Sunday 28 August 2016

Rahab of Jericho - the Gentile (Part 3)

This follows on from Part 1 and Part 2.

Elisha's Spring (Ein as-Sultan) ~ Elisha heals the waters of Jericho (2 Kings 2:18-22) ~ June 2012

But, maybe you’re not a woman and you’re tempted to think, 

“Well, Rahab was a woman, and I’m a man, so she’s the token example and role model of faith meant for women in the church, but not for me.” 

If you are a male person sitting there reading this blog post and thinking that Rahab is too feminine to be an example of heroic faith for you, then I would strongly urge you to think again! And I’d like to suggest that, regardless of whether you are female or male, Rahab can be an example for all of us, because, just like us, Rahab was a Canaanite, in other words, a Gentile or non-Israelite.

Rahab lived in Jericho, a Canaanite city believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Situated at 825 feet below sea level it’s the lowest city on earth. By 1200 BC Canaanites lived in cities such as Jericho and Jerusalem, and these cities were fortified against invasion and attack by thick walls. [1] According to Joshua 2:15, the house Rahab lived in was part of the city wall.

The Canaanites practiced a very different religion from the Israelites. The chief god of the Canaanites was named El (meaning "god"). However, the principal god worshipped by the Canaanites, was Baal (ba'al meaning "lord" or "master"), and they fashioned idols of Baal and various other gods from stone, metal, and wood. Canaanite Baal worship was notorious among neighbouring tribes, because they practiced human sacrifice. [2] By the time Joshua and the Israelites were poised to take possession of the land God was giving them (cf. Josh 1:2, 6, 11, 15), both culturally and morally, the Canaanites had become an extremely cruel and wicked society. Through the conquest of the Promised Land, God was bringing about judgement on the Canaanites for their sin (cf. Gen 15:13-16). [3]

Now, let’s step back again into Rahab’s story and ask ourselves who do we think we are in it? As Christians reading the Old Testament, most of the time we naturally identify ourselves with the people God brought out of slavery in Egypt (cf. Ex 20:2) – we usually see ourselves in the Exodus story as Israelites about to enter the Promised Land, but we forget that as Gentile Christians we are from another world, another community, another time, and we do not come as Israelites. [4] The Israelites have been commanded by God to “destroy [the Canaanites] totally... and show them no mercy” (Deut 7:2). [4] Therefore, if we are to really imagine ourselves present at the conquest of Jericho, our position is less like Israel’s and more like that of Rahab the Canaanite. She is a Gentile. She is a believer, but she is not an Israelite. She is a Canaanite who wants to live, not die. So too with us, we do not enter into Rahab’s story as Israelites. "Our origin lies not with the people who hear the command to kill, but with those who are to be killed". [5]

        You could say that "we are all Rahab now". [6]

Realising that we are Rahab reminds us, as 21st century Gentile Christians, that we too started off in the same situation as the Canaanites - those who were foreigners to the covenants of the promise (Eph 2:11-12) and those who deserved death because of sinful disobedience (Rom 6:23; cf. Heb 11:31). And yet, there is HOPE! Hope for Gentiles to become partakers of God's covenant with Israel and to receive kindness (undeserved mercy) by FAITH in the God of Israel and in his Son, Jesus Christ (Eph 2:7-9, 13).

The story of Rahab the Gentile demonstrates that the covenant of the promise that the Lord originally made to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) was intended to extend not only to the nation of Israel, but beyond - to all the nations of the world:
"All peoples on earth shall be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:3).
Through her faith-motivated kindness in blessing Israel (by welcoming the spies), Rahab became a beneficiary of the Abrahamic covenant which is, in fact, an advance announcement of the GOSPEL itself (Gen 12:3; Gal 3:8)! [7] In the same way as Rahab the Gentile had faith and was blessed along with Abraham, SO...

   we as Gentiles can all be Rahab now
     and be justified by faith (Gal 3:7-9
       and receive mercy (1 Pet 2:10).

(Read Part 4 here.)
[1]  Tim McNeese, Ancient Egypt and Other Early Civilisations, The Ancient World Set II (Dayton, OH: Milliken Publishing Company, 1999), 24.
[2]  McNeese, 24. 
[3]  John Phillips, Exploring People of the Old Testament, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2006), 275.
[4]  Phillip Cary, "We Are All Rahab Now",  CT (July/August 2013), 27, 28; Judith E. McKinlay, "Rahab: A Hero/ine?", Biblical Interpretation 7.1 (1999), 44.
[4] Cary, 27.
[5] Cary,  28.
[6] Cary, 27. 
[7] Cary, 28.

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