Why would God choose to give Rahab, a former Canaanite Harlot, the honor of bearing a son whose lineage could be traced to King David and then Christ? Because He is a God of forgiveness, grace, and second chances. And Pearl in the Sand, Tessa Afshar’s version of an Old Testament story, beautifully depicts this aspect of Rahab’s life.
In the first pages of the book, the author presents Rahab as a tender young girl who becomes scarred by the customs and practices of her native Canaan. She recoils in revulsion when she witnesses her baby nephew’s sacrifice. Then Rahab’s desperate father betrays her by giving her away to a rich man for enough gold to keep his family for a year. These two events drive Rahab to despair, but they also eventually drive her to seek shelter in the arms of Israel’s God.
I read this book as part of an online Christian Fiction Book Club, and I’d love for you to join us for the next one! I’ll post more details about the November club soon. If you just want to trust me that this is a must-read, skip this section and sign up for the giveaway below! Those of us in the book club had a chance to think through the discussion questions included in the back of the book. I’ll answer a few of these here. If you’ve read this book, please add your thoughts in the comment section at the end of the post. I’d love to hear your take on the story!
1. In chapter 3, we see Rahab being drawn to the Lord. What qualities does she perceive in God that draw her to Him? I loved how the author portrayed Rahab being drawn to the Lord. First, she hears a tale of a Hebrew spy who cried at the sight of children being sacrificed in the Canaanite temple. The following lines relate her astonished thoughts:
“Rahab turned toward Debir holding her breath. A god who cherished life? A god who cared for unnamed babies? A god who could see Canaan’s iniquity and declare them beyond redemption? Again she felt that longing, stronger than before. The irony of it didn’t escape her, the pitiful irony of a prostitute of Jericho longing for the God of the Hebrews.”
Rahab views Canaanite society through new eyes as she contrasts the cruelty of her people with the compassion of the Jewish God. When she looks at her city, she says to the God of the Hebrews, “Am I seeing what You see when you look at Canaan?” Rahab then goes on to ask God’s pardon and experiences an inexplicable peace. This whole scene came alive to me as vivid picture of repentance. For I have learned that repentance is not real in me until I see my sin the way God sees it.
2. In chapter 21, Salmone calls Rachel his Jericho. What does he mean? I also thoroughly enjoyed the scenes between Rahab and Salmone. For me, the author’s spiritual insights heightened the romance and added depth to the budding relationship. Salmone refers to Rahab as his little Jericho, because he feels God has given him the job of loving Rahab enough that she will pull down her defenses and allow him into her heart.
3. In chapter 23, Salmone tries to explain the difference between shame and true guilt. Explain this in your own words: When Rahab can’t quite understand how God (or Salmone) can pour out mercy when she expects judgment, Salmone explains:
“I suppose our sins warp our expectations. I mean that the reason God seems to act in ways that make no sense to us is that our perceptions are wrong. Our expectations are subtly twisted. We long for things that harm us and run from the things that grow and heal us. We think good is bad and bad is good. God acts rightly, but to us, it seems confusing. Or sometimes plain wrong.”
His words brought to mind some of my favorite verses, II Corinthians 7:10-11: “Godly sorrow [true guilt] brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow [shame] brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”
True guilt is produced in our hearts by the Holy Spirit for one purpose: to bring us to repentance. I John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
So once we confess something and God forgives, it’s over—no matter what our feelings tell us.
Shame or false guilt plagues us when we doubt God’s love or fail to trust His forgiveness. We needlessly beat ourselves up again and again over the things we’ve brought to God. It’s a major victory in the story when Rahab is finally able to realize this truth.
Here are some of the remaining thought questions. Even if you haven’t read the book, think about how you would answer these questions. Would your answers match what God’s Word has to say? As always, feel free to share your answers in the comment section below.
In your own life, were there ways your family failed to love and protect you?
How do you feel these circumstances have affected you?
Use three words to describe God as you understand Him.
What gives you your sense of worth?
How do you think your life shows this?
How do you think God feels about you?
What are some qualities of God discussed in this story that touched your heart?
I appreciated so many things about this story and encourage you to grab a copy of your own or sign up here to try to win mine!
I’ll hold a giveaway of my copy of Pearl in the Sand from today until Wednesday, November 3rd.
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