Hope on a Rope: Keeping Vigil with Rahab

Her story fans the flames of hope.

It’s a story of recognition that against all odds, God is on the move and priorities must be reordered.

It takes place many generations after Abraham.

Two Hebrew spies, sent by Joshua to scout out the promised land, secretly enter the walled city of Jericho. They hide out in the house of a prostitute. At nightfall, the three speak quietly on her rooftop.

She whispers, hurriedly reassuring the spies. “I know the Lord has given you this land.”

We feel the flame of three burning hearts as Rahab requests protection for her parents and extended family.

She’s stepping out of the world that had enslaved her in unhappiness.

She is opening to the truth hidden in the Hebrew narrative.

God is real.

He has spoken to the whole world through this nation of wanderers.

“Give me some guarantee, since I have helped you,” Rahab insists. She knew how to seal a deal. The spies agree.

“Leave this scarlet rope hanging through the window through which you let us down,” they say. “Be sure to have everyone in your family inside this house.”

Rahab let the spies down her wall by that red rope.

Long after they had disappeared into the darkness, Rahab’s rope remained dangling, a symbol of her hope that the God of Israel would come through for her and all her Canaanite family. 

Jericho, her city, was a fortress. 

Israel, on the other hand, was a homeless band of misfits who’d hung their hopes on God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To Moses and his successor, Joshua. It all looked impossible, even ridiculous, that God would be working among them.

But Rahab had heard the stories of Israel’s march across the Jordan. Maybe even of the exodus from Egypt, a generation before. And her heart sensed that above all the idols in her city, the Hebrew God, who led his people in mystery, a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, who’d provided a tabernacle for prayer and a law to live by, was the supreme God.

She left that red rope dangling, and she waited.

We, too, wait in a city whose inhabitants may be living unaware of God’s power and love.

We’re pretty forgetful ourselves, truth be told.

But our ropes of hope are dangling.

We take courage in remembering that Rahab saw her hopes fulfilled.

Her family was protected when the walls of Jericho fell at the sound of a mere trumpet blast. Her wall remained. Her house stood. The Hebrews rescued her and her family.

Rahab the harlot” is honored by Jews and Christians alike as a righteous convert.

And that’s not the end of her story. It continues through her marriage to a Jewish prince named Salmon.

“God makes a woman of the night into a woman of the court,” notes Ann Voskamp.

Rahab’s son was Boaz, the “kinsman redeemer” who married Ruth, the widowed refugee from Moab. Their son was Obed. Their grandson was Jesse. And Jesse’s youngest son was David, whose line culminated in Jesus.

There’s always more to God’s story.

We read Rahab’s name every year as we hear, in the Advent readings, the genealogy of Jesus. All the women whose names surface in the recounting of Christ’s family line reveal a wonderful truth about God.

He comes unexpectedly. He doesn’t count your past against you.

He sees the hope dangling in your heart.

He will bring you into his family.

Keep watch.

He is closer than you think.

This post is part of an Advent series, “The Call of the Small.”  Subscribe here to receive notification of new posts and more.

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If you enjoyed this post you might also like Conversion of a Candle in the Wind: The Woman at the Well and Me.

Jericho’s excavation is a fascinating story. See Expedition Bible: Jericho Unearthed for more.

Bishop Robert Barron’s perspective on Old Testament violence has been helpful in my own understanding of the big picture embedded in these ancient stories.

Photo by norexy_art on pixabay. Art courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Standing wall among Jericho’s ruins (K.M. Kenyon) via Wikipedia.