Imagine finding a useful herb in the middle of a patch of useless, annoying, and even dangerous weeds. I thought of that mint plant a few days ago when we studied Rahab in one of my classes. I have written about her before, and you can read that article in the Bible people category to your right, “The Scarlet Woman and Her Scarlet Cord,” but something new struck my mind in this latest discussion.
God told Abraham his descendants would not receive their land inheritance for another 400 years because “the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full,” Gen 15:13-16. The people of Canaan, the Promised Land, were not yet so wicked that God was ready to destroy them, but the time was coming.
If there is a Bible definition for “total depravity” perhaps that is it: “when their iniquity is full.” That had happened before in the book of Genesis—to Sodom in Genesis 19, and to the whole world in Genesis 6 when God saw that “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (v 5), another fine definition for total depravity.
Both times God brought about a complete destruction—except for a tiny remnant that we can count on our fingers in each instance. That means that when God finally brought the Israelites into their land, the Canaanites’ iniquity was “full” and those people must have been every bit as wicked as the people of Sodom and the world in general in Noah’s day.
Yet right in the middle of Jericho, the first city to be conquered, a harlot believed in Jehovah God. A harlot. Would you have bothered speaking to her if she were your neighbor, much less invited her to a Bible study? But she outshone even the people of God in a way that made God take notice of her.
Thirty-eight years before, when those first 12 spies came back from their scouting expedition in Numbers 13, ten of them, the vast majority, gave a fearful report. Look at the words they used: “we are not able;” “they are stronger than us.” Look at the words Rahab used when she spoke to the two later spies: “I know the Lord has given you the land;” “our hearts melted and there was no spirit left in any man…because the Lord your God he is God.” The earlier Israelites raised “a loud cry,” “wept all night,” and “grumbled against Moses and Aaron” (Num 14:1-4). Rahab sent the spies safely on their way and hung a scarlet cord in her window, patiently waiting for the deliverance promised by two men she had never seen before in her life, but whose God she had grown to believe in with all her heart. The difference is startling. If you didn’t know anything but their words and actions, which would you think were children of God?
And a woman like this lived in a place determined for destruction because its iniquity was “full,” plying a trade we despise, living a life of moral degradation as a matter of course.
Who lives in your neighborhood? What kind of lives do they lead? Rahab had heard about the God of Israel for forty years (Josh 2:10), assuming she was that old—if not, then all her life. Have your neighbors heard about your God? Have they seen Him in your actions, in your interactions, and in your absolute assurance that He is and that He cares for you, even when life deals you a blow?
Do your words sound like the faithless Israelites’ or like the faithful prostitute’s? Would God transplant you out of the weeds into the herb garden, or dig you up and throw you out among the thorns and nettles where a useless plant belongs?
Don’t count on the fact that you aren’t a harlot.
Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14.