Rahab: Accepted in the Beloved

We first meet her in the pages of The Book of Joshua Chapter 2. Before crossing the Jordan, Joshua, the leader of Israel who replaced Moses, sent out two men to spy out the land of Canaan, especially Jericho. Along the thick wall of Jericho lived a harlot named Rahab. What good thing can one say about a harlot, in our modern language, a prostitute? But let’s consider Rahab. She had a house on the city wall near the gate. Her sinful “trade” must have brought her prosperity to be able to maintain a lodging house. We can assume that she was not your ordinary prostitute who earned just enough to get by. Some write-ups about her say that she was a very beautiful woman. Maybe she was selective with her customers and only bedded those who were wealthy and powerful. Or those who came to trade in Jericho and lodged in her house.

Rahab

We can also assume that she had other business enterprises such as flax (found on her roof where she hid the spies) and linen (the scarlet cord she tied on her window). Rahab, then, might have been a hardworking and shrewd businesswoman as well.

So, the two spies came to Jericho and lodged in Rahab’s house. When the king learned about it, he sent men to Rahab, demanding her to turn them in. But Rahab had hidden them, then bravely faced the king’s envoys, diverting them from her house to the fords.

Rahab voluntarily supplied the spies with inside information: that the heart of all Jericho had melted when news of the overwhelming victories of Israel reached them; that they knew God had given them the land. She herself acknowledged Israel’s God, saying, “For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (v. 11). She then made a pact with them, in return to her kindness to them, that they would spare her and all her father’s household when they come to conquer Jericho.

Some commentaries say that one of the two spies was very well be Salmon, a prince of Israel of the tribe of Judah.

The next time we see her, it was the day the walls of Jericho fell (see Joshua 6). Joshua commanded his two former spies to bring out Rahab, all her father’s household, and their belongings as they had sworn to her. We can imagine Salmon thundering across smoking rubble to save Rahab and all her loved ones. They were brought to safety, outside of Israel’s camp, then later on were embraced to the fold and became a part of the people of God.

So, Rahab was brave, discerning, and was loyal to the God of Israel rather than to her king. We can also see that she was fiercely faithful to her family, courageously forging a pact with Israel to save them. I want to believe that she had maintained a close relationship with her family despite her shameful profession. Maybe she steeled her heart to do what she needed to do to be able to help her family and raise them up from poverty. And so, her family accepted her and loved her for her sacrifices. (I can say these things because I had written a similar testimony about a sister in Christ in my book Quiet Strength).

Many generations passed and she would be mentioned again by James and the writer of Hebrews. Her harlot label had stuck, not to reproach her, but to let readers know that she was the same Rahab who had hidden the spies. The label is her one-word testimony. She was included in the roster of the Heroes of Faith in Heb. 11 and James wrote how she was justified by her works (James 2:25), just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). And she was accepted in the beloved.

But it’s not really Rahab’s heroism and subsequent salvation that I want us to talk about, but her personal life after the fall of Jericho. Specifically, her love life.

Amid the somewhat monotonous reading of the Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, we see the name Rahab. We learn that Salmon had married her and became one of the ancestors of the Savior. Wow. Salmon, a prince of Israel, had married Rahab the harlot.

When Israel adopted Rahab and her kin and they dwelt among them, she couldn’t have continued her sinful profession. For Israel, adultery meant death. No, just as the walls of Jericho had crumbled into heaps that would never be rebuilt, so had Rahab’s old sinful life. It was buried in rubble. When she set foot in Israel’s camp, she was a new creation in the Lord.

Salmon probably fell in love with her the first time he saw her. More than her extraordinary beauty, he was probably drawn by her character. Rahab’s story is a beautiful story of second chances. Don’t we all need them? Yes, beauty for ashes.

For those of us who had lived sinful and shameful lives, though not necessarily of the same magnitude like hers, we can see the threads of her story woven into ours. It could have been promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, etc.

But our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has saved us and has accepted us in the beloved.

…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace… (Eph. 1: 4-7)

The saddest thing that could happen is for our labels to stick in our minds and in the minds of those close to us or who knew us, like a scarlet letter emblazoned across our chests. A for adulteress, for example. They may even tease us (thinly-veiled mocking) about our old life.

And when those people who matter to us most don’t seem to forget, and you feel it in every fiber of your being that that is the case, the wound they create could be so deep.

Do you think that Salmon lived with Rahab all the days of their lives loving her one moment, then despising her the next because he just couldn’t forget her past? Do you think Rahab lived the rest of her life walking with an invisible label stuck to her? H for harlot?

My answer: No to both questions. There is one proof that Salmon loved and honored Rahab the moment he accepted her into his life to be his wife ’til death parted them: Boaz. Maybe they had had other sons and daughters, but Boaz was the son mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy. We can see how honorable and loving Boaz had grown up to be. We can read his and Ruth’s beautiful love story in The Book of Ruth. If Salmon and Rahab’s household was riddled with distrust and strifes and hurts, Boaz could not have grown up into an honorable and kind gentleman, could he? The way he loved and cherished Ruth proved how he was greatly influenced by his father who led by example.

If the people in your life insist to see you as your past, don’t be offended anymore. It’s really their problem, not yours.

The Word of God does not dwell richly in them. Just believe what the Bible says: We are holy and without blame before Him in love. Accepted in the Beloved. Live thus, therefore, refusing to be pulled down by people who are just probably insecure or have nothing better to do. Courageously carry out God’s purposes in your life, and just like Rahab, raise children that will become honorable, Christ-loving men and women.

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What Makes for a Beautiful Marriage

I’ve read quite a few stories of Christian weddings where the bride and groom kissed for the first time or were together as man and wife for the first time on their first night. My tears flowed at one time after reading one of those stories shared on Christian blogs. For isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Coming together for the very first time on your wedding night? That was also my fervent dream growing up. But somewhere between my young girl dream and marriage at 33, that idealism was lost completely. For the ways of the world never collide with the ways of holiness.

And so, looking back, even if the bride that I was was garbed in a designer wedding gown, rode on a stretched limousine, and me and my groom received guests at the grand ballroom of a 5-star hotel — I regretted the path we took to reach the altar. Crying one night, I told my husband how I wished we could remake that one single day and night in our lives and experience how it was to be a pure, blushing bride.

Then came the 2-year chasm in the marriage where the sin of adultery reigned. How can one redeem the beauty of a ruined marriage?

My answer is this: It starts with the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other who can turn the ashes into beauty. He it is who makes a marriage sacred. In the flurry of our glitzy Catholic wedding, we had completely forgotten to invite Him into our lives. Thus, there was no blessing in the real sense of the word. But one solemn afternoon in our living room, me, dressed in a simple white suit and my husband in his barong tagalog, a preacher from our Church blessed us as husband and wife. It was our Christian wedding. And it was beautiful. Why? Because of the grace of the Lord which washed us from our sins and made us white as snow. Grace is beautiful. Forgiveness is its crown.

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Is. 61:3)

I have not seen a perfect marriage in my world from my childhood to adulthood. Everywhere I look (that is, the ones that I can look into),  I see flaws, some kind of ugliness, and some measure of pain. Our marriage is one of those. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t carry its own beauty. With the love and grace of the Lord, beauty can never be absent.

I see beauty whenever my husband assists to wash me. From the top of my head to the tip of my toes, he lovingly and efficiently bathes me while we talk. Sometimes we break down laughing and I will spray him with the shower head. Those are the times I’m strong. Sometimes, we’re quiet as I endure the whole process, sitting still in my wheelchair. Those are the times I’m weak and not feeling well.

I love to read and tell stories. My husband reads only the Holy Bible and the news. We’re completely opposing poles, like a cation and an anion (excuse the terminology, I’m a ChE anyway :) ). But he loves to listen to the stories I tell about the books I read. When I can’t sleep at night (and that’s often because of my discomforts), he either massages my legs or listens to my stories. There are nights I burst out laughing because of something I remembered while he stifles his huge yawns. Later on, he’ll be chuckling with me.

What makes for a beautiful marriage? It’s the Lord Jesus Christ who holds it together and showers it with His daily grace. It’s the love you share, at times sacrificial, at other times covering. However it looks like, it all emanates from His love.

At night when my husband is already snoring at my side, I marvel at the beauty of a man and a woman sleeping side by side in their marriage bed. Don’t you? (That’s for my married readers).

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Healer of Hearts

Meditating on Psalm 147.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises on the harp to our God,
8 Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who prepares rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
9 He gives to the beast its food,
And to the young ravens that cry. (vv. 7-9)

In this psalm, the psalmist once again praises the glory, grace, and goodness of God. There are many things going on in this psalm, but I’d like us to bring our focus on this:

He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds. (v. 3)

This has been our running theme in recent posts – how that the Lord weaves a beautiful love story in our lives if only we give ourselves wholly to Him. The above verse gave a name to my story. Before I gave my life to Jesus, broken in body, heart, and spirit, I never thought that He alone could heal my brokenness and bind up my gaping wounds. The devil is way too cruel to leave you with a flimsy thread of hope of ever mending, once you ventured anywhere near his lair. Like living a life of adultery. You become his. That’s exactly how he left me – helplessly clinging to the thin thread that connected me to whatever was left of my life.

Then Jesus came, with His power, light, and love. I thought I only sought Him for forgiveness of my sins so I could die at peace with God. But there was also hope that maybe He’d be merciful enough to heal my body, too. But He did much more than anything I had hoped for. His grace abounded to me. “…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). He redeemed my soul, cleansed me from the sin of my dark past, restored my family, healed our broken hearts and bound up our wounds.

He can easily do those things in just one stroke of His powerful hand. “He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly” (v. 15). And yet, there are still many who don’t want to be anywhere near Him. They insist on seeking cure for their ailments elsewhere, not knowing that it’s probably their souls that were sick and suffering and need healing.

My prayer for the broken is this: That the Savior Jesus Christ be their Redeemer, Healer, Restorer. That He will reign in their hearts and minds and be their Lord and King.

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Liberation in the Word {and a Testimony}

Meditating on Psalm 119: 113-176.

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in Your word.
116 Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live;
And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.
117 Hold me up, and I shall be safe… (Ps. 119: 114, 116, 117)

Psalm 119 tells about the psalmist’s hope in the Word. Over and over, we read his cries to God for salvation and deliverance, and always, because he trusts in His Word. We have discussed in previous Psalm 119 posts how the Word works in a Christian’s life as guide, comfort, reminder, healing, power, channel of God’s presence, and salvation. But we may ask, especially those who are still searching for truth or are not yet established in it, “What, really, is the relevance of the Word in a man’s life?” I ask this to introduce a testimony of a brother in Christ who had found the answer to this. We may lightly use salvation to the extent that its profound power is diluted in the everyday mundane. But, salvation in the Word remains to be the true life- and freedom-giving source for mankind. The Word [is] God (John 1:1).

Many years ago, Bro. Junie and his wife planned for a business of their own. His wife was going to receive a big sum of money from their company where she was working as a manager. It was her retrenchment pay. Around the same time, Bro. Junie also sold two condo units as a real estate agent and received huge commissions which he handed to his wife. They were going to set up their own business. Their only child and daughter was graduating from college. They had bright hopes for the future.

The day the wife would receive her payoff, she told her husband that she was going straight to the pier to send some money to her father in the province. Night came but Bro. Junie’s wife didn’t return. The next  morning, he set out to look for her. Everywhere. She didn’t find her but received news that her wife ran away with another man. Bro. Junie couldn’t find them no matter how much he tried. He was utterly devastated.

A few weeks later, her only daughter who was expected to be graduating from college, also eloped with her boyfriend. Bro. Junie was left alone with his shattered heart and life and indescribable wrath. It seemed to him that heaven and earth converged to crush him in-between with no hope of ever rising again.

He bought a gun and vowed to search for his wife and her paramour to the ends of hell and kill them both. He was burning with revenge. To say that he didn’t have peace would be a sheer understatement. He threatened his neighbors that he would kill everyone of them if he ever learned that they were gossiping about him.

Can you imagine Bro. Junie’s anguish? Not only his shattered heart and life, but the total absence of peace and the burning hatred which was driving him crazy and be really lost? It’s a hellish life.

One night, he opened the TV and it was the program of JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY. He stayed rooted in his seat and when the Gospel of salvation was preached, tears were streaming down his face. He was at once flooded with an indescribable peace replacing the great hatred that he had in his heart. He searched for the JMCIM Church and when he found it, he sank to his knees and begged God to help him. He received the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation with all his being.

123 My eyes fail from seeking Your salvation
And Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy…

146 I cry out to You;
Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.
147 I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word. (vv. 123, 124, 146, 147)

Soon, he found his daughter who was already pregnant. He arranged his daughter’s marriage and brought her and her husband to the Church. And they, too, were saved. Bro. Junie became a happy grandfather.

He continued to search for his wife with an offering of complete forgiveness in his hands. He searched and prayed. But in the end, the wife refused to return to him. Bro. Junie had to accept it peacefully. He was strong in the Lord.

141 am small and despised,
Yet I do not forget Your precepts.
143 Trouble and anguish have overtaken me,
Yet Your commandments are my delights. (vv. 141, 143)

He and his daughter’s family continue to serve the Lord faithfully to this day.

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple. (vv. 129-130, emphasis mine)

Friend, if doubts, uncertainties, and cynicism have stopped you from totally embracing the Lord Jesus Christ and His Truth (His Word and Gospel of peace), may this bring you nearer to Him (if you had not already run to His waiting arms). The Lord loves you so! Know this.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras of Vancouver, Canada. and edited at picmonkey.com).

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A Lenten Special: The Women God Loved

When I saw something that reminded me of the past, I cringed in self-revulsion. Immediately, heaviness settled in my heart and I fretted inwardly because I couldn’t quite understand why that still happened to me after 10 long years of walking with the Lord. I analyzed my feelings and realized that they were not actually caused by remorse that I hurt my loved ones for what I did in the past. It was not even regret that I hurt God, too. All feelings of regret and repentance had long gone after God had completely forgiven me and received me, and the same thing could be said with my family.

It was this: I was feeling angry with myself for being a fool in the past, for tarnishing my good name, and what was I supposed to feel and think, and how was I supposed to react when these old friends and classmates reunite? After all these years of leaving the past behind and knowing the Lord Jesus, I still felt resentful with myself why I stooped that low in committing that sin. But the more prominent feeling was: Why did I still tend to reject myself despite the knowledge that God had accepted me wholly?

That night as I lay in bed waiting for sleep, I held on to the Lord Jesus fast. I closed my eyes and sang Worthy is the Lamb in my heart over and over. I was grateful that even though my heart could try to condemn and despise me, the truth still stands: I am forgiven. I am accepted. And I am His beloved.

I sang to Him, clinging on His strength and wisdom. Slowly, He soothed all the negative feelings away.

…if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (1 John 3:20)

The woman taken in adultery: what was she doing with her life stooping that low to commit the sin of adultery and even be so indiscreet that she would be caught in the act? The woman at the well whom the Lord talked to: why was she ruining her life by going from one husband to another, and the sixth one that she was living with by the time she was talking to the Lord was not even her husband?

These women, before their conversion, were not at all different from me before the Lord found me. We were cast in the same mold: all broken and lost.

But when the Savior mercifully reached out to the adulterous woman crouched on the dusty ground and told her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11), her entire life was changed. She was altogether transformed. That was what the Lord’s love and mercy had done to her. And to me. And to the woman He met at the well who went running to tell the whole town about the Light and Hope that she had just seen and heard.

Later on when these women met the people who used to condemn them, gossiped about them, knew their past and looked at them with a knowing look – what might they have felt? Did they react like me? Or did they carry God’s grace confidently like a beautiful crown on their heads? Did they feel wary or hostile toward them, or did their hearts beat mercy for them, just as the Lord Jesus had been amazingly merciful and gracious to them?

If we know that we’ve been transformed by God’s love and mercy and are now new creations, why are we still concerned about the things of the past? For our reputations? (For this is nothing but pride and forgetting the grace of God which we have received). Why are we still visited by shame and affected by it? Why, when He took it all upon Himself?

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53:4-6)

Why did I want to change the story, my testimony, of how the Lord had shown His great mercy upon me and how He had designed it for His own glory? The formerly adulterous women (one is known to be Mary Magdalene, the other one was unnamed), they did not desire to change how the Lord was glorified in their lives. Their stories went down in history exactly how God had planned them. (I love those women; we’re kindred spirits).

I love You, my Lord Jesus, my Savior and Shepherd. I am not ashamed anymore. I am grace-filled.

Below is my most favorite music video ever. Why, it’s my story woven in Him!

I love you, too, my readers, but Jesus loves you more! May we all have a blessed Easter!

(Journey Through the Psalms Friday will resume next week).

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Journey with Jesus,