Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Through Their Eyes (page 1 of 2)

Looking at familiar Bible stories through the eyes of one of the characters

Rahab’s Journal: Beloved

I’m a grandma!

Almost as soon as they got married, Ruth was with child. The baby arrived last night. Oh I’m so happy! And Naomi, you’d think he was her firstborn son, she’s so thrilled. Old age has dropped off her since holding this little one in her arms.

All our friends and neighbours are celebrating with us. The women suggested the baby’s name: Obed. It means servant or worshiper. It’s a good name and sums up Boaz and Ruth’s marriage. They are both lovely, servant-hearted people who worship God. I pray their son will be just like them.

How far we have come as a family….. God rescued me from the ruins of Jericho and sex work. My beloved Salmon had the courage to make me his wife. Not many men would have done that. And we have had a long and satisfying marriage.

Then came our Boaz, who is now husband of Ruth and abba of Obed. I’m so proud to call this kind man of integrity my son.

It’s rare in this culture for a Jew to marry outside of their own people, yet both Salmon and Boaz have done so. I wonder if it is a sort of foreshadowing of what Elizabeth used to tell me, of God’s promised Deliverer one day bringing salvation not just for the Jews but the whole world. I look into the innocent eyes of my beloved grandson and wonder when the Deliverer will come….

Rahab’s Journal: Speak

Oh thank You Lord! Thank You!

Boaz spoke with Jethro at the town gate this morning. Jethro, for whatever reason, isn’t able to marry Ruth. So, in front of a quorum of the town elders, Jethro formally relinquished his rights and Boaz declared his intention of marrying her.

Oh praise God! I am so delighted. I cannot imagine a better daughter-in-law than Ruth.

And Naomi, oh bless her. She thought God was bringing her back to Bethlehem empty and has been struggling with sorrow and bitter disappointment. But now she can see His hand of blessing in her life once more; I guess we are free to call her Naomi again now!

No more bitterness. Boaz has spoken and now there is joy all round. We have a wedding to plan.

 

Rahab’s Journal: Presence

Boaz burst into the house this morning in such a state! I’ve rarely seen him like this.

He had been working late threshing the grain and decided to sleep in the barn. He frequently does this at harvest-time, it’s such a busy period on a farm. This year has been no different.

‘Boaz, be calm. What has happened?’ I asked him, sitting him down to bread and olives. Whatever had excited him, he needed to eat.

‘Oh ima, you’ll never believe it. I worked late last night as usual. When it got too dark to see, I ate supper and went to sleep. Around midnight I woke up. There was a presence in the barn with me, a woman lying at my feet.’

At this point he stopped, almost overcome with emotion.

‘Go on,’ I said, refilling his cup.

Boaz took a breath.

‘I asked who was there. And her reply…. Oh ima, it was Ruth.’

‘Ruth?’ I smiled to myself. This sounded like one of Naomi’s ideas.

‘She’s so wonderful ima. When I spoke to her in the fields weeks ago, I praised her for coming under the wings of the God of Israel for protection. Her eyes lit up at the time, it must have meant something to her. Last night she asked me to spread my wings over her.’

I gave a little gasp and reached for a linen to wipe my eyes. Ruth must really love and respect my son for her to ask him to marry her. This marriage will be a demonstration of God’s covenant love with His people. She’s taken hold of God’s kind heart not only toward His people but to strangers and outsiders.

‘What did you answer?’ I said.

‘I couldn’t get over how amazing she is, that she would ask me. Ima, I’m so much older. Yet she hasn’t run after a young man. I’ve loved her since I first saw her gleaning in my fields but kept it hidden because I didn’t think for one second I could ever hope for a relationship with her.’

‘Why not?’

‘This is a levirate marriage. Whoever marries Ruth must give her children to carry on her dead husband’s name, and must be someone within the family. Jethro is closer kin to Naomi than I.’

‘Oh.’ Even after all these years, I still come across customs in this culture that are new to me.

Boaz got up. ‘I’ll go and wash and change, and then I’m off to meet with Jethro and the town elders. I promised Ruth I’d get it sorted today.’

I pressed my hands together. Oh what will happen? Please Lord, work this out for Boaz and Ruth.

Rahab’s Journal: See

I am praying hard for Boaz. He is off his food and seems preoccupied. The harvest is good this year and the farm is going well; I think the trouble is with his heart.

Naomi has been a good friend for many years and we knew her husband and the boys when they were little. It’s natural for us to discuss her and Ruth at our dinner table. It’s clear to me that Boaz admires Ruth. Indeed, how could he not? She left everything to come to Bethlehem as a refugee with her mother-in-law, and her faith in God shines out.

I’ve never heard Ruth complain about her lot or look discontent. For all she’s so young, she is a widow, and I’m sure her heart aches at times. Then there is the fact that she and Naomi are very poor. I try to help all I can without embarrassing them, and Boaz has instructed his farmhands to deliberately leave extra crops behind for Ruth to glean.

I suspect Boaz has fallen for Ruth and I’m glad of it. But will he make a move? I don’t know. He sees her beautiful character – everyone can – but I wonder whether he is afraid he’s too old for her? It’s true, he’s older than most bridegrooms. But he has kept himself for the right woman. In my heart of hearts, I’m certain Ruth is the one. If only Boaz would see it.

Rahab’s Journal: Faith

I admire that young Ruth. Naomi told me that Ruth insisted on leaving her own country to come with her mother-in-law. It seems that Ruth, too, has put her faith in the God of Israel. She said that Naomi’s God would be her God, and that she wanted to live and die among Naomi’s kin.

Ruth is doing everything in her power to help Naomi practically too. They don’t seem to have two coins to rub together, but Ruth is a hard worker. Every day has been out to Boaz’s farm, gleaning the grain at the edges of the field left behind by the harvesters. She even asked permission. Boaz has told Ruth not to go to anyone else’s farm- it can be dangerous for a pretty young woman to be out in the fields with the men. Not all are honourable and Boaz was concerned that she might get taken advantage of on another farm. His father brought him up well and I’m proud of his kindness.

The more I hear of Ruth, the more I like her. She is a fine young woman and I’d love to see her get married again. I wonder if that son of mine has noticed her? Lord, open his eyes so he can see what’s in front of him.

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. 

 

 

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