Rahab

Do you see the message of grace and mercy printed right into the DNA of Jesus? 

So she [Rahab] let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. Joshua 2:15 

The story of Rahab, described as a harlot in Jericho, is told in Joshua chapters 2 and 6. She hid the Israelites who were spying out the city, and helped them to escape, and in doing so saved herself and her family. In Hebrews 11:31 it says that Rahab did this by faith. She decided to put her faith and life in the hands of this wonder-working God she had heard of.  

Rahab, and her actions hiding the Israelite spies, is mentioned twice in the New Testament as an example of faith showing itself in good works. But, did you know that Rahab was the great-great grandmother of King David, and therefore in the genealogy of Jesus? 

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. Joshua 6:25 

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham … Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. Matthew 1:1, 5-6 

Here’s some commentary on Rahab’s marriage to Salmon: 

The Old Testament records are silent as to the marriage of Salmon with the harlot of Jericho. When they were compiled it was probably thought of as a blot rather than a glory; but the fact may have been preserved in the traditions of the house of David. It has been conjectured that Salmon may have been one of the two unnamed spies whose lives were saved by Rahab, when he was doing the work which Caleb had done before him. The mention of Rahab in James 2:25, Hebrews 11:31, shows that her fame had risen at the time when St. Matthew wrote. —Elliott’s Commentary for English Readers (emphasis mine) 

I always thought that this was why Boaz had no qualms about marrying a despised Moabite, Ruth, because his own mother was a Canaanite outcast. Both Rahab and Ruth had converted and chosen to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What is so wonderful is that these two foreigners and outsiders are prominent in the family tree of Jesus (see Matthew 1:1-16).  

And they are not the only ones in the genealogy that raise eyebrows. There is Tamar, who acted as a prostitute to lure Judah into obeying the command of God. There is Bathsheba, whose extramarital tryst resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and the murder of her husband. Not to mention Mary, who became pregnant out of wedlock. And that’s just the women. There was also David, who committed the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Ahaz who sacrificed his children to false gods, and Manasseh, about whom it is written that he “shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end.” 

You know that saying, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”? Well, God could have. God could have arranged that Jesus be born of a spotless, totally righteous bloodline of perfect people. But he did not.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written that when Jesus left heaven “he left heaven as God, God the Son, but when he returned to heaven he was God and Man. He has taken human nature with him.”1 How wonderful! How amazing! Right from the start, and on into eternity, God, through Jesus, embraces humanity, embraces the sinner – even the most horrible, detestable of sinners. By taking on human nature and living a perfect human life, Jesus has made a Way to take us back to heaven with and in him.

Rahab’s scarlet cord, that she tied in the window to ward off the attackers, was a foreshadowing of salvation by the atoning death, the shed blood, of Jesus. Ruth laying down at the feet of Boaz and asking him to marry her is a picture of Christ and the Bride, the Church. Do you see the message of grace and mercy printed right into the DNA of Jesus? 

It doesn’t matter what you have done, you can come to God and be accepted into the family through the blood of Jesus shed for you. Turn from your sin. Put your faith in what He did for you on the cross. Bow down at his feet as Ruth did. He wants to receive you, cleanse you, save you, and marry you as the holy Bride of Christ, the Church. 

Salvation 

You can use this as a free Bible study here.

1Sanctified through the Truth, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Crossway Books. 1989

Image free download from pixabay 

Flowing Myrrh

What really got me about the myrrh is how it is harvested.

I slept but my heart was awake. 

    Listen! My beloved is knocking: 

“Open to me, my sister, my darling, 

    my dove, my flawless one. 

My head is drenched with dew, 

    my hair with the dampness of the night.” 

I have taken off my robe— 

    must I put it on again? 

I have washed my feet— 

    must I soil them again? 

My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening; 

    my heart began to pound for him. 

I arose to open for my beloved, 

    and my hands dripped with myrrh, 

my fingers with flowing myrrh, 

    on the handles of the bolt. 

I opened for my beloved, 

    but my beloved had left; he was gone. 

    My heart sank at his departure. 

I looked for him but did not find him. 

    I called him but he did not answer. (Song of Solomon 5:2-6) 

This passage reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the man in bed who didn’t want to get up to help his friend.  

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?  Luke 11:5-7 

Just like the Shulamite in the above verse, the man was all cozy and settled and didn’t want to get up. But he finally did, as she did, when the knocking continued. Jesus called it “shameless audacity.” And I suppose it is audacious, knocking on someone’s door persistently in the middle of the night – especially the door of a bride. But he does not give up. Though it appears, when she finally gets up, that he has left, he has not abandoned her. But rather he has aroused her to rise up and seek him. For he “works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)  

And he has left behind in his passion, the needed grace, for she says, “I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.”   

He has left behind flowing myrrh. What is the significance of the myrrh? The Illustrated Bible Dictionary says this about myrrh:i 

“First mentioned as a principal ingredient in the holy anointing oil ( Exodus 30:23 ). It formed part of the gifts brought by the wise men from the east, who came to worship the infant Jesus ( Matthew 2:11 ). It was used in embalming (John 19:39 ), also as a perfume ( Esther 2:12 ; Psalms 45:8 ; Proverbs 7:17 ). It was a custom of the Jews to give those who were condemned to death by crucifixion ‘wine mingled with myrrh’ to produce insensibility. This drugged wine was probably partaken of by the two malefactors, but when the Roman soldiers pressed it upon Jesus ‘he received it not’ ( Mark 15:23 ).”  

So, the myrrh looks forward to Jesus, our anointed High Priest, who would die for us on the cross, and to the Bridegroom, perfumed for the wedding to the Bride.  

“He has come perfumed as if for a festival, and the costly ointment which he brought with him has dropped on the handles of the bolts (מנעוּל, keeping locked, after the form מלבּוּשׁ, drawing on), viz., the inner bolt, which he wished to withdraw.” — Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament 

What really got me about the myrrh, though, is how it is harvested. “Myrrh is harvested by repeatedly wounding the trees to bleed the gum, which is waxy and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy.”ii 

This myrrh that is left behind on the handle is still fresh and running. Still new.

His mercies are new every morning. Lamentations 3:23 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 

The myrrh left behind on the handle is “[s]weet smelling myrrh – Or (as in the margin) ‘running myrrh,’ that which first and spontaneously exudes, i. e., the freshest, finest myrrh. Even in withdrawing he has left this token of his unchanged love.” — Barnes Notes on the Bible (emphasis mine) 

The Bridegroom has left behind the token of his unchanged love for us. But the myrrh also points to the Bride. The running or liquid myrrh was used, as commanded by the Lord to Moses, to anoint, in addition to Aaron, his sons to serve as priests, and to anoint the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 30:22-30). That points to us. We have been anointed as priests to serve our God (Exodus 19:6, Revelation 1:6). We are the Tent of Meeting, or Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16).   

Rise up and seek Him church! It is time. He is knocking. 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 (ESV) 

i M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, 
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. 

ii Caspar Neumann, William Lewis, The chemical works of Caspar Neumann, M.D.,2nd Ed., Vol 3, London, 1773 p.55 (quoted from Wikipedia) 

Image in the Public Domain. Commiphora myrrha tree, one of the primary trees from which myrrh is harvested. Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrh#/media/File:Commiphora_myrrha_-_K%C3%B6hler%E2%80%93s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-019.jpg  

The God Who Wants to Celebrate

He is always preparing, and calling for us to join in the preparation of this great party he wants to give.

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ Luke 15:22-24 

“William Tyndale, the man who translated the Bible into English in the 16th century, said: 

Evangelion (what we call ‘the gospel’) is a Greek word, signifying good, merry, glad and joyful news, that makes a man’s heart glad and makes him sing, dance and leap for joy. 

A church without the gospel fails to be a church. It’s something else—a social club or political action committee or a rallying point for pet projects or hobby horse hermeneutics. Those are man-centered organizations. And they can’t last. They make us sad. Maybe not immediately, but ultimately. Every man-made institution ends in tears. But the gospel ends with a party. It’s good news of great joy.” — Adam McClendon, The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church (blogged recently by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/06/the-gospel-is-big-enough-for-your-church/ ) 

Henry J.M. Nouwen also writes that God’s irrepressible love is the “love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate … ‘Rejoice with me,’ the shepherd says, ‘I have found my sheep that was lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the woman says, ‘I have found the drachma I lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the father says, ‘this son of mine was lost and is found.’” i  

I love that God’s love always wants to celebrate, that his good news ends with a party. He is always calling out to us, “rejoice with me!” He is always preparing, and calling for us to join in the preparation of this great party he wants to give. 

Timothy Keller notes that “in his first public exercise of divine power, Jesus turned several large containers of water into wine. Amazingly, John the gospel writer calls this miracle a ‘sign,’ a signifier of what Jesus’s’ ministry was all about. Why would Jesus, to convey what he had come to do, choose to turn 150 gallons of water into superb wine in order to keep a party going? The answer is that Jesus came to bring festival joy … Jesus’s salvation is a feast …” ii 

It is not surprising that the first miracle done by Jesus in this great story of the gospel celebration was at a marriage. Even though Jesus told Mary that it was not really his time yet, I don’t think he could resist a celebration – especially one of a marriage. Because that is how, finally, the gospel story will end: 

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7 

 “… his bride has made herself ready.” The word translated “ready” is hetoimazo, which means to prepare, to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready. We take part in the preparation by getting ourselves ready – working out our salvation, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, dying to self, becoming holy. But we also help prepare by going out and inviting others to the party and helping them prepare. 

The father in the parable of the two sons calls for the preparation of a great celebration. Mark recounts the beginning of the gospel – the joyful celebration – also as a preparation.  

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way — a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-2 

Jesus told another parable, that is called the Parable of the Great Banquet. Again, it includes an invitation to a party that has been prepared. 

Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ Matthew 22:4 

If we are his servants, let us go out and proclaim the joyful news: There is a great party that has been prepared for you if you will come. Return! Come rejoice with the Father! Come in! You are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb! 

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15:32 

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7 

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come. Revelation 22:17 

Photo by stainedglassartist, Cana detail jars, https://flic.kr/p/7bUyuv  

Friends

This completely turned upside down my thinking about John 21. I don’t think Jesus is settling for a lesser form of love from Peter. I don’t think this is another failure for Peter.

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agapao) Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agapao) Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love (phileo) Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” John 21:15-17 (NIV)

Much has been written about this passage of scripture. Many have thought that it was Jesus’ way of reinstating Peter after his three denials on the night Jesus was arrested – the three declarations of love wiping out the three denials – and I believe that was part of it. And many have pointed out the two forms of the word “love” used in these verses and wondered about the possible meaning. Jesus uses the word agapao in his first two questions, but phileo in his last question to Peter. Peter replies, “yes,” but uses phileo in all three of his answers.

Agapao simply means to love in a social or moral sense. E. Stauffer[i] writes that agapao, or love, of God means total commitment and total trust. So, when Jesus asks Peter, “do you agapao me?” He may have been asking also, “are you totally committed now, do you trust me?”

Peter replies, “yes,” but then goes on, not answering with agapao, but with the Greek word phileo. Phileo means to be a friend to, to be fond of an individual or an object, to have affection for, to kiss, to love. It would appear at first glance that this is a lesser form of love. And some have thought that Jesus was prodding Peter to the higher form of love, but Peter, after his devasting failure in the denial episode, could only promise the lesser form of love – to be a friend. They have concluded, “that Jesus finally concedes defeat and accepts only the lower form of love which is all that Peter is capable of offering.”[ii] But, when I looked further into the meaning of this word, phileo, I was amazed.

Phileo is the verb form of the noun philos, which means friend, dear friend, associate, neighbor. But, it also means this: “one of the bridegroom’s friends who on his behalf asked the hand of the bride and rendered him various services in closing the marriage and celebrating the nuptials.” This friend is acting as the best man. This friend carries a huge trust and responsibility. He asks for the hand of the Bride on behalf of the Bridegroom! This is the word for friend that John the Baptist used in this verse.

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. John 3:29 (NIV)

Jesus said, “You are my friends (philos) if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends (philos), for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:14-15 NIV). This sounds like a greater call, a greater trust, a greater service to our Lord than to be a mere servant who is not privy to what his master is about. He’s calling us to be the friend, the best man, of the Bridegroom! To go out and ask for the hand of the Bride on His behalf. Isn’t that what evangelism is all about? What a precious thing this Bride! What an amazing responsibility and calling is given to us!

This completely turned upside down my thinking about John 21. I don’t think Jesus is settling for a lesser form of love from Peter. I don’t think this is another failure for Peter. I think Peter is saying, “Yes Lord, I love (agapao) you! I fully trust and am committed to you. But even more, I accept the calling and responsibility to go out and bring back to you your Bride.” That’s why Jesus can ask, in a way, the third time, Are you prepared to be my Best Man? Go find and take care my Bride.

Am I prepared? Are you? Can we say, Yes Lord, you know I phileo you!

The people I love (phileo, I am a friend to), I call to account–prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! Revelation 3:19 (MSG) 

 

[i] E. Stauffer in Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

[ii] NetBible.org. Translator’s Notes.

Photograph of the bride with the best man and groomsmen by Caitlyn Brouwer. All rights reserved by Jessica Bair.

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