Saturday, July 11, 2015

And the Walls Came a-Tumbling Down

My current Bible notes are focussing on the known and the relatively unknown women throughout scripture.  The notes are designed for women so I shouldn’t be surprised that they feature women. I do have a light feminist hue about me so I surprised myself by buying the notes in the first place.  It’s most unlike me.  A women’s Bible study group I went to a long time ago did a study “Excelling as a Woman”.  Why should excelling as a woman be something different to excelling as a Christian? The men’s study was about bringing in the kingdom which sounded much more to my taste. That aside the notes are working their way through the known women at the moment.  The women under scrutiny are not making their appearances in chronological order.  Debra doesn’t come before Rahab, does she? No.

I preached on Rahab ten years ago.  I can be very precise about the ten years as I still have the notes and the date they were last amended.  It was one of those preaches that had five bullet points all cleverly alliterated - a device that appealed to the teacher in me.  I can’t say that ten years on the fact that the points were alliterated has helped me remember what they were.  Still, things stick and bits and pieces floated back as I read the story of Rahab in Joshua Chapter 2.

I remembered the bit in my sermon about the difference between Moses and Joshua.  Moses sent out twelve spies and everyone knew about it.  Joshua sent out just the two spies and sent them out in secret.  Two men, one taking over the leadership from the other and not feeling compelled to be the same man.  Joshua’s leadership style was different to the way Moses did things. It can be a challenge to be your own person and not merely a clone of the people who have gone before.

I remembered the bit in the sermon about Rahab’s house being a part of the wall around Jericho.  Here’s what I wrote ten years ago:-

Her home was on the edge of Jericho - part of the wall of Jericho.  The spies might have been a secret to the Israelites but not to the people in Jericho.  They were prepared.  The King goes straight to Rahab.  The Bible says that someone told the King the spies were in Jericho – it does not specify they were at Rahab’s.  If I was the king and I was aware of the Israelites on the way over, I would have looked at the weak point in the walls.  I would have looked at the people who lived in the houses and I would have checked out their background, and I would have come up with Rahab somewhere in the top few names. If I was Rahab I would have known that it wasn’t safe.  Yet Rahab puts her life on the line for these spies.  No comfort zone!

For her help in hiding the spies and sending the king's men on a wild goose chase, Rahab was promised protection when the battle began.  She was told to tie the red cord in her window, gather her family into the house and stay inside.

Just how did Joshua defeat Jericho?  Not a trick question.

“Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho
 Joshua fought the battle of Jericho
 and the walls came a-tumbling down”

Hold on!  The walls came tumbling down?  And where was Rahab when the walls came tumbling down?  In her house.  And where was the house?  In the wall!

I was impressed that she believed the spies when they promised she wouldn’t hurt, or her family as long as they stayed inside the house.  She tied the red cord in the window the day they left to head back to the Israelite camp. She didn’t wait for the first silent walk around the city.

I’m even more impressed that she stayed in the house, part of the wall itself, when all about her the wall was tumbling down. It’s no wonder she gets a mention in that impressive list of witnesses in Hebrews 11. To stay in her house while the wall was coming down is a real act of faith.

How big was the wall?  Here’s what one archaeological website has to say:-

“The mound, or “tell” of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some four to five meters (12–15 feet) high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall two meters (six feet) thick and about six to eight meters (20–26 feet) high.4 At the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall whose base was roughly 14 meters (46 feet) above the ground level outside the retaining wall (see diagram). This is what loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for the Israelites to penetrate the impregnable bastion of Jericho.”

Humanly speaking? With that kind of security about them the people of Jericho had no need to have hearts melted in fear and their courage fail them, but they knew they were not dealing with just a human army.  Not just for weeks or months but for back forty year they had been listening to stories of an army on the march led by a God that performed miracles.

That kind of wall – that wall that loomed high above the Israelites as they marched – that huge wall did not fall gently.  It wasn’t a carefully planned demolition like the big old tower blocks of today where everyone is evacuated to a safe place, and people watching press a button and they wear yellow hard hats.  It was loud and earth shaking.  It was dust clouds and flying debris. It was not safe.

And in the wall when it fell were Rahab and her family.

I am amazed that the wall came down, but perhaps more amazed that one tiny section of the wall stayed upright – Rahab’s house. And all because the spies made a promise that God kept.

It has been a wall-tumbled-down week for me.  It was not a gentle falling over of a few stones but a total demolition of what I thought to be a high solid wall.  It is perhaps a necessary thing to pave the way for a new building of relationships and bonds.  Right now it doesn’t look that way.

I am comforted by Rahab’s story.  Right now I would like to run a mile or two in any direction to escape the fall out.  I would like to think that there is somewhere safer that I could be standing.  And then I picture the tiny section of the wall that was Rahab’s house that never fell and think about the promise that God kept.

I am safe no matter the state of the wall because God made a promise to take care of me.

His promise is enough.

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