Be Strong and Courageous

One day last week after a long suffering bout where I had felt like I was dangling over a deep canyon and just the tiniest error on my part or a soft whiff of wind would send me plummeting into the deep and… end, many confusing thoughts and swirling emotions gripped me. It was a moment that I didn’t want to analyze things anymore, that I was tired thinking, analyzing, and trying to understand what I was unable to comprehend anyway. I was thinking that once I had enough strength and good breathing, I was going to write on my journal this: “Lord, I don’t know what to do anymore.” I was so exhausted not only physically but in fighting spiritually or even mentally, trying to outsmart my sickness and suffering. For a change I wanted to just be lost and not think or do anything.

My daisy meadow from last year.

My daisy meadow from last year.

For what could a mere human do in the face of so much hardship? I thought about the unfairness of life: the wicked enjoying a long, healthy, and prosperous life, and the people that are still so needed by their families are taken away (here, I was thinking of my friend who passed away recently, leaving her 4 children orphans, for her husband had gone before her ten years prior).

So, I was facing yet another major bout of discouragement and hopelessness.

But just as soon as these feelings of weakness and lostness engulfed me, these words flashed in my mind in red letters: Be strong and courageous.

And instantly, I was renewed to be strong and courageous again.

Then I understood (again), that there was no other way, really, in this faith that we have been given. So, I comforted and encouraged myself with these words as the last few moments of recovery (from the attack) came to an end: “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (see Eph. 6:10).

I am not a stranger to this admonition. In fact, it is my battlecry in the 14 years of being sick and suffering. It has seen me through the dark valleys and stormy seas. In the face of great fear, uncertainties, suffering, discouragements, hopelessness, and wanting to give up, “Be strong and courageous” has always gained the upper hand.

Yes, to remain standing still after each storm. For the Lord Jesus Christ is able to make us stand.

…Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Rom. 14:4)

It is God’s power and grace that make us stand.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:11-13)

Having done all, to stand. I often think and wonder why, after doing all the things that I know are pleasing to God – obeying His commands, living His Word, and not neglecting to worship and commune with Him first and foremost – still, there are prayers, very important ones, that are left unanswered. Still, illness stays and suffering continues. After each and every suffering bout, I ask in the depths of my soul, like an anguished animal desperate for deliverance, “What else needs to be done?”

And when we only hear hollow echoes of our questions and not a clear answer, we either slump down in utter dejection and discouragement or become bitter, resentful, and more doubtful.

But the Apostle Paul exhorts that having done all, to still stand. Stand and not cave in. Stand and not doubt. Stand and forge on. Stand and be strong and courageous. Stand and be faithful to the end.

I know firsthand how this is not easily done, especially in the face of so much hardships and challenges. But it is what needs to be done. Our God commands it.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)

I am no Joshua, but I can make the other women of the Bible who had shown strength and courage in the face of life’s trials and challenges as my role models.

Esther

There is Esther who bravely faced her fate twice. First, as a candidate for queen among other young women. What if she had other plans for herself? All that had to be forgotten for she was brought to the palace to be prepared for one night with the king. What if she wasn’t chosen? She will be kept in the harem as the king’s concubine for life. A very daunting prospect.

But she did her best and became a shining star in the palace and earned the trust and respect of Hegai, custodian of the women, and the other girls. She wasn’t afraid even ensconced within the walls of the palace that could serve her prison for life.

Then there was the moment in her life as queen when she needed to approach the king and present her petition, putting her life on the line. For any one who had not been summoned by the king and presented themselves risked death.

Ruth

Who doesn’t love Ruth? A widow and a stranger to Israel being a Moabitess, she could have stayed behind with her family and the people she knew. But she cleaved to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and set her face to a pilgrimage to the land she had never been before, to a people and faith foreign to her, and to a God she had not known.

And yet, she had the heart and courage to face all that without being afraid. And then followed the back-breaking labor of gleaning barley from sunup to sundown.

And having done all, to stand.

Rahab

Who would forget Rahab? She was a brave and gutsy woman for sure. She didn’t only shine hiding the spies and bravely facing the king’s stewards who came knocking at her door demanding her to turn in the spies. But to turn her back from her old occupation and start a whole new life in the embrace of Israel and her God. From a prostitute to an Israel adoptee (even capturing Salmon’s heart), she bravely yielded herself to the challenges that she faced. It wouldn’t have been easy to live normally and blissfully and to be with only one man with the demons of her past visiting her many a sleepless night. The remembrance of her past life.

But having done all, to stand.

And then there is Mary the mother of the Lord Jesus. But we end here.

If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. (Ps. 94:18)

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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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Journey with Jesus,