The best love story between a man and a woman in all of history has to be assembled from broken fragments. The story is largely lost upon this generation, because the popular concept of romance as a falling into sensual gravity is exactly the opposite of how this love story begins: in the house of a prostitute, where sensuality is nothing but a dead, mechanical experience. The visible church avoids it, because it would undermine the stoicism and humanism it has embraced in the say-a-prayer-and-invite-Jesus-in-your-heart-then-join-the-Republican-Party mentality, where God’s sovereignty and holiness have no place. Charlotte Bronte’s stories come closer, but even Jane Eyre and The Professor pale in comparison with this story.
Rahab and Salmon: the original spy and traitor, have me in awe and wonder. Their story is hidden within the framework of a unifying undercurrent theme in Scripture: that of the Seed of the woman, Who will overcome the seed of the serpent. EVERYTHING is subordinate to this theme, because without the Seed, there is no redemption for mankind or the rest of creation.
Thus, when 10 cowardly spies spread fear throughout the Israelite camp, their failure is not primarily a moral lesson for posterity, but the very opportunity God requires to ensure the Israelites march around the desert for 40 more years. Why? So that Salmon and Rahab might be born and grow to adulthood. Yes, God drops an entire generation of Israelites (minus Joshua and Caleb, and without a single sandle-strap breaking) in the desert to ensure that Salmon will be assigned to enter Jericho and go to Rahab. Likewise, He drops an entire city in order to get Rahab and her family out to join Salmon. He does all this so that Boaz, their son, can continue the line of the Seed, which includes a ruddy shepherd named David, born three generations after Boaz. This brings to vivid light the truth “what God has joined together…”
So many questions result from an interrogation of the text:
1). How does a prostitute, who is assuredly near the bottom of the heap in one of the cruelest cities of ancient times, and who is clearly fearful of harm coming to the family she supports and loves, muster the courage to hide two spies and deceive the counterintelligence agents who come to her house?
2) From whence came the wisdom with which she developed an egress plan to get the spies safely out of the city? What courage, fortitude, and compassion were in this woman’s heart that she became the one to take the initiative in guiding and guarding the spies? Initially, she saves them, further confounding the confused prescriptive gender roles of our own day.
3) Her house was built into the wall that collapsed. Does anyone think how miraculous it is that all the wall collapsed except the section where her house was situated? Even precision-guided munitions in our own day couldn’t accomplish this with certainty.
4) How did the rescue operation of a prostitute rank as a primary objective for Joshua, Israel’s commander-in-chief, when he had a 600,000 troops to command? What did he know about her? Was she a subject of the conversation with the preincarnate Christ the night before the battle? One cannot help but make a forward-looking allusion here: “you are worth more than many sparrows.”
5) Fighting through rubble is one of the most dangerous situations in combat: so many places where an enemy can hide and ambush. What were Salmon and the other spy thinking and feeling as they thrust themselves into a cloud of dust, unable to see their enemies, and having no assurance of a safe retreat? Into the jaws of death? Into the mouth of hell? Even the charge of the Light Brigade would be hard pressed to compare with the dread of this situation.
6) The Israelites had already been through four major military campaigns, at least two of which included walled cities, and were combat veterans. One wonders if Joshua deployed the equivalent of a Seal Team Six with the two spies to ensure success…
7) The capstone question defies the current ideology of naturalism that pervades our society: How does a woman who has been through the trauma of sex-trafficking, who has assuredly experienced a “total eclipse of the heart,” come back to life such that desire is reawakened? This revival surely cannot begin with the wine of passion. It must have begun rather with the bread of fellowship: with mind, heart, and soul, proceding to strength only after a foundation of trust and mutual kindness was laid. Only a love composed of mind, heart, soul, and strength, rooted in gentle loving-kindness could be, as Solomon penned six generations later, “stronger than death,” resulting in the birth of no less a person than Boaz, the very paragon of courage, kindness, and redemptive love, who is a covering to Ruth as Salmon (whose name means “covering”) is a covering to Rahab.
8) What, less than this miracle of Divine Grace, could give hope to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear in our own generation? A God who has consistently demonstrated a willingness to raize cities and even His own temple in the past (for man-centered religion and politics are, as Isaiah tells us, little more than a pile of dust to Him) in order to save His own–will He not continue to do so with nation states and places of worship in the present, in order to gather His flock into His arms?
All of this makes Rahab a wonder worth contemplating, not only for me, but for no less than three New Testament writers, two of whom (Matthew and James) likely received her story from Mary, that plucky woman whose Magnificat is one of the best confessional statements of God’s sovereignty, loving-kindness to His people, and dread fierceness toward His people’s enemies. Surely Mary, who–as Luke demonstrates–was in the line of the Seed, knew this marvelous story, handed down from generation to generation, and imparted it to her sons with all her best poetry and zeal. One wonders if this story was running through Jesus’ mind when a woman of ill repute broke a jar of perfume on His feet, washing His feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. Loving-kindness, after all, runs in that family of misfits chosen from before the foundation of the world…