By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God. —Hebrews 11:31 (MSG)
There is a single, strong emotion that is communicated all through Joshua’s telling of the story of Rahab and the fall of Jericho (recounted in Joshua 2 + 6) The strong emotion? Fear.
One person seemed immune to those feelings of fear, however. Where an entire town felt fear, and made decisions from fear, Rahab saw possibility.
This illuminates a spiritual truth: We see what we look for, or, another way to say it, what we find depends often on what we set out in search of.
Reality is this: God is present in this world, in your life, at this time, always. God is working within your circumstances, nearly always in a hidden way, allowing us the opportunity to recognize or not to recognize. There seems to always be enough evidence to support either claim. But maybe the spiritual life is all the more fascinating because of that.
Where is God? Is God present and accessible in the pain and in the joys and in the mundanness of life? We see what we look for.
Vincent Van Gogh once wrote to his brother that, “When I have a terrible need for religion, I go outside and paint the stars.”
Vincent’s first of three famous renderings of the night sky was a piece that was later titled Café Terrace at Night, painted in Arles, France in 1888
Only in recent years have art scholars begun uncovering the depth of the Symbolist treasures hidden in this piece.
Using the vanishing point technique (a technique so perfected in Da Vinci’s Last Supper it had been all but abandoned in subsequent years), as well as an audacious yellow color, our eyes are drawn to the illuminated cafe terrace.
There is a central figure in the terrace, clothed in white, serving the other guests, standing just in front of a looming green cross. There are 12 diners being served, one of them a shadowy figure making an exit through a side-door. The case can be made that Cafe Terrace at Night is Vincent’s symbolist Last Supper.
He never mentioned these hidden symbols in any letters. He didn’t title the piece “The Last Supper, 1888” It took over 100 years for anyone to notice. What Vincent reveals to anyone willing to look closely, under those swirling stars, on that nondescript cobblestone road, at an unnamed cafe, is that the holy is always hidden in the ordinary.
We just normally aren’t looking closely enough, identified as we are with the “problems to be solved” in life, with the rational mind’s incessant buzz of what has and can and probably-will go wrong, or captivated by the distractions that dance around us on the surface world.
But when we begin to identify with the possibilities in our situations, rather than only the “problems,” we are in the kingdom. Vincent teaches us to look deeply into the moment, because the present moment is humming with divine life.
This is, of course, a skill to be developed, life in the presence of God (which we could call prayer). It is how we learn to not only look, but to see.
Rahab was not only looking, she was seeing.
Her legacy is an invitation to interpret events in our lives, no matter how difficult or joyful, as invitations to deeper dependency on God, rather than omens of doom/destruction.
Rahab observed an inherent grace in an alarming situation. And she appealed to the grace of God, to God’s presence, in a deeper way than anyone else around her would. And she was saved.