The second woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ is a prostitute named Rahab. Like Tamar from last week, Rahab was not an Israelite – she did not come from God’s chosen people. Rahab was a morally corrupt and ethically impure woman and yet she showed more faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob than the Israelites themselves.
The story of Rahab can be found in Joshua 2 and fits into the fall of Jericho, where God’s people walk around the city walls seven times and the walls come crashing down. Ahead of the siege Rahab risked her life to hide two Israelite spies who had come to scope out the city. She declares in Joshua 2:9 “I know that the Lord has given this land to you” but asks that when the Israelites take the city they show mercy to her family.
As with Tamar, it is surprising that Matthew would include this kind of person – a gentile prostitute, in his genealogy of King Jesus. Nevertheless, on a closer reading, there are three important lessons to be learnt:
- Rahab recognises the majesty of God. Unlike the Israelite nation who had constantly had God’s glory revealed to them and yet constantly rejected him, Rahab immediately recognises God’s power and majesty over the heaven above and the earth below (2:11).
- Rahab responds correctly to God’s majesty. As Rahab understand the power and might of God, she immediately recognises her need for mercy. While she knows she is not of the chosen people of God and therefore has no right to call on his name, Rahab seeks God’s refuge and salvation, confident in his great mercy (2:12-13).
- God is merciful and faithful. Constantly throughout the Old Testament we are reminded of God’s boundless mercy and faithfulness and this story is no exception; God rewards Rahab’s faith with loving mercy as he miraculously saves her and her family from harm when the city of Jericho is sacked. God continues to bless Rahab, providing her with an Israelite husband through whom she joins the Israelite family to become one of God’s chosen people. Through this union, Jesus’ ancestors are born.
The story of Rahab again demonstrates God’s willingness to use the most unlikely people to achieve his purposes – those who are immoral and impure, weak and sinful. We see also God’s eagerness to show mercy to those who turn to him in faith – regardless of their religious pedigree or family background. What a challenge to know that God can and will use anyone (even you and me!) for his glory. I encourage you to consider this week where God has placed you and what role he might be calling you to play in furthering his kingdom.