The Reading: Joshua 2:1-21, 6:22-25
“a harlot whose name was Rahab” (2:1) RSV
The second woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is Rahab: “Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab” (Matthew 1:5). Next week we shall look at Boaz and his wife Ruth, but today Rahab ‘the harlot’ is our subject.
Is it not interesting how many people in the Bible are labelled by their ‘unfortunate’ past? For instance, Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15), or Simon the Leper (Matthew 26:6). So Rahab, despite her faith in helping the spies sent by Joshua into the Promised Land, has always been called ‘the harlot’. Perhaps it is helpful, if somewhat humbling, to be reminded of where we have come from. We are what we are because of grace. Or as a modern saying puts it: “There but for the grace of God go I”; in other words, if God hadn’t intervened Rahab would have continued to be a harlot.
Of course being a harlot meant she was the ideal person to hide the spies! Many men came and went into her house, and who would be counting? Thus even in the midst of her unsavoury lifestyle she was used by God to achieve his purposes. But of course she was not just a prostitute, she was a woman in touch with what God was doing. This should not amaze us. It is often not the churchy people or the theologians who are more in tune with truth, justice and the movement of God.
As Jesus said: “the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you (i.e. the chief priests and elders of the people)” (Matthew 21:31). This does not mean that unrepentant sinners enter the Kingdom, but that those people whose lives are in a mess tend to know it and admit it. They are therefore more honest and open to the truth. Those who think they are righteous may miss the boat.
Jesus was not ashamed of his ancestry, especially Rahab. She was a perfect example of the all embracing mercy of his heavenly Father. This God is our Father too.
Thank you Lord that you know me through and through, and yet you embrace me with your eternal love. Amen.
1 Why was Rahab saved?
Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25
2 How many spies did Rahab hide?