I was young when my parents gave me to the temple, forced to choose between child sacrifice and prostitution. There were days I wished they’d chosen differently. I hated my job from the very beginning, but it was part of our religion. We didn’t know the true God like your people do. Men worshipped our gods by using prostitutes like me.
Men can feel very vulnerable and need someone they can share feelings with. Listening to their fears and worries was part of the job. Often I only pretended to listen. But then they started telling stories about a strange people who didn’t have a land of their own. Of course, we all believed that a people without a land must have a very small, weak god. But oh... the stories that these men told disputed that belief.
I began listening intently to their stories, increasingly interested in these people who had been wandering in the desert since before I was born. People without a land who had defeated the mightiest kings of the Amorites. Our city was undefeated in battle, yet the stories of these people made even our bravest soldiers tremble.
We heard rumor that these people believed their God was going to give them a land – ours. Everyone became frightened. People became suspicious of all strangers. Yet the more I heard, the more I wanted to know about these people’s God. Could their God, who wanted to give them our land, hear me even if they were not yet here? I began praying to this unknown God.
As discontentment with my job increased, so did my desire to learn more about these strange, feared people. I no longer believed in the teachings of the temple that employed me. I couldn’t explain it, but somehow I knew that the gods of my people weren’t real gods. Everything about these gods was wrong, especially the prostitution. But what could I do? I continued to pray to the God of the desert wanderers.
One day two Israelite spies came to my door. Fear within the city dictated that I refuse to open the door, except that I was a temple prostitute. If they wanted to worship our gods, I must oblige. I wanted to turn them away, but a voice told me to let them in, to take care of them, even to hide them from the authorities. I turned to see who had spoken. No one was there.
My heart was pounding almost as loud as their knock. When I summoned up the courage to open it, I noticed a man following them at a distance, watching where they went. I knew the man, a temple regular, would report these men to the city officials. I had to act quickly to protect them. After feeding them, I led them to the roof of my house. The musty smell permeated my nostrils as I covered them with drying flax. I prayed to their God that they would not sneeze if anyone came searching.
I brushed the dust off myself when another knock came to my door. I’m sure the neighbors thought that these calls were related to my temple work, that the gods would be pleased. But I only wanted to please one God – the God of the Israelites. I had concluded that it was His voice I heard directing me in what I should do. The voice telling me not to worry about what to say to the soldiers at my door and that I would be calm during the conversation.
When the soldiers asked about the Israelite spies, my calm words surprised even myself. “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.*” It worked. The soldiers left the city looking for the spies. Before the men turned in for the night, I had them promise that when they attacked Jericho, they would spare me and my family.
You see, Obed, God used my job as a prostitute to prepare me to be open to Him and His people so that He could use me in giving them this land. This is how I met your grandfather. Your mother, Ruth, was not originally an Israelite, either. I believe you know the story of how she met your father, Boaz.
Story based on Joshua 2
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