse for them to come over. If she cooked for them. If they waited in silence. If she locked the door.
A roar went up from outside the walls.
Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.
And the great wall of Jericho fell down flat.
Part of Rahab's house went with it.
There was pandemonium.
Still shouting, the army of Israel leapt over the rubble of the wall.
They were yelling bloody murder, and there was slaughter in the streets.
The cobblestones were stained red.
And Joshua turned to the two spies who had gone into Jericho and said, "Go get them."
So they did.
I wonder if Rahab had to look out the window to see the people who were at her door, to make sure they were safe.
But she knew those faces.
She flung the door wide. Ushered her family out.
And they walked into the streets of Jericho, their home, where their city was routed and their friends were dead. The pandemonium was horrifying. The chaos was deafening. There was death everywhere --
And they were not afraid.
There was no danger anymore.
She did not fear for her life. She practically had a military escort.
I imagine that when it was all over, she got to meet Joshua.
I wonder what he said to her. If he commended her for her bravery.
I wonder if she knew she and her family were the only inhabitants of Jericho to be saved alive.
A prostitute and her family. Everything else was destroyed, even the livestock. Nothing remained.
I wonder if Rahab knew she was the last of her people.
I don't think she cared, because she had renounced her people. She lived in Israel for the rest of her life.
She got to see them come into the Promised Land.
She got a new life. A new reputation.
She even got married. Her husband's name was Salmon (you can't make this stuff up, y'all).
She became a mother.
Her son's name was Boaz.
Boaz would go on to marry another non-Israelite woman, named Ruth.
Maybe he remembered the story of his mother and how God rescued her.
For I don't think it was lost on Rahab or Salmon or Joshua or Rahab's family or the spies or young Boaz or any of Israel that it was God who had saved Rahab.
Maybe Ruth (who has an entire book of the Bible named after her and her story) met her mother-in-law Rahab and saw herself in her, a little bit.
Ruth's son, Obed -- Rahab's grandson -- was the grandfather of David the King.
Yes. That David.
Rahab the prostitute from Jericho, last of the people whom God destroyed, was the ancestress of the greatest king Israel would ever know.
She was the ancestress of Messiah Himself.
Y'all, I promise you cannot make this stuff up.
The long-awaited rescuer of Israel and of the whole wide world came from an ignominious prostitute who came from the city God destroyed in the simplest of ways.
And God rescued her from her life and gave her a new one. A new reputation. A new home. A new place. A new God.
No one can tell me that God does not care about women.
No one can tell me that the long Judeo-Christian tradition undercuts women.
Because look at what God has done.
In an age when women were considered property, this woman -- who wasn't even Hebrew -- was led by God to make a risky decision that would change her life.
She was a player on the highest level. It's like something out of a spy thriller: spies and prostitutes and subversiveness. Because you may not believe me, but the Bible is nothing if not subversive.
It's the Story of a New World Order.
When everyone around her saw an ignominious woman to avoid, God rescued her and gave her a life of honor.
And she had a place of honor in the nation of Israel, the victors -- the very people who, by all human reckoning, should have scorned her.
She was brave and clever and wise and everything we want in a storybook heroine.
She did not doubt even when it seemed foolish to keep faith.
But she was a woman, and she was a prostitute, with absolutely the least amount of currency in a society that did not consider her a person.
And yet -- she was a key player in the subversive plan of God, both to destroy Jericho and to bring about the wonder of Messiah.
She was a prostitute, and she was also spy and leader and wife and mother and secret-keeper and, by the way, the ancestress of all the kings of Israel.
And of the Son of God, too.
And if anyone had told her that when she was living in Jericho, I doubt she would have believed them.
The least likely player got to be a turning point in the Greatest Story Ever Told.
And that's the New World Order, the world turned upside-down, flipped on its head so that we can see things through new eyes.
So that we can see that when we think it was impossible -- well, then, that's when God really gets going.
Everything has been inverted, and the old has gone, and the new has come.
A new home.
A new place.
A new God.
A new life.
And nothing will ever be the same.