Thought for the day – Saturday 23 May

Thought for the day - Saturday 23 May
Dear All
There was a lot of snooping going on in the Old Testament and according to Numbers yesterday, and Joshua today, some of the Israelites are at it again. Yesterday we read in the book of Numbers, of the twelve spies who took a look at Canaan for themselves, there were ‘no home reports in those days’ as a suitable place to live, and now it was Jericho’s ‘turf and real estate’ that’s to be ‘checked out’, all of course, with a little help from a friend.
Some of you have been doing a lot of reading during this lockdown, a book a day in some cases, but I wonder how many of you have explored the riches of the Old Testament. There you will find the best stories of intrigue, scandal, adventure, savagery and a lot of other stuff besides, all quite readable but equally ‘unmentionable’. When I say ‘unmentionable’, I mean ‘unmentionable’, all avoiding blushes, gasps and faintings aplenty. Now, of course, you’re wondering where you might find this biblical material and why you haven’t heard of it before now.
Well, you’ll not be hearing a sermon on such, any time soon. Yet it’s all there in your bible. Candid, sleazy, steamy, brutal and really savage in places but not so well known and, as is often the case, simply unread. Today we have a little bit of this kind of stuff with Rahab and the two unnamed, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, secret agents. What were they up to with this controversial heroine or villain called Rahab?
Rahab was a woman. You wouldn’t know from her name itself, however, as it doesn’t sound either male or female. She was an Innkeeper or a woman of a certain reputation and quite possibly both. Scholars debate these things, but we don’t need to.
She had a nice, well-appointed property with a lovely view, commodious upstairs accommodation and a nice spacious rooftop with a horizon swimming pool. She…so sorry! I’m getting a bit carried away here. The gable end of her house also, and conveniently, formed part of the city wall. Exactly what any Old Testament spy needed.
Rahab is a mixed bag. It seems to me that she is nothing more than a selfish collaborator, looking out for her own interests at the expense of her own people and neighbours. Nothing more than a traitor motivated by the fearsome reputation of the Israelites in what happened in Egypt and of the fate of the two Amorite kings, Sihon and Og. She thought it better to strike a deal with the enemy to save her own skin. She is, however, presented differently in our story. Very differently indeed, so what are we to make of it all?
For starters when I read this story I see that not much has changed over millennia in how people behave given the prevailing circumstances. Reading today about deals, promises, signs, threats, oaths and hazardous escapes by rope down the outside of city walls, our story could describe occupied France during the Second World War. The Old Testament version of Allo! Allo!
Religion, relationships, wealth, prosperity, security and all that makes for a good life, for example, are what makes people ‘tick’. We all want it and want to keep it. When we become a bit restless we feel the need to expand, (I suspect there will be quite a few people who have expanded over the last three months), develop and grow. We want to broaden our horizons, not out beams, in just about every way we can. Adventure and challenge is the name of the game.
The Israelites didn’t have a land of their own and they wanted one. They believed that God was going to give them one. Whether or not people lived where they fancied settling, was neither ‘here nor there’. With God’s help, they would simply take it. They needed to do a bit of spying though and that’s part of our story today.
Any notion, if there ever was a notion, that the bible is all about nice people doing nice things to one another is naive at best and quite preposterous and totally false at worst. As with the people in our story the very real, religious and political situation in the Middle East today is a situation that exemplifies such diverse national and geopolitical differences. Whose side is God on? The Holy Land is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. What do you think about Rahab, heroine, villain, both or neither?
Today I ask you to think/meditate on these things
God bless you!

Jim

JBoag@churchofscotland.org.uk

JOSHUA 2

Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.”So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.”(But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.)So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 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. 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. 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.

“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”

“Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”

So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”

Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”

“Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”

So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”

share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *