Only five mothers are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, and only three of them are distinguished by name. All three of these notable women “happen” to be Gentiles, women who came into the family, not by birth, but by marriage—by choice, if you will. Rahab is one of those women.
Matthew 1:1-6 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac; and Isaac begot Jacob; and Jacob begot Judas and his brothers; And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begot Esrom; and Esrom begot Aram; And Aram begot Aminadab; and Aminadab begot Naasson; and Naasson begot Salmon; And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab; and Booz begot Obed of Ruth; and Obed begot Jesse; And Jesse begot David the king; and David the king begot Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
The name Rahab means “fierce, insolent, proud.” But this is not the picture we see when we look at this woman. She may well have been characterized by fierceness, insolence, and pride in her younger days, but by the time we meet her, she is a changed woman. That is the power of God at work in her life. No one has the power to change themselves, but God can and will give a new heart and new desires to anyone who asks.
This reminds me of the demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs, running wild and naked, unable to be restrained even by chains. Then Jesus came and cast the devils out of him. When the people heard the news, they came saw him “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (Mk. 5:15).
That is the power of God, the only power that can bring hope to the most hopeless situation, light into the darkest of night, and joy into the depths of despair. He can give purpose where once there was aimlessness, exchange purity for filth, and fill a heart with love that never knew love. He turns our perspective from inward to outward, so that others become more important than ourselves, and ultimately God reigns supreme in the heart and life of the one who trusts in Him.
What a great God! What a merciful and gracious God!
Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
Rahab has put her days of licentious living behind her, and yet she is almost always called Rahab the harlot (Jos. 2:1,3; 6:17,22,23,25; Heb. 11:31; Jas. 2:25).
How do I know she is no longer living the life of a harlot? There are clues. Let’s look at them.
- She maintained a legitimate business of the preparation and dyeing of flax (Jos. 2:6).
- She professed her faith in the God of the Israelites to the spies who came to her (Jos. 2:8-14).
- She demonstrated faith in the God of the Israelites by hiding the spies and helping them to escape (Jos. 2:1-7,15-21).
- She openly pronounced her faith in the God of the Israelites by hanging the scarlet rope out her window and leaving it there until she and her family were rescued (Jos. 2:18-21).
- She cared about her family enough to tell them about the God of the Israelites, and they too believed. They did not consider her to be one that mocked, as the family of Lot had scoffed at him. They must have seen a change in her (Jos. 6:23).
That she continues to be called Rahab the harlot shows me that a reputation is not easy to live down. Once you start down a path of sin, and become known for that sin, the stigma may well remain with you long after you turn from that sin. It’s like a tattoo—it doesn’t wash off. Better never to start down the path of sin than to have to potentially live with its reproach for the rest of your life. Rahab didn’t know any better, but many people do, and still they choose their own way. How tragic that they cannot also choose their own consequences.
If I could travel back in time and interview Rahab, here’s how I imagine it would go….
ME: Rahab, can you sum up your life in a single word?
RAHAB: I sure can: FREED!
ME: Oh, that’s a good word. Please explain.
RAHAB: One upon a time, I was an incorrigible young girl, full of rebellion, pride, and contempt for authority. As a young woman I rebelled against my parents, taking in one partner after another, living life my way, seeking pleasure and acceptance. Over and over again, I would think I had found it at last, but over and over again men let me down. Then I heard about Jehovah, the God of the Israelites, who through His mighty power freed His people from 400 years of bondage in Egypt, and brought them through the wilderness, defeating every enemy who rose up in their path. My gods had never done anything for me. I wanted this God to be my God. I didn’t know much about Him, but it seemed as though He knew everything about me. I asked Him to free me, as He had freed His own people, and He did! I gave up my wicked ways and started a legitimate business. I told my family about this God, and they trusted in Him too, because they saw the change in me.
ME: What an amazing story, Rahab! I’m so glad you trusted in the living God.
RAHAB: It is wonderful, but that’s not all. Jehovah has made all things new. I have a new God, a new heart, a new family, a new people, a new identity, a new home, and a new destiny. When the Israelites, by the power of God, defeated my people, they rescued my family and me, and now we live among God’s people. We have been accepted, and it is more wonderful than words can express! Though I may always be known as Rahab the harlot, it doesn’t bother me anymore. That is the old me. I have been freed to live a new life. In fact, I am learning more and more about the God who saw me and reached out to me when I was nothing but a harlot in a foreign land. I have a godly husband now, and a wonderful son named Boaz.
ME: You surely have been blessed. If you were from my time, you would know that your son Boaz would be the great-grandfather of David, the greatest king in the history of Israel. And fourteen generations after David would come the Messiah, in whom you have placed your trust. He came to this earth, fulfilling the promises of old, God become man so that He could redeem us and free us all from the bondage of sin and death. He died that we might live. He lives that we might live eternally with Him! And He used you, Rahab, a Gentile and a sinner with a permanent mark upon your name, to accomplish His eternal redemptive purposes for all mankind.
RAHAB: Wow! What did He ever see in me?
ME: He saw His Son in you.
Faith in Christ cannot coexist with sin. There has to be a turning from sin before there can be a turning to Christ.
Romans 6:1-2, 11-12 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.
This does not mean we become perfect at the moment of salvation, but that we no longer live in sin. Let me also add that we do not clean up our lives first, and then come to Christ. If that is your goal, then you will never come to Christ. The truth is we cannot clean up our lives on our own. All God wants us to do is open the hand that clutches the sin and let Him take it away.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Please be encouraged by the life of Rahab the harlot. We are all hidden away in a land that is doomed for destruction, but God sees us, each and every one. Wherever you are, whatever you have done, however badly you have behaved, no matter what your family heritage, your religious background, or your status in the community, you are never out of God’s reach, and you are not second-class. God has a plan for your life. You may not see it, just as Rahab could not have foreseen the significance of her role in the family into which she was married. But He has a plan, just the same. And He can change your heart and your desires. Open your hand today. Let Jesus take away your badness and replace it with His goodness.
“He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” —Jim Elliot
Next week: Mary Magdalene
Photo courtesy of estall of Pixabay