Some of the names that pop up in the genealogy of Jesus are more prone to catch our eye than others. One of those names is Rahab. Yes, that Rahab - the prostitute.
And that's as much as we think we need to know, isn't it? Rahab the prostitute is in the lineage of Jesus. A number of sermons have been preached on this issue, on how God uses even a prostitute and isn't ashamed of her. How it doesn't matter what your past is or what you're engaged in, you can go on to be used in mighty ways by God. It's shocking that He included a woman at all, let alone a woman of 'ill-repute.'
Contrast that with a name like Boaz, which also appears in the genealogy of Jesus, and we think we've got this stark contrast of saints and sinners all blended together into God's story. Boaz, remember, is the kinsman-redeemer from Ruth, the relative with the rights to buy the land of the deceased man, but only if he takes care of the widow and her family. Ruth humbled herself, and Boaz lifted her up, and seeing that name in the record of Jesus's ancestors does not surprise us at all. Of course there is a redeemer in Jesus's family.
But here's a little fact that's easy to read right past when we're just trying to get from Adam to Jesus and trace things down the line:
Rahab was the mother of Boaz.
That's right - the prostitute was the mother of the redeemer. And that seems like a lot. That seems like a dramatic change in her life story that she would go from being a prostitute to being a mother, let alone being the mother of the kind of man who redeems a lost family after the death of someone close. Let alone the kind of tender, gentle, wise spirit that we see in Boaz when we read his story.
Have we forgotten, then, that Rahab was a redeemer in her own right? Yes, the prostitute was a redeemer.
That's how she got into God's story in the first place. It wasn't because she was a prostitute that God wrote her in; it was because she gave the Israelite spies a place to hide in Jericho, protected them from those who sought to kill them, and got them home safely to their family - and God's. It's because she believed the promise when she didn't even know the Promiser, and she risked everything to secure the journey of those anointed by Him.
Yet somehow, when we mention Rahab, we only talk about the prostitute. That's who she is. That's how she's known. We don't talk about her redeeming qualities; in fact, we talk like she doesn't have a whole lot of them. It's nice and everything that a prostitute would be nice to some men visiting her town, but isn't that kind of what prostitutes do? It's easy to think of Rahab as nothing special, as just a whore. A run-of-the-mill woman-of-the-streets who, by nothing more than grace, becomes a character in God's story, just so He can show us that He doesn't care about our reputations. Even bad girls can have a place in the Bible. (That might be a book or something.)
Was she a bad girl, though? She was a redeemer. She raised a redeemer. Both redeemers from Rahab's house are included in the lineage of Jesus. And I just don't know how we can read those two names, back to back, and say in the same breath that Rahab was a prostitute and Boaz, a redeemer. They were both redeemers.
So of course Rahab is in the lineage of Jesus.