Meet Rahab, shrewd operator…
“But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof.”
Wide shot of Jericho - the city that never sleeps taking a nap - tense music builds. Two spies are running over rooftops, ducking into the shadows. They scale down a wall and slip into a small unassuming building. Rahab is standing there in front of a roaring fire that crackles and spits dangerously. Close up of her enigmatic face, she’s all mystery, not giving anything away.
Cut to: soldiers rushing through the streets, battering on doors, causing a commotion. Then we see Rahab opening her door and ushering the soldiers in…
But the room is empty.
‘Sure, I saw the guys, but they didn’t exactly stick around. What you doing standing here talking to me officer? If you run you can catch them, they can’t have gone far…’ As she speaks we see a close up of the spies under all the flax on the roof trying to stay as still as possible. The soldiers back out making their apologies and Rahab looks up at the roof, hoping she’s made the right choice, hoping the gamble pays off.
Rahab negotiates with the spies, who are scouting the land before the invasion, to save her and her family in exchange for not handing them over to the authorities. She is impressed by what she’s heard of about these people and their God. She’s a shrewd operator - judging the mood, and playing the cards she is dealt - but she’s an unconventional hero, lying and acting out of self-preservation.
There are parallels between Rahab and the parable Jesus tells about ‘the unjust steward’ (see Luke 16.1-8). A man who has just been fired by his rich boss spends his notice period cutting favourable deals with all of the clients so that when he is back on the job market they will want to hire him. When the boss finds out - he isn’t mad - he’s delighted that his lazy steward is doing something. The parable ends with the line: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”
Rahab and the unjust steward are puzzles. They act in unconventional, unexpected ways, thinking on their feet and improvising in the face of political and economical turmoil. Both suggest that rather than just removing yourself from the world - it is important to engage. As Christians we shouldn’t just be boring and predictable but we should be alive to what God is doing in the world and be ready to act creatively under pressure.
Be my compass,