Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Way of the Cross (10)

The children of Israel have finally made it to the land of promise. They're about to cross the Jordan under their new leader, Joshua, and try to conquer the first city on their way - Jericho. Two spies are sent into Jericho, coming to the home of Rahab, a prostitute who lived in the city walls.

Despite being a foreigner, and one who would very quickly be conquered, Rahab knows which side she should be on, and so hides the spies from the city authorities. Why?

"I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father's house." (Joshua 2:9-12)

This foreigner has come to trust in the LORD, knowing the consequences of remaining one of God's enemies. She lets the spies down the wall of the city out of her window by means of a rope - a scarlet cord - which will also symbolise and secure her salvation:

Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father's household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. (Joshua 2:18-19)

As with the blood of the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12, the scarlet cord (the colour of blood) is the sign of salvation, the protection afforded to those within. The remarkable thing, though, is that those being saved by the 'blood' aren't Israelites this time, but Gentiles, foreigners, being gathered into God's people through faith in Israel's God, the God of the heavens and earth.

Rahab the prostitute is highlighted as an example of faith in Hebrews 11 ('By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.'), as one whose faith expressed itself in works by James ('And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?'). However, the most remarkable thing about Rahab is her other New Testament appearance - one of the few women in the genealogy Matthew begins his gospel with - Rahab became the wife of Salmon, the father of Boaz, so she was David's great-great-granny!

Still today, people of all tribes and nations and tongues are being grafted into God's people through faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus, and the story continues to be told.

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