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The Jesse Tree: Rahab

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The Jesse Tree: Rahab

By Denise Trull 

The gift of Wisdom was once defined to me as the grace "to see all things as God sees." To dwell in the mind of God as far as grace will allow us. There is no finer way to see how God sees than to listen attentively to the genealogy of Jesus in the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel. No one is left out the way perhaps we might leave out a few 'rum' characters on our own family trees -- those people we might not want other people to find out about lest we go down in their estimation. In the genealogy of Jesus, however, every single ancestor gets a mention. They are each seen by God as essential to the story, in His way of seeing. He asks us, in His Wisdom, to see the same.

One little spark of beauty in this lineage, whose name I wait for every year, is Rahab, the Canaanite woman of ill repute living a shadow life near the wall of her city, Jericho. She had certainly heard the whispered rumors of a strange people coming across the desert, whose God had parted the Red Sea and drowned the mighty army of Egypt. A people drawing very near to Jericho now, it was rumored. Did this same God of power fill Rahab with his Wisdom that night? I think He did. The whole city was on alert by order of the King. Rahab lived close to the wall.

Maybe she was sitting at her window that night, weary of the line of men at her door. A night when she might have sent them all away in disgust and perhaps laid her head on the sill and wept frustrated, despairing tears of a wasted life. Her beauty sold so cheaply day after day to those who never questioned what they were doing to her and yet still came -- night after night -- in secret. Thoughtless empty men. She felt herself a woman unworthy of anything but shadows. But somewhere in the middle of her heart she felt the light rising. Wisdom permeating in some mysterious way.

That’s when she saw them from her window perch: Joshua's spies sneaking down the street and to her door. To HER door? Why? Were they just like all the rest, these new, so-called heroes? She went down and let them in because somehow Wisdom bade her. And, wonder of wonders, all they asked for was rest for the night. Nothing else. Two men treating her with respect and needing her help and trusting it. Wisdom grew brighter in her heart. She hid them in her attic, fed them and gave them blankets and a place to sleep. They too were soon filled with the light of God. They knew instinctively she was one of His.

The next day she let them down out of her window by the city wall, by a scarlet cord for their escape. Before they ran, all she asked was that they spare her. And not just her: her mother and father, her sisters and brothers, and her whole family. This beautiful woman who lived in shadows on the edge of a city of men who cared nothing for her except to use her. She asked shelter for her family -- a family who might have perhaps disowned her and struck her from any mention on their family tree. She must have been something, wonderful Rahab, to have them foremost in her mind as worthy of saving. She had a heart of love and goodness. The spies dropped down to the ground and escaped, but they told her they would be true. And they were. Did she marvel at their promise kept? She hung that scarlet cord in her window so that she would be spared when they came back to take the city. It was a sign to them. They found her and brought her to safety. She was never the same again.

A woman came into the light that day. A woman of shadows came into the light of men's respect and kindness who miraculously kept promises to her. She returned light for light. And that is how the wisdom grew -- from one unlikely ancestor to the other down through the ages who saw the way God sees.

Rahab, by a series of twists and turns, led by Wisdom's light, repented, and married into the line that was to end with Joseph. She is thought by scholars to be Boaz's mother, Ruth's mother-in-law, and she  became part of the most beautiful family tree in existence. She was named, counted, seen because of her kindness, her bravery, her selfless love for others in need.

And is it because of Rahab in part that Jesus dealt so gently with prostitutes all through his public ministry? Knowing their hearts and their sorrows and their wrong turns repented of, but not knowing what to do until they saw Him one day. Walking with them, talking with them, having dinner with them, gently chiding them to sin no more. To touch them as a father would touch the cheek of a confused and wayward child melting them into tears of innocence once again. To invite them into the light of His Wisdom, to sit at His own table in the light of glory. To be named. To be counted. Rahab was their champion. A woman of the shadows who was called into the light and joyfully came. A woman Jesus was proud to proclaim as a shining fruit on his family tree.

No one is who they seem. Let us see as God sees. That is Wisdom.

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