Weekly Torah Commentary – Shelach June 16, 2017

Torah reading:  Numbers 13 -15

Haftorah reading: Joshua 2: 1-24

If you were looking in the Bible for someone scandalous to write about, surely one of the first people you would consider would have to be Rahab. A pagan with a sin-ravaged past; a prostitute, who would go on to become such a hero that this entire chapter of Joshua is focused on her and some 1500 years later she is mentioned in subsequent writings along with Abraham, Moses and David as an example of heroic biblical faith.

As we consider her life, I want you to be encouraged about your own. Maybe you too have made mistakes. Maybe you too have wondered if you could ever overcome the scars of bad decisions. Rahab is about to show us that there is no ‘past’ so terrible that limits the Holy One of Israel from turning a life around and causing that very person to become a person of great significance in His overall plan.

Rahab

There are three things to learn from this week’s Haftorah:

1. First, we see Rahab’s condition spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Verse 1 explains “she was a prostitute.” V. 15 adds “her house was in the wall.”

The Bible makes no bones about it – Rahab was a prostitute. Not only that, but she lived in the city wall. That’s where the poor and destitute lived. There were two walls that surrounded Jericho separated by a 15 foot gap. The poor built little shanties in that gap. As a result, they were the first to suffer attack from enemies, the first to die in time of war. They were human shields for the rich.

Rahab, in many ways, had never known what it was to have a life. Her poverty and sin had taken its toll. She eked out a meager living by sacrificing her dignity to the vile passions of strangers, never knowing what it was to feel protected, valued and cherished.

But God loved her. He had a plan for this woman victimized by sin. He sent his spies to her house, not simply to secure military information. God intended to show Rahab His unmerited favor. By sending these spies to her, not only did He protect the spies, He saved Rahab and her entire family.

It may well have been the very first time that two men came to her house and didn’t want her ‘services’!  It may have been the very first time that two men came to her house and treated her with respect and kindness.

Reading on we realize that Rahab had heard what God did for the Israelites in the desert.  The word had traveled far and wide and by her reaction and her acknowledgement of ‘the Lord your God’ we recognize that this was a woman whose heart had not become embittered by her difficult life but she had an awe and respect for God.  She said, ‘…for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and in earth beneath.’  Joshua 2:11b  Catch this – just based on what she had heard that God did for the Israelites, she had come to believe that He was the one and only true God!  She had no first hand experience of His miracles; only hearsay.  But what she heard stirred her heart to faith.

2. After her condition, we see her ‘conversion’.

Even a casual reading of this passage shows that Rahab, who once lived as a prostitute, had turned away from that life and put her faith in the God of Israel. How did that happen?

Verse 9 reveals that she had a righteous fear of the Lord.  Her fear moved her to throw herself upon God’s mercy.

 

The Bible says The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Solomon added, By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.

 

Is our society in its present condition because people no longer know what it is to  ‘fear the Lord’?  Rahab did – her heart melted at the thought of what would soon happen to her and her family. And that fear motivated her to seek God’s mercy.

So did the facts – in vv. 10 and 11 she acknowledges how God had blessed Israel, empowered them to defeat their enemies, shielded them from harm – and met their needs. She saw how good God was to them and it moved her.  When she considered that the same Israelites were enroute to her city, Jericho, she knew this wasn’t like times before when warring armies made empty threats. These Israelite people had God on their side.

Therefore she was moved to act in Faith. She protected the spies, gave them safe passage, for she believed that God would bless her if she did right by them.  Perhaps at some time in her life she had heard about God’s word to Abraham, ‘I will bless those who bless you; and I will curse those who curse you.’

She obeyed the spies’ directions and placed a scarlet rope in her window as a sign of her obedience, because she believed the Lord.

3. Rahab confessed her faith openly… urgently – and her family followed her to safety! Verse 18 says, “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.”

It is not enough to have faith just for yourself. We are called to be ‘a light unto the nations’.  To spread abroad the truth of God’s goodness, His faithfulness and His ever abiding love is our responsibility, not just in words but also by the display of our way of living.

In Tune with Torah this week:

Rahab reminds us that our past sins do NOT have to define us! Regardless of what we have done, once we repent and receive God’s forgiveness we can rise up and impact the destinies of those we love.  If God can make a hero of a harlot, surely, surely He can use you and me!

Shabbat Shalom

 

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