A Prostitute in His Family!

By: Marcy Barthelette

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Matthew 1:5

If you shook the current branches of your family tree, would you encounter someone who just doesn’t live up to anyone’s expectations, who makes mistake after mistake, who talks too much, who always has a better story, whose terrible cooking is notorious among all who have experienced it? Do you sometimes feel that your family is a comedy of misfits? And does it all become more frustrating at this time of year? If you spend any time researching genealogy, you’ll likely discover a few ancestors to add to your current collection of interesting people. But, if you think your family is a long series of misfits, take an in-depth look at the lineage of Jesus. The first part is easy, just read the beginning of the New Testament.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I thought the silliest way Matthew, one of the Apostles, could have begun his narrative was by listing a boring litany of names I can’t pronounce. After all, the New Testament is supposed to be about hope and new life. Most people see it as the positive part of the Bible, the part we understand better. How can we be expected to read what my hometown preacher always referred to as “the begats” without falling asleep? But then I realized that among this cast of characters, there reside some very colorful and perhaps even familiar personalities. We’ll take a look at one of them by exploring the second chapter of Joshua.

Joshua, the successor to Moses after his death outside the Promised Land, was contemplating the taking of Jericho. He sent two spies to scout the other side of the Jordan River from their encampment. They went to Jericho as instructed and sought out a home where men came and went freely hoping not to be discovered. You see, the lady of the house, Rahab, was a prostitute, the lowest of women in her day. Despite their plan, word quickly reached the king of Jericho that strangers were in town, and he quickly sent palace guards to find them. 

Meanwhile, Rahab had hidden the spies between bundles of flax on her roof but when the guards knocked at her door, she told them the two men had been there, but they’d gone and that she didn’t know who they were or where they had gone. At Rahab’s suggestion, the soldiers left her home to search the road leading away from the city, locking the city gate as they went, allowing Rahab time to figure out what to do about the two men on her roof.

After dark, Rahab went to the roof and told the spies that the entire city of Jericho had heard of their exploits, how they’d been able to escape the Egyptian army through an opening in the Red Sea, and how they had defeated other armies and taken their lands. She knew the land she called home had been given to them by the Lord and she was terrified of their strength, as was all of Jericho. She acknowledged that their God was the supreme ruler over heaven and earth because of the ways he had protected his people. So she asked them to make a deal to save her and all of her family.

The spies agreed that if she didn’t betray them, her family would be protected when the people of Israel came again to take the land. She told them where they could hide until things calmed down a bit and lowered them by a rope through a window, but before their departure, they told her that when they returned she must leave the scarlet rope hanging from the same window. If she followed their instructions and stayed inside the house with all of her family, they would be saved. But if any of them went out into the street all bets were off. They all agreed to the terms and the spies went on their way with a scarlet rope still dangling from the window where they’d left it.

As the day came for the Israelites to make their move, the two spies removed Rahab and her family from the house and took them to a safe place where they stayed while everything in Jericho was burned. By her faith, Rahab was saved while all the unbelievers perished. And Rahab became a believer and made her home among the Israelites. She even married Salmon, a member of the tribe of Judah and they had a son named Boaz. Her name is forever recorded in the lineage of Jesus as found in Matthew 1:5.

Remember, Rahab had a lot going against her. She was a prostitute, she was a hated Canaanite, and, let’s face it, she was a liar, at least once. At this one pivotal moment in her life, Rahab faced a momentous choice. She chose to welcome the spies and save them from the king’s men. In so doing, she found faith in the Lord. How many of us have similar stories?

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11:31

As we make our individual journeys to the manger once again, let’s remember that we all have skeletons in our closets and regrets of a life lived in rebellion to the saving grace of Jesus. Let’s face it, our world is a colorful sea of misfits. But, praise the Lord, we have learned from our mistakes and we know that we are truly children of God. And all those less-than-perfect relatives? Well, they have the same option. When they arrive for this year’s Christmas gathering, wrap them in the warmth of Jesus’ love and draw them into, or back into, the family of God, right where we all belong.

If you know Jesus, one day you will meet her (Rahab) in heaven. And there at last she will be no more Rahab the harlot. She will forever be known as Rahab the child of God.

Ray Pritchard, Faces Around the Manger

One Response to “A Prostitute in His Family!”

  1. Linda Perkin says:

    Thank you Marci, we all need a reminder like this, so we don’t get too big headed. Love you.

Leave a Reply