Storytelling series A4: Bible tales revisited

4: Rahab’s day of permanent freedom

[] On a treadmill of shame

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 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 loneliness.

[] If only . . .

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 at an all-time low

“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 tart 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!

[] Hide and seek

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.”

[] Her faith shown by action

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,  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.

[] Still standing

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 spaces0f 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: worthless, hopeless, forgotten, used, abused, ridiculed, mocked, shamed, weary, 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..”

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