As part of my preparation for the sermon on Rahab (Jesus' genealogy part 2) I have been re-reading Joshua 2 (and chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6) and am struck by the matter-of-fact-ness of it all. There seems to be no attempt to explain or justify anything, and I am, as ever, left with far more questions than answers.
For example: Joshua 2: 1 "Go, look over the land,' [Joshua] said, 'especially Jericho.' So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. (NIV)
So, why did they enter Rahab's house? Is it a good thing they went there (well, it turned out to be, but I mean, morally, ethically, religiously)? What did their wives say when they got home and said, 'Oh, and by the way, we stayed overnight in a brothel.' 'That's nice, dear.' I wonder!
How did the king's men discover the presence of the spies at Rahab's house, and why did she lie to them? Why did they believe her? And so it goes on. Lots of 'why' questions coming to mind as I read on into the story.
She was patient, I'll give her that - three days of hiding before the spies go home, another three days before the camp moves to the Jordan. Crossing the Jordan, an interlude while all the blokes get circumcised, recover and get ready for the attack. Then six days of parades and trumpet blowing before the wall is breached and she and her family are able to escape. What was going on for her in that time? Or for her family, waiting inside the house all that time?
On the rare times this story ever appeared in church, it was centred on the gallant spies, sort of James Bond gets Religion, and sometimes the brothel became a hotel to spare the preacher's/teacher's blushes. Rahab was just an incidental. Fascinating, then, that she is the one woman commended for faith in Hebrews 11 (Sarah sort of gets mentioned in passing), and in James 2 (my favourite passage!) she appears as an example of righteousness.
Maybe this is the point - maybe this is where the 'belong-believe-behave' approach and the more traditional models begin to fall apart. Rahab did not belong, but she did believe. Rahab did not behave - indeed her blatant lies seem to have served God's purposes (hmm, tricky!) - but she put her faith into action. Rahab was not a stalwart of community but James saw her as righteous because of what she did.
I am still quite puzzled about where to the sermon might go - and this post probably makes very little sense - it could go in lots of directions, but not, on this occasion of the nice handsome, morally upright spies on an excting adventure in foreign lands.
Oh, and as a footnote to the Tamar sermon, my people seemed totally oblivious to the significance of Onan in the church's moral muddles! Bless.