What does your past whisper to you?
Let me suggest a few from my own whispers: shame, regret, condemnation, disqualification.
Maybe these whispers haunt you from choices you made years ago. Maybe those choices were yesterday.
Today, we’re looking at Rahab, the second woman in Jesus’ family tree of Matthew 1. You can find the first two devotions in the series here.
Rahab — a woman, a Canaanite, a prostitute.
It’s absolutely eyebrow raising that Matthew names Rahab in Jesus’ family tree.
And yet, there are vital gospel lessons from Rahab in the lineage of Jesus.
Rahab’s story starts in Joshua 2. After wandering 40 years, Israel was poised to take the land of Canaan and the first city in its sights was Jericho. Joshua sent two spies into Jericho who went into the house of Rahab, a prostitute whose home was on Jericho’s walls.
Surely with all the unknown men going in and out of the prostitute’s house, the Hebrew men wouldn’t be noticed. But they were, and when Jericho’s king demanded Rahab turn over the spies, she bravely hid them in piles of flax on her roof, telling the king’s men they’d already fled.
That night, as the two spies were safely hidden on her roof, Rahab made a bold claim and request. We know the LORD has given you this land, she said, and Jericho is utterly helpless and hopeless.
But Rahab had one hope. One Who is Hope. “[T]he Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below,” she confessed and surrendered herself to God’s mercy.
She asked the spies to spare her life and her family’s lives when Israel attacked Jericho, just as she had spared the two spies. “Save us from death!” she pleaded. The spies promised to protect Rahab and gave her a scarlet cord to hang from her window. Safety would be guaranteed only those inside Rahab’s house.
As Jericho waited for attack, tension and fear were palpable. It grew worse as day after day the Israelite army marched silently around Jericho’s wall and then left.
Rahab kept the scarlet cord in the window of her house, where on the seventh day, the army advanced once more and marched seven times around Jericho’s thick walls. Suddenly, the Israelites let out a tremendous shout and the entire wall surrounding Jericho imploded on itself. Every bit of the city, its buildings, and its inhabitants were destroyed — except Rahab and her family.
“So the young spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, and brothers—everyone connected with her. They got the whole family out and gave them a place outside the camp of Israel.” (Joshua 6:23)
But God didn’t leave Rahab outside the camp. He brought her smack dab to the center of Jesus’ family tree.
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.
Okay, so Rahab was saved and brought into Israel. But why would God intentionally call Rahab out in Matthew’s lineage of Jesus?
3 Lessons from Rahab in Lineage of Jesus
1.God saves those with a past.
No matter what our past whispers to us, no matter what our past holds, our past is the reason Jesus was born.
Rahab can come across in scripture as a shrewd businesswoman who chose her profession to make a good living.
But maybe she was more like the women my dear friend ministers to in the adult entertainment world.
Perhaps Rahab came from a place of deep brokenness or childhood trauma. Maybe her past was one of pain or abuse that left her trapped by disrespect and shame.
Maybe Rahab had been rejected or abandoned and made a desperate choice to meet her growling stomach. Night after night, choice after desperate choice had become a life she never intended.
What whispers did Rahab hear? Condemnation? Fear? Shame? Worthlessness? Too many mistakes, too much regret and too late for change?
The good news is that no choice we ever make, no scars ever inflicted, no drink taken or words flung or body misused can keep us from the saving grace of Jesus.
Our past is never good enough to earn God’s salvation nor shocking enough to keep us from it.
2. God uses those with a past.
Maybe you can nod and amen that God can save anyone with a past but here’s where you get stuck: believing that God can use anyone with a past as well.
Let Rahab’s story convince you.
God used Rahab mightily despite her past. In the first battle to conquer the Promised Land, God used Rahab to not only save the spies, but save her family.
But God had even more for Rahab.
God used Rahab to shape the character, faith and godliness of a son named Boaz, who would one day rescue a young Moabite widow.
I wonder what whispers might be keeping you from letting God use you mightily? What is the enemy bringing up from years ago or even last week to taunt that you’re disqualified?
Do not give the enemy ground that Jesus has already taken. Jesus’ own lineage shows how God powerfully uses us despite our past.
3. God redefines those with a past.
When scripture mentions Rahab, she’s almost always called Rahab the harlot except in Matthew’s genealogy. Matthew calls her Rahab, mother of Boaz.
God redefined Rahab —
from a fallen woman to a chosen woman,
from a bad girl to a bride,
from a mess to a mother and
from prostitute to progenitor of the Messiah.
God redefines you and me as well.
Our shame? There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1)
Our sin? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:19)
Our hopelessness? Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
Our chains? Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)
Our self-contempt? See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
Our fear? There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… (1 John 4:18)
Our rejection? But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)
Our disqualification? …and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:12)
Our ostracization? Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household….” (Eph 2:19)
Rahab’s name in Jesus’ family tree shines the HOPE of Christmas:
God saves those of us with a past.
God uses those of us with a past.
God redefines those of us with a past.