Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Prostitutes and the Bible (page 1 of 2)

Rahab’s Journal: Kindred

Years have passed since I last wrote in my journal. Boaz is a grown man now, and taken over the family farm. He isn’t married, says he is waiting for the right girl. I pray she will appear before I am too old to enjoy my grandchildren!

Bethlehem is all stirred up at the minute.

My old friend Naomi has returned. But what a sad home coming for her. She left with a fine husband and two sons. She has come back a childless widow.

‘Don’t call me Naomi anymore,’ she said, ‘call me Mara because God has taken everything away.’

Mara means bitter. That certainly seems to sum up how Naomi feels right now. All I could do was put my arms around her. I’m planning to pop round later with some things for her. All she seems to have are the clothes on her back.

A young woman was with her. Naomi said her name is Ruth. She was married to one of Naomi’s sons and apparently insisted on returning to Bethlehem with Naomi. Ruth reminds me a bit of myself; she’s an outsider who has left everything to be with God’s people. We must make her feel especially welcome.

 

Rahab’s Journal: Led

So much has happened in the last couple of years that I’ve had no time for writing.

We moved about eighteen miles south of Jericho to a delightful little town called Bethlehem. The whole family moved here with us: my parents and Elizabeth and Jonathan. Salmon and I have a small house with a courtyard that is fairly close to the well. That makes life easy for me, not so far to carry water. And that’s important, because of the other thing that has kept me busy….

We have a son 🙂

Our little one is called Boaz and he is the joy of my heart.

We weren’t sure whether I could have children. There are certain diseases in my old line of work that can make a woman infertile. It’s what you might call an occupational hazard. So when I wasn’t with child soon after our wedding, I had my doubts. But my dear mum-in-law Elizabeth prayed. She never gave up hope.

I love our little Boaz. When I look into his big brown eyes, my heart just melts with love for him. I wonder what he will grow up to be, what plans the Lord has for him?

I am thankful for how God has led me, all the way from my brothel in Jericho, to a welcoming family, and here to our home in Bethlehem. He brought Salmon and me together and now we have our little Boaz. God has led me out of the oppression of sex work and into a spacious place of blessing. I don’t deserve this, but I’m glad – oh so glad – that He has accepted me. He is healing me and making me whole from the inside out.

My faith is in the one true God, the only God. He has not let me down, and I know He never will. I love Him.

 

Rahab’s Journal: Free

Elizabeth and Jonathan couldn’t have been happier or more welcoming when their son Salmon married me. They have been so kind, knowing what I was and where I came from. Not everyone would want an ex-prostitute for a daughter-in-law.

And Salmon. Words can’t begin to express how I feel about him. I never knew the relationship between a man and a woman could be like this…. It’s more than just a physical action. I had no idea what an amazing gift from God sex is when I worked in my brothel in Jericho; I was cheating myself and my customers by misusing something so precious. 

At first I found the physical side of our marriage difficult. I felt so ashamed and dirty. But Salmon was gentle and kind. He spoke truth over me: that I am one of God’s people now, that I’ve been forgiven and accepted by God. He assures me of his love by his words and actions. He’s so affectionate. Salmon’s nickname for me is Ruby because he says my worth is far above the price of rubies.  

I’ve realised that the more I believe truth about myself, the freer I am to be the woman God made me to be. It’s a process. God has a plan for my life, and He is good. His plans are to give me a hope and a future, not to destroy and pull me down. The Lord rescued me because He delights in me.

Rahab’s Journal: Live

It’s only in these last few months since God rescued me from Jericho that I feel I’ve truly lived. I’m still in awe that He would let me become one of His people.

I adore the Sabbath day when we all worship together. My dear friend Elizabeth is devoted to God and loves to pray. She tells God everything and trusts that He will answer. I love seeing her eyes sparkle when she talks about Him.

I’ve learned so much from Elizabeth. About living in friendship with God. Imagine a God that constantly reaches out to you. The most exciting thing is that He promised centuries ago that one day He will send a special Deliverer for His people. And this is when Elizabeth’s eyes truly begin to shine: ‘It’s not just for the Jews, He will be a Deliverer for the whole world. And that includes you Rahab!’

I feel alive in so many ways, all thanks to this God: 

He saved my life when Jericho was destroyed.

He has given me a new way of life that is so much better and more fulfilling than what I used to do. It’s like having a second chance.

I’m looking forward to when He sends His Deliverer. It may not be in my life-time (though how exciting if it was!) but I know it will happen. It’s as certain as the sun rising each day.

And I think life for me is going to become even better in the next few months. Jonathan and his son Salmon have been having hush-hush meetings with my dad….

Rahab’s Journal: Preserve

My family and I could have easily felt out of place in this Israelite camp, but they have all been so welcoming. One family in particular has been very friendly; Jonathan and Elizabeth have taken us under their wings.

They have quite a large family, from Salmon a strapping young man in his early twenties to nine-year-old Jael.

Today, Jael took me to see the memorial stones by the Jordan. She skipped alongside me chattering non-stop. When her people (or should I say ‘my’ people now?) were camped on the other side of the great river, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant walked down into the water first. As soon as their feet touched it, the river began to part on either side, forming great walls of water.

Jael’s words tumbled over themselves as she breathlessly told me how she’d walked on the dry river bed holding her abba’s hand, looking up at the walls of water on either side of her. She even saw fish swimming in the banked up water.

When all the people had crossed over, the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant through the river bed and up the bank. Only then did the waters rush back into place with a huge crash.

‘Water splashed everywhere!’ giggled Jael. Her eyes were glowing with the wonders she’d seen.

‘There!’ she stopped and pointed.

I looked and saw the towering pile of memorial stones, boulders really.

‘Why so many?’ I wondered aloud.

‘There are twelve, one for each of the tribes of Israel.’ Jael explained. ‘God said that when our children and grandchildren ask us why they are there, we can tell them how He parted the River Jordan so we could walk across safely on dry ground.’

I nodded. I was falling more and more in love with this amazing God who does wonders for His people. My heart leapt as I realised that I am now one of them. He preserved their lives in the Jordan River, but He preserved my life when Jericho was destroyed. I love Him. 

 

 

Rahab’s Journal: Forgiven

What a week. I don’t quite know what to make of it, really. At least we’re all safe and together, me and my family.

Not long after the spies escaped, we saw the Israelites camped outside Jericho. The king closed the gates and prepared for a siege. There was an odd stillness in the air, as if the very presence of God was here. Quite unnerving.

One week ago today, we heard trumpets blowing. My dad and brothers and me ran up onto the roof of my house to see what was going on. What a sight met our eyes. The Israelite army marched along followed by seven priests blowing trumpets, sunlight glinting off the instruments. Behind, was the famous and much-feared Ark of the Covenant as their rear guard.

Aside from the trumpets, there was absolute silence. Not one of the soldiers spoke. It was eerie.

Although I’m a grown woman and a prostitute, I felt for my dad’s hand and held it fast.

‘You’re sure the spies will keep their word, Rahab?’ he said.

‘If they are like their God, they will,’ I replied. I slipped downstairs and double-checked the scarlet sash was visible in the window.

For six days, the same thing happened. The army marched around the city walls once in silence, with the seven priests blowing the trumpets.

Everyone in Jericho was terrified. I wished they would listen to me so they could be safe too, but they continued to pray to the useless gods of Jericho for salvation.

This morning, the army and the priests with their trumpets and the Ark of the Covenant walked in silence around the city walls seven times. I noticed some of the soldiers looking up at the scarlet sash in my window, and my heart beat fast. I was certain something was about to happen.

As they completed the seventh lap, the army let out a great shout. And – I’m still shaking from the shock of it – the huge, thick walls of Jericho went crashing to the ground as though something powerful had struck them.

At once, the two spies I’d hidden, came looking for me and my family. They took us to safety, to their camp.

As I’m writing this, I’m overwhelmed with the enormity of it. My mum can’t stop crying, it’s all been a bit much for her. I know how she feels. The whole city wall collapsed, just like that. But my house and the part of the wall it was built on stayed standing.

The only thing I’m sure of right now is that the God of Israel is my God. I reached out to Him in faith and He heard the cry of my heart. I know I am forgiven, and I’m determined to leave my life of prostitution behind.

 

 

 

 

Rahab’s Journal: Wise

Two men came to my house yesterday. That’s not unusual in my line of business. I’d been watching them from my bedroom window; I felt certain they were up to something. These two looked like decent blokes and I didn’t want them getting into trouble. 

I ran downstairs, opened my front door and beckoned to them.

The old battle-axe who lives down the road spotted me and stomped into her house, slamming the door. I shrugged my shoulders. So what? I don’t care.

I invited the men inside. I’m not sure, to be honest, that they knew what I was or where they were. My main room is tastefully decorated but what with the mirrors and linens draped around the walls, you can’t really mistake it.

I nearly laughed out loud when the coin finally dropped and the pair realised where they were.

‘Look, it’s pretty obvious you’re up to something. If I can tell, the king is going to be on to you like nobody’s business. Now, who are you and what are you doing here?’

Turns out the two men were spies, sent out by Joshua, the new leader of the Israelites. They are coming to invade my country. My heart sank.

Even in Jericho, we’d heard the stories of the famous God of Israel. How He’d done awesome signs and wonders for His people when they were slaves in Egypt and rescued them. Pharaoh and his army were made to look pathetic against this rag-tag group with their powerful God. Their God was Someone to be reckoned with.

I’d listened to the stories of the God of Israel and always secretly wished I could know Him. He sounded incredible, the way He fought for His people, rescuing them from slavery. The gods of Jericho just don’t compare. We bow and scrape and sacrifice, but they do absolutely nothing for us.

While we were talking, someone banged on my door.

‘Quick,’ I pushed the spies ahead of me up the stairs and onto my roof, and hid them under some stalks of flax I was storing up there.

Then I raced back down the stairs and opened the front door. It was officials from the palace. Word had evidently reached the king that I was harbouring the spies. 

Good job I’m quick at thinking on my feet.

‘Oh yes, love, they were here,’ I told the officials, ‘but you’ve missed them. They left just before the city gates were closed. They haven’t gone long. If you’re quick, you’ll catch them.’

Thankfully, they believed me. They had no reason not to. After all, a couple of them were regulars….

Once the officials left, I went back to the roof. Now to take my chance.

‘I know the Lord has given you this land. I’ve heard how He’s fought for your people over the years. We, in Jericho, are terrified of Him. The Lord is the Creator God. Now, I’ve got a favour to ask. Since I’ve saved your lives, when you invade the city, please promise me you won’t kill me or any of my family.’

I was trembling inside. I gave it everything I’d got. Would God’s people be as kind as their God?

To my great relief, both spies nodded.

‘Yes okay. See this scarlet sash? Bring all of your family into your house, your mum and dad, brothers and sisters, everyone, and then tie this scarlet sash in the window. We promise that when we invade the city, everyone inside your house will be safe.’

I swallowed hard and nodded. ‘Thank you.’

In case my house was being watched, we tied a rope from the roof onto the city wall, on which my house is built, and the spies climbed down and escaped.

I’ve made a wise move I think. I hope the spies will keep their word.

 

Keziah’s Diary: Treasure

You saw me in my childhood,
Lost, alone, sullied, rejected.
And You gave me full acceptance.

You saw me on the street corner,
Beautiful, empty, desolate.
And You gave me peace and joy.

I was a prostitute,
Unworthy, unlovable.
You said my value was above the price of rubies.

You saw me in my sin,
You came to rescue me.
Oh what sacrifice was Yours,
To woo me back and make me pure.

You saw me in the darkness,
And Your love shone so bright.
I’m forgiven, I’m a child of light.
All because of You.

I’m loved.
I’m chosen.
I’m forgiven.
I’m accepted.

Jesus, my treasure.

Keziah’s Diary: Sacrifice

I’ve always known that what I was doing was wrong, but I loved the way Jesus accepted me. He didn’t push me away or condemn. It seemed the most natural thing in the world for me to kneel before Him and tell Him how sorry I was for all my sin. He put a finger beneath my chin and lifted my head. ‘I forgive you Keziah,’ He said, looking into my eyes. A weight rolled off me.

I decided not to go back to prostitution. Jesus teaches that if we put God first in our lives, then He will provide what we need. So I’m going to stake everything on that.

Shortly afterward, Jesus was invited for a meal by Simon, one of the local religious leaders. I made up my mind to go along too. Jesus has been so kind to me that I wanted to give Him a gift; the most precious thing in my possession was an alabaster jar of perfume. It was a family heirloom that I’d somehow managed to keep when my parents threw me out.

I was already at Simon’s house when Jesus arrived, along with some of the other ‘town riff-raff’ as Simon calls us. It’s common in our culture to do this.

I couldn’t believe how Simon snubbed Him. It’s common courtesy in our culture to give your guest a kiss on the cheek when they arrive, wash their feet, and to give them olive oil to cleanse their hands. There was none of that. Absolutely no manners. Simon was going out of his way to be rude.

I was horrified that they would treat Jesus in this way. He should have been an honoured guest, as a well-known travelling teacher. More than that, I believe Jesus is God come to earth.

What could I do? I know the shame and embarrassment of being insulted in public.

Jesus didn’t appear to be bothered. But I was bothered for Him.

Tears formed in my eyes. This was so wrong! They spilled down my cheeks, and then it came to me. I had no water but I could wash His feet with my tears. I knelt beside His reclining chair and let my tears drop onto His dusty toes. I’d brought no towel with me, so I let down my hair and dried His feet with that. Gratitude for Jesus’ complete acceptance and forgiveness of me, a sinful woman, almost overwhelmed me. I leaned down and kissed His feet again and again.

Then I stood and broke open my alabaster jar, and anointed His head with the perfume. The fragrant scent filled the room.

Simon and his other guests were looking on and nudging each other, clearly disapproving of my actions. They muttered at one another and gave both Jesus and me dirty looks. But through it all, Jesus sat peacefully, accepting my worship. If He’d pushed me away or even said quietly, ‘Okay Keziah, that’s enough now,’ I’d have been devastated. But He didn’t. Jesus accepted me and my sacrifice of worship for Him.

 

 

Keziah’s Diary: Injustice

That encounter with Jesus intrigued me. I couldn’t get the way He’d treated me out of my head. There was definitely something different about Him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I asked around a bit and found out Jesus is a travelling teacher. 

When I wasn’t working (I don’t know how else to earn money so I can eat), I made a point of going to hear Jesus teach. He was so interesting. He told everyday stories that I could identify with and which made me think. I’ve never heard anyone else teach like He does. And what I really love about Him is how He doesn’t avoid ‘sinners’. He welcomes people like me. Crazy, but true.

The more time I spent hanging around with Him and His friends, the more I felt convicted that I shouldn’t be working as a prostitute. That’s wrong and while I’ve never sensed Him condemning me for it, I just know that He doesn’t like what I do. He gives the impression that He sees me, Keziah the person, not Keziah the prostitute. I think He grasps the injustice I’ve been through.

I only got into sex work as a way to survive because I couldn’t see any other way forward. My childhood wasn’t especially happy and when one of my uncles showed me his own particular brand of ‘love’, my parents went mad. They said I was dirty and threw me out of the house. I had to learn the hard way how to survive on the streets. When you’re in the dust and you haven’t eaten in days, you do what you have to do.

The best of it is, the ‘respectable’ people who go to the synagogue every week are judgmental and look down on me.

‘There goes a bad girl,’ they say, with their haughty looks, perfect families and nice homes.

They think I’m not worthy of God’s love – and I’m not. This isn’t all my fault, yet I’m made to feel that it is. All they see is the woman on a street corner selling herself. They don’t see the abused and frightened child or the circumstances that put me here. Yes, I’ve made choices, but they weren’t really choices. It’s not like I enjoy what I do.

But Jesus is special. It’s like He seeks us out. I sometimes think sinners like me are His favourite kind of people. He spends enough time with us! I dunno, when I’m around Jesus I feel like God has come to earth or something….

Older posts

© 2017 Mandy Baker Johnson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑