Rahab’s Story — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: Matthew 1.1, 5a
1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab…

Joshua 6.25
25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.

Reflection: Rahab’s Story — Love of Advent
By Erin Newton

These are the matriarchs of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. This is Rahab’s story.

Who was this Rahab, the great-great-great-(and so on) grandmother of Jesus? Her identity is somewhat muddled. (Have no fear, she is not the mythic dragon from Job, Psalms, or Isaiah.)

She is likely the woman you remember from Joshua, whose name is rarely said without her epithet, “the prostitute.” How shameful that we demote her to one identity, because she is, in fact, a matriarch of Jesus.

Rahab the prostitute matriarch, like Tamar, was not a member of the Abrahamic family. She did not escape slavery from Egypt nor cross the Red Sea with the multitudes. She was a Canaanite. .Her business was one of pleasure, not love as we dream of it. She used her body in a culture that was more than willing to pay for it. Her job was scandalous and disgraceful to the covenant people encroaching on the borders of Canaan. She is an unlikely character in God’s story of redemption.

The stories of God saving his people reached her ears in Jericho. Stories of wonder and power, stories that herald the supremacy of God. I imagine how she compared the stories to the pathetic notion of her Ba’al killed and trapped by the god of death. Rahab heard and believed in this true God.

By faith, she hid the spies who swore an oath to spare her family. She risked her life to save people who would condemn her land, her friends, her culture, and her job. All because she knew God was coming to her.

The sign of mercy would be the scarlet cord draped from her window. The grandchildren of the people who spread the lamb’s blood across their doorposts would recognize this same sign of faith letting judgment pass safely over her house.

And so she lived among the Israelites. Her old ways would be reformed. Her past would become a testimony. Her future would bear the One whose blood would wash away all sin.

Yes, she was a prostitute.

But she is a matriarch of Jesus. Rahab, the disgraceful member of the enemy nation, is chosen and honored as one of five women named in Jesus’s family. She is not defined by her occupation or nationality.

In the love of Jesus belong the foreigners and the shamed. In the love of Jesus, we are renamed. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
Keep me, Lord, as the apple of your eye and carry me under the shadow of your wings. 

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 13  (Listen 3:56)
Psalms 119-49-72 (Listen 15:14)

Read more about Becoming Part of the Promise
Rahab asks to be accepted by this powerful God who is not only in the heavens but active upon the Earth.

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Bold Women, Bold Men

Scripture Focus: Joshua 17:3-4
3 Now Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. 4 They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our relatives.” So Joshua gave them an inheritance along with the brothers of their father, according to the Lord’s command. 

Reflection: Bold Women, Bold Men
By Erin Newton

Women were uncommon recipients of land inheritance in ancient Israel. The daughters of Zelophehad, however, are rewarded for their boldness. 

Without a brother, the customary practice would deny them receiving a portion of the land. They took a bold step in an unconventional direction. Their request could have easily been denied due to the practices of patriarchy. They asked and Joshua granted them inheritance just as it was given to their uncles.

Carolyn Pressler states, “Inheritance by women is an exception rather than the rule…Nonetheless, female passivity is not idealized.” They are not chastised for this request nor rebuked for having something to which typically only men have rights.

This confrontation contrasts with another group requesting a change in inheritance. The men of Joseph received land as was their custom. But they were numerous and needed more space. 

They asked and Joshua denied their request.

The men were not left without an answer; for Joshua offered other solutions with the resolve that God would help them succeed.  

These two stories describe people who were unsatisfied with their situation. Neither group expressed dissatisfaction in ways that were wrong or sinful. They simply had other expectations that benefited their family and community in greater ways. Both made requests outside of the traditional custom.

The common thread in both scenarios is the glorification of the will of God. The women received inheritance “according to the Lord’s command.” The men were encouraged that their efforts would be just like the battles before—empowered by God. 

Men and women sought a portion of God’s blessing. Men and women were granted a place within the Promised Land. 

For women, this story reveals the importance of being bold. Women are not commanded to settle for the customary practices that place them at a disadvantage simply for being born female. If passivity is not the ideal, boldness can take its place. 

For men, this story reveals the importance of being bold as well. It is a story of boldly asking for more when it would benefit their family and community. The answer demands more faith in the sovereignty of God. 

One group received a quick and simple “yes” and the other, a complicated “maybe but have faith” answer. This text does not overturn the patriarchal tendencies of the Old Testament. It does, however, reveal the unexpected and uncustomary ways in which God indiscriminately blesses his people. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at the noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back… God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. — Psalm 55.17

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 16-17 (Listen 5:13)
Ephesians 6 (Listen  3:17)

Read more about Inheritance of Rachel’s Daughters
Leah and Rachel show us the spectrum of marriage at that time. Rachel represents a fairytale…Leah reveals an ugly reality.

Read more about Trust and Pursue God’s Promises
Fully trusting in God’s promises gives us the hope, strength, and courage to pursue those promises.

Trouble and Hope

Scripture Focus: Joshua 7.25-26
25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.”

Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

Hosea 2.14-15
14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

Reflection: Trouble and Hope
By Erin Newton

The memorial stones marking Achan’s death were called “The Valley of Achor” or fully translated, “The Valley of Trouble.” The name was fitting. Trouble came to Israel through Achan. One man’s sin caused the downfall of the community.

Joshua describes Achan’s sin as coveting and stealing. After Jericho, he took items destined to be devoted to God. Implied sins include pride and deceit. It was pride that led Achan to assume authority over what belonged to God. It was deceitfulness that caused Achan to avoid confessing until the very end.

Now just a pile of stones, thrown by the betrayed community and commanded by the betrayed God, Achan’s memorial would serve as a warning to Israel. The justice of God was not something to be overlooked. The warnings about disobedience were important.

God as a wrathful, vengeful deity is a typical assumption when reading the Old Testament. Some people reduce the testaments to the opposing picture of God: wrath in the Old, mercy in the New. This conclusion, however, neglects the fuller picture of God from Genesis to Malachi.

In Joshua, one sinful man is led into the wilderness as punishment. In Hosea, God leads the sinful people into the wilderness as a pathway of hope. The Valley of Achor reveals a more comprehensive view of God’s character: justice and mercy. Two sides of the same God.

Faced with this complex tension of two opposing characteristics, we tend to downplay one for the sake of the other. Our minds struggle to grasp how God can be completely just and completely merciful. It is a dichotomy we will never fully grasp.

How does trouble turn into hope? How does the punishment of disobedience become a beacon of mercy in the wilderness?

Justice and mercy converged on the cross. Like the punishment heaped upon Achan, the weight of our guilt was cast upon the body of Christ. But this monument of justice suddenly becomes a crimson beacon of hope. The justice required after the first Adam is covered by the mercy of the second Adam.

Whereby one man’s sin caused the downfall of humanity, the one Son of God caused the redemption of all creation.

We are not so different from Achan. Our sin would have us trudge into the wilderness to endure justice. But we are also like Israel, we are lured into the wilderness with a promise of restoration and mercy.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Seven times a day do I praise you, because of your righteous judgments.
Great peace have they who love your law: for them there is no stumbling block. — Psalm 119.165

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 7 (Listen 4:58)
Colossians 4 (Listen  2:21)

Read more about Distrust of God and Fraud
It is the unbelief and contempt of heaven, which make men risk it for the poor commodities of this world.

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From Survival to Cultivation

Scripture Focus: Joshua 5.10-12
10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan. 

Reflection: From Survival to Cultivation
By John Tillman

Migrants carry their world through the world. Everything precious to their lives and future is strapped to them in a backpack or a duffel bag. They often carry large amounts of cash or precious items to use for bribes and to survive on the way. I barely trust plastic grocery bags to make it from the store to my car, but migrants travel thousands of miles carrying water, food, and necessities in these bags.

After the first Passover, Israel left Egypt with considerably more than backpacks, duffle bags, and plastic grocery sacks. They had flocks and herds and wealth. Their encampment was carefully organized with strict cleanliness and purity rules. They built the Tabernacle, a magnificent mobile garden of Eden that moved around the desert with them like a mirage.

But no matter how organized or clean a migrant camp is, it is still a migrant camp. There is no planting or harvesting. There is no cultivation. There is only surviving.

At their first Passover in the promised land the people ate food from the land. They tasted the fruit of the promise. They had previously been sustained by manna, the miraculous provision of Heaven. Now they would rely on a different miracle—cultivation. They began the process of going from survival mode to cultivation mode.

Cultivation is just as miraculous as manna. We plant and water, but it is still the Lord who makes things grow. The one in whom we trust is the same one who provided manna in the wilderness.

Cultivation has a different responsibility. Manna could not be saved or shared. They gathered only for themselves. In survival mode, nothing lasts until tomorrow.

Shifting from survival to cultivation, we both save and share. Cultivation creates bounty and resources intended to bless the community and invest in the future.

There is no shame in being migrants. The Lord sustains them—often through us. (Deuteronomy 10.18-19; 24.14, 17; 27.19) But God’s calling and promise are to cultivation. (Micah 4.4) It is through cultivation of faith that we have plenty to share with those in survival mode.

Are you in survival mode or cultivation mode? 

Do you pray only in crisis? Or do you plant prayers, allowing them to grow roots and sprout?
Do you forge scriptures into weapons to fight others? Or do you form scripture into a plowshare, dragging its blades through the soil of your heart, casting out stones and weeds?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.” — Psalm 12.5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 5-6.5 (Listen 7:25
Colossians 2 (Listen  3:27)

Tuesday’s Readings
Joshua 6.6-6.27 (Listen 4:47), Colossians 3 (Listen  3:09)

Read more about Jericho’s Wall
God isn’t interested in destroying people we call our enemies

Read more about Over Jordan
When we cross over the Jordan with Christ, the land has no enemies to be defeated.

Melted Hearts

Scripture Focus: Joshua 2.8-11
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “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. 10 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. 11 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.

Reflection: Melted Hearts
By Zachary Adams

As the people of God await news at the edge of the promised land, two spies take shelter in the home of a Canaanite woman. From the lips of Rahab, the two men find that God’s reputation has gone before them into the land of Canaan. She tells the men, “I know that the Lord has given you this land” (Joshua 2.9).

Rahab’s confidence is a response to the news of what God had done for Israel. God turned the mysterious depths of a sea into a dry pathway to safety. God liberated the people from their burden of slavery. God brought victory to Israel against wicked and powerful kings. This news of liberation reached the people in Canaan and triggered a response of fear. Why? They knew the mighty God who led these people was not their god.

This is an appropriate response. News of God’s liberating movement causes those in the darkness to tremble with fear. The light of redemption exposes that they are opposed to God and his people. How will they realize that this redemption is extended even to them?

Melting in fear is only one response to the movement of God. Rahab’s response shows she understands that redemption is not just for the Israelite, but for anyone who aligns themselves with the God of Israel. She does this as she hides the spies on her roof and helps them escape to safety. Rahab’s faith aligns her with the God of freedom and saves her entire family.

In an age when we do not see the Lord parting seas, what news is there of God?

We often hear news of moral failures in the church, but this isn’t the only news to be told. There are many stories that provide powerful proof of God’s continuing movement in our world today. God powerfully opens up the heart of the loveless. God wins over those opposed to him and makes them friends of God. Those held captive by sin find freedom by surrendering to his advance. This is my story. New life comes to even the most wicked of hearts through faith in the Son of God.

Rahab reminds us that God is mighty and he works through our stories. What is your story? What stories of new life will you tell? Tell stories of God’s movement today that will make the darkness melt away in fear.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us saying: “For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the name of God’s only Son. And the judgment is this: though the light has come into the world people have preferred darkness to light because their deeds are evil.” — John 3.17-19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 2 (Listen 3:49)
Romans 15 (Listen  3:28)

Today’s Readings
Joshua 3 (Listen 2:45Romans 16 (Listen  3:30)
Joshua 4 (Listen 3:31Colossians 1 (Listen  4:18)

Read more about Becoming Part of the Promise
Rahab the Canaanite prostitute becomes a part of the Abrahamic promise. The promise itself would pass through her womb.

Read more about Content Mastery vs the Master of the Content
Our hope of gaining meaning from God’s Word is listening for his voice, personally calling to us.