Reaching the seventh day, heavy sounds of footsteps and trumpets finally trailed off. Yet, the following loud cries and big bangs were stunning the citizens, and shook the heart of a woman. She clung hard to her family at the corner of the house. She could feel her heart thumping in her chest and her back was completely drenched in cold sweat. She was terrified. Yet, she never took her gaze off the scarlet cord hanging from the window and down the city wall… After what seemed like a decade of time, the woman carefully moved towards the window. The tears that were welling up in her eyes had finally rolled down her cheeks when she saw the fallen city wall. “HE was real…” She mumbled.
That woman was called Rahab, the prostitute. In the Book of Joshua, two spies were sent to examine the city of Jericho. In order to escape from the chase of the King of Jericho, they went to Rahab’s house. Rahab risked her life to hide them, protected them from being captured, and showed them their way back to the camp. In return for Rahab's favour, the spies made an agreement with her, hanging a scarlet cord out the window as a sign to protect her entire family from Israelites’ invasion. Seven days after the Israelite army marched around Jericho, the walls collapsed. The city was invaded, every bit of the city was destroyed except this woman’s house. Only Rahab and her whole family were sparedand lived among the Israelites.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31)
In Hebrews 11, two women were named as the “Model of Faith” -- The wife of Abraham, Sarah and the prostitute in Jericho, Rahab. Sarah was a godly woman and became the mother of nations. As she sacrificed and submitted herself to the Lord, God made her descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Whereas Rahab lived among the foreigners who refused to fear God and turned to worship other gods, not to mention her career as a prostitute. In the eyes of man, these two women have nothing in common. Yet in the eyes of God, their lives shared a very crucial bond: an extraordinary faith in God.
TO FEAR OR NOT TO FEAR
Before the city of Jericho was taken, people had heard of the wonders and power of God, knowing how God had led the Israelites out of Egypt, parted the sea and utterly destroyed Sihon and Og. When the army of Israel was marching around the city and blowing their trumpets day by day, the citizens were growing more and more anxious. The scripture described them as “our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed” (Joshua 2:11). It is not hard for us to imagine how terrified they were at that time.
Was Rehab not fearful? Surely not. Nevertheless, the fear she possessed was different from the fear of others. Rather than fearing how others perceived her role and identity, or losing one's life due to betrayal of her own country, she focused on the fear of God! In Joshua 2:11, she addressed God as “Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”. When she heard of the wonders of God, not only did her “heart melt(ed) in fear,” but she also deeply believed that the Lord was God of salvation and mercy (Joshua 2:12). She chose to fear God and put away the feelings of other fears.
How do you perceive fear? What are the fears you have in your life? To me, fear is not merely “being appalled” nor “being scared or afraid”, it can be disguised as insecurities, comparison, jealousy, people-pleasing, manipulation… etc. We could be scared of how others look at us, making mistakes, not being able to meet others’ expectations, loneliness, being misunderstood, being neglected, or not being loved or respected. When these feelings of fear make us uncomfortable, we can get defensive and point our fingers at others (for example in friendship, marriage, family) which ends with messing up those precious relationships.
My Fears’ Origin
I was born in Malaysia in 1942, with my mother being the second wife in the family. My mother first gave birth to a girl, followed by another girl, me. This undoubtedly made everyone uneasy in a patriarchal society. Therefore, despite being a girl, my family dressed me up as a little boy. In my childhood photos and memories, I have always been the naughty boyish child!
In later years, my mother successfully gave birth to four little brothers. Since my family was unable to take care of that many children, when I was in primary one, I was taken by my aunt to live with my grannies in Penang and got separated from my family. During high school, I was taken again by another aunt and stayed on another island. Indeed, I seldom lived with my parents and siblings during my childhood. Speaking of dealing with fear, it might have started early in my life. I did not know my identity and could not live and grow in the way that my siblings did.
When I got married to Turner, I left my home country and came to Hong Kong by myself. I gradually made friends here, learned how to speak Cantonese, figured out how to live with my mother-in-law, got used to the culture of Hong Kong people. At that time, it seemed like the idea of fear never occurred to me. No matter how hard life was, the people in my generation could always make a path in life with gritted teeth. Now looking back in life, I realized I have a little secret: I was afraid of eating out alone. It made me uncomfortable when I was eating out by myself and eating with others always made me feel secure. I figured that the emotion of fear can somehow emerge in our daily lives without people’s notice. It might be apparent to some people, yet it could be rather implicit to others like me who regard themselves as “having guts”.
Rahab is a model for showing us how to face different fears. Whether they are external or internal, distinct or hidden, she could courageously walk in her path of faith. She chose to believe in God and in truth instead of believing her own perception.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. (Psalm 34: 4-9)
A DIFFERENT KIND OF FEAR
The Bible uses the word “fear” to describe fright towards God. According to the dictionary, “fear” is often defined as “the feeling of being frightened, scared, appalled and worried”. Nonetheless, the word in the original Hebrew text carries the meaning of reverence, respect, admiration and awe on top of the sense of terror and being afraid. In other words, “fear” in the original text contains more positivity, respect, obedience and reverence than the general interpretation of “fear”. The story of Rahab demonstrates the two types of fears and their consequences. The general type of fear may trigger the response of self-help, but when such behaviour does not work, it may lead to uncontrollable burden and despair. On the other hand, fear of God results in salvation, heartfelt security, breakthrough in faith and hope. It is based on the unchanging truth rather than personal perception or feeling. Rahab lived in a society full of sins, which is definitely not the best environment for knowing what truth is. Nevertheless, with the pure faith in her heart and her determination to fear and trust God, not only did she change her life, but also reconstructed the history of the Israelites.
When Turner and I first visited the church we are in now, we could already tell this church was special. We thus brought our daughters Renee and Dorene along. I started joining Bible Talk and Bible Study. Along the way, I had to face different fears and struggles in my heart. Eventually, I got baptised and became a disciple in 1989. This decision changed me and my family. During these 28-years of spiritual journey, with a heart of fearing God, I was not only able to witness many changes in my life, but also witness many other women having their lives changed by the grace of God. I was able to witness my two daughters grow under the love of God, get married and even become mothers. I also witnessed Turner and I grow and learn as we served God full time in the ministry. I have already reached the age of retirement, but still have the heart of fearing God burning inside of me.
TOACT OR NOT TO ACT
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:25-26)
Rahab made her faith in God her foundation and thoroughly put her faith into practice. She received and helped the Israelite spies with wisdom and action and saved her family through the scarlet cord. She has taught me, as a woman, when I should act and when I should wait.
Hands: Grab the Chance
When the two spies arrived at Rahab's house, she received them without a word and seized the chance to protect the people of God. She demonstrated decisiveness during critical moments and treasured every opportunity to accomplish her tasks. Hospitality may not seem significant, yet it actually pulls off wonderful things from God! As a woman, I enjoy receiving and entertaining guests. I, along with two of my best friends, Joan Smith and Lynne Green, love cooking and serving guests. We study different kinds of recipes and love to invite friends to our home. We have the same conviction in hospitality which made the three of us become “buddies”. There are always many opportunities to perform “little things” around us and hospitality is just one of them. For example, taking care of the elderly, serving little children, cleaning and tidying, preparing refreshments, walking with people who are in need…etc. Chances are everywhere. Are we able to treasure these opportunities to “work behind the scene” and achieve good things for God, just like what Rahab did?
Head: Think Before We Act
Look at how detailed, comprehensive, and strategic Rahab was in planning to protect the two spies. First, she took them to the roof and hid them under the stalks of flax that she laid beforehand. In order to spare time for the spies to get away, she misled the soldiers who were chasing after them. She even shared military secrets with the two spies thoughtfully, saying that the whole city of Jericho was afraid of the God of Israel. At last, she reminded both of them to hide in the hills for three days before continuing their way to the sites.
What Rahab did made me ponder over the role of being a woman. If God is willing to believe and entrust different talents to us, can’t we use them well to serve Him? We can learn from Rehab: she thought before she acted and servedGod with all wisdom and understanding. She had plans and strategies. Or do we prefer not to use our brains and just follow other’s commands? Or just follow our feelings and impulses when we act? Rahab has accurately shown us an example of what it means to serve God with courage and wisdom.
I am grateful that God let me become a dentist. After graduation, I worked in the government department for 24 years and in university for another 10 years. These professional training and working experiences trained me to act in an orderly and observant way. I have learned how to devise the most suitable medical goals for patients, followed by feasible and clear plans. My days of being a lecturer and manager trained me in how to build others up at work. These experiences equipped me to think from various angles and taught me how to have concrete plans and actions as a leader and in raising up leaders.
In 2001, I was given a very special ministry in Hong Kong: Women under the Cross. With the aim of building up this women’s ministry with love and dreams, we thought actively on how to nurture different leaders with spiritual wisdom. Today in the Hong Kong church, each region has its own Women under the Cross ministry, each with its own special characteristics. I am still full of respect for and very proud of these women! Today, if God is willing to entrust his beloved sons and daughters to us shepherds, are we using godly wisdom? Are we relying on brothers’ leadership and shifting all the burdens to them, instead of working hard to become their good partners to accomplish the mission given by God?
Heart: Wait Wholeheartedly
Rahab hung a scarlet cord out of the window, yet she had no idea about the schedule and the plan of God. Neither did she know when the messengers would be back, nor how God would take down the city of Jericho for the Israelites. All she did was look at the scarlet cord and wait patiently since that cord was the evidence of her covenant with the people of God. In Psalm 62:5, David wrote, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”
The word “hope” here is the same word as the “cord” in the original text. Thus, the scarlet cord represents the sign of hope. Even though all Rahab could grasp was just a sign of hope, she showed her perseverance and kept waiting. Thisillustrates her willingness to take the risk and let go of everything, so that she could put her hope in God. For some women, “waiting” is indeed very difficult homework. However, Rahab has taught us that the process of waiting can be fascinating as long as we fixate our hope on God.
In my life, God has always given me homework on “waiting”. Back in the days when I was studying at college in Australia, I met Turner. We fell in love and got engaged once we graduated. At that time, it had been seven years since I left my home in Malaysia, so I really hoped to go back for a year before going to Hong Kong. Turner and I parted after he gave me a purple gemstone ring as our engagement ring. He went to Hong Kong, waited for me there for a year, and then we had our wedding. He taught me that “waiting” is a hope of great value. After getting married, we wanted to have children, yet it took us seven years before I got pregnant and gave birth to my first daughter, Renee. However, the most memorable experience of “waiting”, has got to be the coma of my younger daughter, Dorene, after a car accident in June 1997. It was a seven-day wait at her bedside until she woke up miraculously. I recall that I was also reading the battle of Jericho in the Book of Joshua at that time, with a belief that Dorene could wake up from the coma after seven days. By faith, my daughter really woke up on the eighth day...
We all have different trials in our lives. It has never been easy to endure hardships even with the hope in God. Having to face the inner fear, anxiety, arrogance or desire, some people may lose their patience and give up, while some may want to take control back into their own hands instead of trusting God’s timing. Rahab’s perseverance in waiting wholeheartedly for God to act encourages us to keep our hope, wait patiently on God, and trust His plans.
WE ALL PLAY A PART IN GOD’S PLAN
Rahab had a humble upbringing and was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. Her social status was lower than most other people in society. Some studies postulate that Rahab could have been an innkeeper, however, the scriptures in the New Testament have clearly state that she was a prostitute. Apart from the genealogy of Jesus in which Rahab was regarded as the mother of Boaz (Matthew 1:5), other related scriptures would name her as prostitute (Joshua 2:1, Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25). Despite having low social status and being in a society which fell short of godly standards, she did not allow her own experience and circumstance deter her from putting trust in God. Although to an Almighty God, Rahab was not a must in helping the Israelites successfully win the city of Jericho. Rahab might seem to be a minimal character, yet was able to bring tremendous influence in history. God views every one of us, no matter how big or small you think your role is, as crucial and of great value. We can even help accomplish part of His amazing plan. Regardless of your past and background, current roles, and talents, as long as we truly believe in our own value in the eyes of God, everyone can become a faithful servant in the Kingdom.
With faith, Rahab and her loved ones were all saved. Yet, little did she know that God had prepared blessings that were far greater than she could fathom.
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 1:5-6)
Who was the husband of Rahab? Salmon -one of the spies that Rahab saved- was the prince in the family of Judah. Rahab gave birth to Boaz, who later became the husband of Ruth in the Book of Ruth. God blessed Rahab to have marriage and enabled her to have her offspring. He even made her become part of the genealogy of David and Jesus. In the genealogy of Jesus mentioned in the Book of Matthew, Rahab was the second female name and was one of the four women that were named in the scriptures. She was also among the few women that could be named for her faith in the Bible (Hebrews 11:31). We can tell that she was a woman who held a very special place in the Bible.
From her faith that originated from the fear of God and the acts that live up with her faith, Rahab became a living model of faith. Let us learn about the fear of God and how to live out our faith from the life of Rahab. We all have our own scarlet cord in life which represents our promise made with God and our hope in God’s promises. Together we can patiently and wholeheartedly watch over our scarlet cords!
Elizabeth was baptised with her husband, Turner Sinn, on 16 Nov, 1989. The couple has 2 daughters baptised in their teens and both now are married. Elizabeth and Turner now have 3 grandchildren. During 1992-1995, they migrated to Sydney, Australia. While being there, Turner and Elizabeth started the Chinese's Zone of the Sydney Church of Christ and they were blessed with about 20 baptisms of Chinese origin from various parts of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. On returning to HK at the end of 1995, Turner and Elizabeth were invited to join the HKCOC as staff members. They began to serve the church in 1996 and were appointed as Evangelist and WML in 1999. They led the West Kowloon Region as Regional Leaders in 2006 and were appointed as Elder and Elder's wife of the HKCOC in 2010. They consider themselves especially blessed to be able to serve God this way. To God be the Glory!