A poetic narrative

Once again her imagination was drawn to
the legendary beauty of
the fair land of Canaan
that stretched beyond the confines of
this Jordan Valley.

How often had her visitors described
the spacious regions of
rolling hills and fertile dales.
Their illusory peace beckoned
so persuasively.

If only . . .
but she belonged here
in the torrid humidity
of Jericho. This claustrophobic town
was all she had every known.
Mother and father, sisters and brothers
all lived in the neighbourhood.
This house on the town wall was where
she earned her living –
just an ‘inn for weary wayfarers’
according to the Yellow Pages!
But the small print on the Vacancies card
in the window promised
‘all needs catered for’.

How could she hope to survive
if she moved elsewhere?
No, this was to be her lot in life –
business as usual,
so she had better
make the most of it.

No doubt the Hebrews too would soon
beat a path to her door,
like the many commercial travelers had done
from Egypt and Damascus,
Arabia and Babylon.
Away from home,
you could always guarantee that
‘boys will be boys’!
Her encounter with these new lodgers
would be just as hollow and shallow as
the regular visits from local men,
and leave her feeling just as
lonesome and forlorn.
They all wanted a part of her that
she no longer had to give.
She had long since sold her dignity,
her morals, her love, her hope.
No one ever valued her as
a person.

She sensed intuitively that
her mother and father smarted with shame
at the very thought of her trade.
Not that they ever commented,
but she read the pain in their eyes
that said it all: “Rahab,
you’ve let us all down.”

So, even when surrounded by the families of
her sisters and brothers,
their warm laughter and cheery chatter
only increased the ache of

Yet, deep in the secret recesses of the heart
burned a yearning for something more –
someone more.
How could she ever describe to anyone
what she really saw
as her gaze penetrated the horizon,
longing for the potential freedom
of the great beyond.

Business as usual?
She drew her shawl more tightly around her shoulders
as an icy shiver of horror
pierced her through.
She could not rid her mind of the actual view from her window
of that vast horde of nomads who
had so recently emerged from the desert and
camped at Acacia just across the river from her town.
Their God was giving them
victory upon victory –
moving everything, destroying everyone that
obstructed their relentless surge towards Canaan –
fair Canaan, her Canaan.

If only . . . , if only their God
would adopt her as one of his people,
but. . . no . . .
she’d messed up too badly;
she would certainly be crushed by
the advancing juggernaut.

She shuddered involuntarily again . . .
and yet again . . .

Suddenly, a loud knocking rudely wrenched her
from this ‘if only’ reverie.
Oh dear, she mused as she rose to respond,
it really is business as usual.

But, opening the door brought her
face to face with two men.
They never came two by two.
And foreigners at that –
complete strangers, a couple of those
recently arrived Romanies.
So different from
her regular clientele –
not just in dress,
but in their whole demeanour.

These guys wanted to talk –
and talk urgently,
as if there was no tomorrow!
“We are here as secret agents
on behalf of Yahweh, God Almighty.
We are convinced that
we are on a winning run
from here on in.
But how is morale among your people?
As a Bed and Breakfast hostess
what have you found to be
the general tone of table talk of late?”
they asked.
(They were definitely another breed of males –
kind men who put the emphasis on
the breakfast side of ‘B & B’;
they could just as easily have called
the gossip ‘pillow talk’.
Nor did they seem to wish
to hire her body, not even as cook;
they were actually engaging her brain!)

“Morale?” she repeated.
“To be perfectly honest with you, it’s
at an all-time low,” she admitted,
playing right into their hands as
‘enemy agents’. “Everybody around here is
convinced we’re all already
on the vultures’ menu!

With a lorra ,lorra luck
a few of us might just be allowed to become
P.O.W.s and thankfully end up
as household slaves to you lot
when you settle here.
And our gods have not
a snowball’s chance in hell against Yahweh,
Lord of heaven and earth.
This is his day –
your day.”

“So, it’s doom and gloom all around, you’d say . . .
Then . . . whose side would you support
in the grand show-down, given a choice?”

She hesitates momentarily.
A choice! did they say?
Can this be an actual offer of freedom?
Well, would I join their ranks,
serve their God?
Her heart began to dance with new-born hope
at the very idea.
Could she, Rahab, a common prostitute,
really become part of God’s great take-over plan,
his ‘clean up Canaan’ campaign?
Could this new day be her day too?
And actually start today?
No more ‘business as usual’, but
a new unusual business?

Her dancing heart tried
to partner her spinning mind
in a celebratory
pas de deux.

Now, there’s a thought:
up here on the summit of the city wall
sounds an unlikely site for the H.Q. of
an underground movement!

More footsteps resound on the stairs,
accompanied by raucous male voices.
Definitely not customers –
they never utter a sound.
“Lord, have mercy, it’s the king’s soldiers!
Quick, onto the flat roof, you two.
Get under the sheaves of sun-dried flax up there.”
(Which gives a whole new angle on the term
‘undercover agents’!)

Normally the lads from the local barracks
merely tap her door,
cough and shuffle,
giving her time to answer,
assuming she’s ‘in consultation with a client’ –
possibly one of their own mates.
But tonight the urgent crashing of their truncheons
beat a jungle drum prediction that
there really will be no tomorrow!

As she slips the bolt of the lock
they cascade straight into the boudoir.
Surprised to find neither of
the Hebrew callers in any compromised situation,
helplessly stripped of all weapons of defence,
they snarl: “Where have those Hebrew spies gone?
Hand them over and
you can keep their purses,
no questions asked.”
She had already made her choice –
her commitment to a glorious destiny.
“Yes,” she murmured casually,
“there were a couple of foreign characters
who dropped in around teatime. But,
they scarpered sharpish as soon as the sun set.
If you gallop on horseback you should catch them
before they reach the fords of Jordan
and escape back to base in Acacia.
Vamoose! Pronto! Adios!”
(She burbled in every known lingo
whenever her dander was up!)

Now the die was well and truly cast.
From this point on it’s all a matter of
life or death: either
execution at the king’s command –
and they’d nail her on any number of charges:
aiding and abetting;
running a house of ill-repute –
or death at the bidding of
the Most High God in the forthcoming Hebrew assault on Jericho.

When the hoohah was over
and she had been given
their solemn promise on oath
to rescue her and all her relatives,
she let them down the outside wall on a rope.

“You must fix this red rope onto your window frame
on the day of battle – then
we guarantee the safety of everyone who is here indoors.”

She began at once to round up
her entire extended family
and take them in as boarders,
replacing the Vacancies notice
with the blood-red rope of covenant.
Talk about ‘tie a yellow ribbon
in the old oak tree’, her colours were openly
nailed to the mast without delay –
because, for her, the new day
had already dawned – the day of the Lord,
the day of salvation. It was all over,
bar the shouting.

Boarders? No,
not lodgers, but
family at home. It was no longer an inn.
And a family in harmony,
when every other house in town was full of frayed nerves.
For, at last, the Hebrews had arrived –
just out of range of Jericho’s military arrows.
They had marched in eerie silence every day
this past week without attempting
to attack in any way.
Now they have just repeated their march
six times so far today –
something is afoot.

Behind the scornful catcalls
and cynical guffaws of her fellow-citizens
lining the walls
skulks sheer blind terror.
Just what will these strangers get up to?
She quietly re-assures her folks indoors:
it’s all over bar the shouting.

All at once those Hebrews in priestly robes
blew heartily on their crude ram’s horn trumpets.
There followed a thunderous cheer
of the entire nation.
The walls shook at jackpot level on the Richter Scale!
Dust and rubble flew in
through every window of her home.
Shrieks and groans assaulted their ears
from all directions as their neighbours scrambled
in blind panic ever inwards
in the vain attempt to escape
from the awesome throttling pincer movement
of the Hebrew attack.

Then the doors burst open. The spies
had come back to rescue them all
as they had sworn on oath.
That day
she stepped out of the claustrophobia and shame,
never again to let men use her
but to serve the Lord
in the wide open, heaven-blessed spaces
of that green and pleasant land.

A quick glance over her shoulder revealed the final scene:
one solitary pillar of masonry
towered above the levelled ruins,
the blood-red covenant bond swaying
victoriously over the carnage.

To every Rahab, choked by the idea that she is:
worn out,
washed up,
thrown on life’s junk heap,
feeling ‘I’ve well and truly blown it’,
that covenant cord silently testifies on behalf of
the God of covenant:
“I can use even you.
Do not,
ever again,
imagine that I have missed you out or
passed you by. I offer you the crimson
covenant bond of
the invaluable blood of my beloved Son
as guaranteed cover to you and
your household.
Step out into your bounteous inheritance.
Do not shrink back into
the stifling claustrophobia of
your past imprisonment.
Make the break complete from
the lifestyle of your yesterdays. And
at the same time walk away from
the habitual stinking thinking of
‘business as usual’.
For this is a new day, your day.
Joined in heart to me,
I will make you fruitful in new ways
that you never dreamt were possible.
Allow me.”

Mel Ashworth and Hugh Thompson

May 1997
Based on a vision and prophetic word given to Mel in February 1997.

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