The Walls Came Down
Based on Old Testament Joshua 2, 6:1-25
(Written by Jaclyn Tepe)

"Hurry, up to the roof. We don't have much time," I urged in a forced whisper. I nearly pushed the two men ahead of me as we climbed to the top of my house. "There, behind that flax, quickly now." It seemed that we were chasing time and were getting no closer with every step that we hurriedly took. I could faintly here the muffled voices of men approaching my door. "Remain silent, and don't move, no matter what you hear," I ordered as I again made my way down to the lower level. Rubbing my hands through my hair, I tried to smooth any hint of unusual activity as I desperately tried to calm my anxious breathing.

I attempted to busy myself with something menial as I awaited the knock that I was sure was about to come upon my door. Seconds torturously turned into minutes as I kept glancing at the door expecting any minute for it to burst wide open. I ran through my rehearsed speech over and over in my mind trying to decide which phrase would better help my situation. I think I jumped when at last the forceful knock echoed through my house. "Coming," I answered, but before I could even take a step, it flung forward as two royally attired men entered.

"Are you Rahab?" asked the one who had pushed the door open. "I am she," I firmly answered. "The King is aware of the two men who passed through your door, and demands that they be handed over. They are suspected of entering the city in hopes of spying on us and our land," informed the other man who until then had been intently gazing about my house. "Many men pass through that door," I reprovingly thought to myself. "Yes, two men did come this way, but when it got late and time for the city gates to close they left. I knew not where they were from or where they were headed. It is not my custom to ask questions," I replied looking straight into the eyes of both the men who stood questioning me. I refused to be intimidated by their presence. "But hurry, they just left, and you may catch them yet."

The words had no sooner left my mouth then the two men took one last look and then disappeared. After closing and bolting the door, I quickly made my way back to the roof. "The men are gone and shouldn't be back here for at least several days," I said as the two men crawled out from their hiding place. I could see a look of relief in their eyes, but still I felt that they were a little wary. However, I didn't resent their lack of complete faith. These men were entirely in my hands, the hands of a foreigner, a woman, and a prostitute. Why should they trust me? What had I to gain by lying for these men? But yet, for some reason, I had saved them. "Blessed be you, woman," said one of the men as he stretched his cramped limbs.

"No man has ever dared called me blessed," I muttered as I lowered my eyes. Who were these men to bless me? Did they not know the life I had lived? Could they not see the tired look in my eyes? Oh, how I was tired! If only I could escape from this web I called life that had all too suddenly become a noose about my neck and fetters upon on my wrists.

"Already I know that the Lord has given you our country," I began. "I can see the look of fear in the eyes of everyone in the city. Men talk about the multitude that is on the march towards our famed land. They laugh with arrogance when they discuss our mighty walls, but it is only a half-hearted laugh. Underneath their pride one can see the beginnings of doubt growing in their minds. They are afraid, and they don't know why. 'For who can penetrate the towering walls of Jericho?' they ask each other. And 'None, but the gods,' is the reply. And without knowing it, they have professed the truth. I have heard of your nation. How you fled the Egyptians, how the Red Sea was divided before your feet, and how you completely crushed Og and Sihon, the kings of the Amorites. After hearing these stories how could one not sense the power of your God and the weakness of our own standing? Please, I beg of you, promise me that you will spare the lives of my family and the life of myself when you come into our city," I asked searching their eyes for any sign of acceptance.

The men had listened earnestly as I told of the city and its quailing at the name of the Israelites and their God, but they seemed almost surprised when I put forth my question. But never in their countenance did I see the look of superiority, or the look that would have mocked me for having asked such a thing of two honest men. Instead, I saw that they were eager to help and that they felt elated that they had a chance to pay back the favor they felt I had done for them.

"Our lives for your lives," they answered in unison. "As long as you don't give us away, we will honor our promise," they assured me. I was amazed with what eagerness they offered to help me and my family. Few cared about my welfare or even about my life. And again, I thought, why should they? Don't I throw my own life away night after night? "But whoever is to be saved must be in your house. And you must leave the scarlet cord with which you plan to use to lower us from your room here on the outer wall tied in your window," they continued to instruct me. "If you do as we have said, and you do not break your oath, no harm will come to you or those with you. But if anyone leaves this house for any reason, we will not be responsible for whatever befalls him. Agreed?"

"Agreed," I answered as tears of appreciation quietly slid down my cheek. "Now, you must go. Hide in the hills for at least three days, until the men have given up checking the roads and outlying areas, and then you can return to your camp," I said as we descended once again. I unfurled the scarlet cord and watched as it slid down the surface of the wall like a crimson snake. I silently watched as the two men disappeared into the darkness, our eyes remaining fixed on each other for as long as we could see. A unique bond had been formed that evening, one which I knew I would not quickly forget.

My family was gathered behind me as I stood at my window watching the procession of people marching around our walls for the seventh day in a row. For the past week hundreds of thousands of people had silently walked around the outer walls of the city. There had not been the slightest murmur from the people, but the trumpets! Hour after never ending hour those horns were blown. When they were beneath my window it seemed that my room shook with the resounding note that echoed from those instruments. I had no idea what they were doing or trying to accomplish, but I knew that it was imperative that I and my family remain in my house.

For the previous six days the routine didn't change much. The people woke early and began their march. The men with the trumpets led the procession, with what I assumed to be the priests carrying a large golden object behind them. And then came the unending line of people. There were times when I looked from my window that all I could see were Israelites, a vast and silent foe. They would march until they had completed one trip around the city, and then they would leave and head back to camp.

But as I sat watching them on the seventh day, I could tell that something was different. First of all, the trumpets had begun at daybreak, which was much earlier than any of the other previous mornings. Second, I thought I could see the faint glint of the sunlight reflecting from armor and weaponry. I thought that maybe their marching had come to an end, and this time they would just run up to the city for an attack, but I was mistaken. It seemed that on this morning they weren't going to circle the city only once, no, they kept on going. One, two, three times the men with the trumpets passed under my window, and still they were not ceasing. Four, five, six more times and still nothing was different, and nothing had happened. And they were still walking. Closely I looked at the men as they began the seventh time around the walls, and I could sense some agitation among them. Hands kept reaching down and touching sword hilts, eyes kept looking expectantly at the walls, and every pair of ears seemed to be strained as if they were listening for some cue.

And then it came. The trumpets and the golden object had just completed their seventh revolution about the great city of Jericho when one, long, clear note reverberated from the horns. It seemed that for a brief second, even the wind was holding its breath in anticipation. Then, the voices that had remained silent for seven long days broke out in a shout so loud that I covered my ears. Every voice came together like a violent wave crashing upon the walls of our city. I rushed to the center of the room and grabbed the hands of my nearest family member. We held our breath as we looked into each others eyes, fearful of what was to come, and hopeful that we would be spared. As the voices began to silence the real terror began.

There was no warning, no time to brace one's self, no climatic build up. The ground began to heave back and forth. I quickly glanced to make sure that I could still see the red cord. It was there, swinging side to side with the violent motion. My ears were assaulted with the sound of millions of stones crashing to the ground below. Then came the screams. Screams of mothers, children, men, the young, and the old seemed to holler from the stones in a ghastly uproar. And there was no way to silence the chaos. Dust poured in through the window, small stones and debris fell from the ceiling. And still the ground rocked back and forth. I was on my knees now, covering my sister's small child. The women in the room were sobbing, and the men seemed to groan with the agony of the city. What I thought lasted several minutes was in reality a few seconds, but once the quivering of the earth had ceased the real bloodshed began.

As soon as the walls were down, the Israelite men rushed into the city slaughtering anyone and anything that they found. The sounds of war had never been so close to my ears. It was as if I could feel the blood pooling at my feet and hear the arrival of death in my city. I was rocking my niece in my arms with her face pressed tightly to my chest when the door swung open. I hurriedly rose to my feet as the men pushed forward in order to defend us.

"Stop," I yelled. "Don't hurt them. Those are the two men who promised to save us," I said as I approached them. Never had I been so relieved in my life to see the faces of men, especially those of strangers. "You kept your promise," I muttered as I stood motionless before them. "Yes, because you, Rahab, have also fulfilled your word," they graciously replied. "We have come to lead you from the city to a place of refuge where you and your family will be free to remain with us for the rest of your days." Everyone in the room embraced someone else; therefore, it took several minutes for us to make ready to depart. As we exited the fallen city, I averted my eyes from the chaotic scene. But part of me couldn't resist looking about me in horrific shock. I wanted to remember Jericho the way it had been before it was destroyed, but I also wanted to forget it as well.
As I gazed about the wreckage I saw a semblance to my own life, a life that I was now leaving. I had built up mighty walls and secure defenses against myself. I refused to confront that which I knew lay beneath the surface, a plethora of sin and decay. It wasn't easy, it wasn't painless, and it wasn't pretty, but as the walls came down, I became free. I was free from myself, my own prejudices, my own self-concept, my own sin. But unlike the walls of Jericho, my own defenses were coming down slowly. I was being forced to remove part of my hindrance one painful brick at a time. But I was leaving. I was exiting the city, never to enter those walls again. My old self, habits, and life were behind me, but my life still bore the scars of my choices. One can always change, but change doesn't mean that all is erased or forgotten.
When I lost my city and my home, I found my God and my comfort. In him, I discovered the rest that my tired soul had longed for but never received. In him, I discovered what it meant to be truly loved, not wanted or lusted, but truly loved. In him, I discovered that my self-worth shouldn't come from the approval of men, but from the assurance of an ever-loving Father who had created me in his glorious image. And even though my past is not forgotten, it is forgiven. Yes, I lost much, but I gained even more.