Can there be a harlot in the genealogy of Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
We’re looking at the Christmas story this month and going through the genealogy in Matthew. Our next stop is to look at the story of a woman that is also surprising to find mentioned specifically. Any time, Matthew could have left out these women, but he chose not to.
If you asked a lot of people for a favorite character in the Bible other than Jesus, you would get a lot of responses. For my wife, right there high up on the list would be Rahab. Rahab? Yep. Who was she? When the Israelites invaded Jericho, they sent spies to find out what was going on in the city beforehand. The spies went to a spot where a woman named Rahab was who was a prostitute. She had heard about what Israel’s God had done for them and responded favorably to the spies and hid them so that they would not be found. In return, they granted her and all those with her their lives.
The Israelites had gone to a place where people would be found. As it is today, a place of prostitution is a busy place as most men passing through an area wouldn’t mind getting a little bit of sex in on the way. The place was known enough that when soldiers from Jericho came through looking for the spies of Israel, they made sure to stop there. Rahab’s response showed her faithfulness to the God of Israel and her desire to be included amongst the people. After all, once her city was destroyed, where else could she go? This was a drastic act of faith on her part as she was abandoning her ways and lifestyle to be a part of Israel.
How is she seen in the New Testament? Quite favorably! When James writes his epistle. He gives two examples of faith. One of them is Abraham’s offer of Isaac, which would have been a defining story for the people of Israel and one that they would all have known about. If you wanted an Exhibit A for faith, you would always go to Abraham. Who is the other story? It’s the story of Rahab! This woman who was a prostitute is being put right alongside the very founder of the Jewish people! What greater compliment could be given to her?
What this means to us today is even more amazing I think than Tamar. Tamar was in a position where she could have thought she had to do what she did. Rahab was not. Rahab could have stayed a prostitute and blown off the people of Israel as if it was just a myth. She did not. She was ready to turn her life around and give herself over to the people of Israel and let their God be her God, something that we will see even more of with our next woman in the account. As a result, she was not only in the people of Israel, but she was included in the genealogy of Jesus Himself. She who had used sex so disgracefully in the past had sex used so wonderfully in her to bring about a child through whom would come about the very savior of the people. Matthew is not only reaching out to women here as being in the genealogy, but to a gentile as well!
This is why my wife likes Rahab so much. Rahab is a reminder that with all the screw-ups we’ve made in life, that when we come to God and seek to make Him to be our God, then we are capable of being used. Now since Jesus has come, you will not be used to bring about the lineage of the Messiah any more. That’s been done. You could be used to bring about the birth of Christ in the life of your fellow man. It does not matter if you were a prostitute before or anything else. You are not beyond redemption and not beyond leading someone else into redemption.