Have you ever looked into your family history? We all want our ancestors to be pillars of the community with squeaky clean reputations, but that isn’t always the case. Years ago my father found out that there were horse thieves in the family tree and we were all a little surprised. Even the genealogy of Jesus has some surprises. Matthew’s Gospel begins by giving the family tree of Jesus.
This genealogy establishes that He was legally from the bloodline of King David. Both Mary and Joseph’s bloodlines were through King David, but Mary’s came through David’s son Nathan while Joseph’s was through Solomon. Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus, but He was the step-father and therefore, by human terms, the legal father. Matthew includes some interesting people in the genealogy.
He names five women: Thamar (Tamar – Matthew 1:3a), Rachab (Rahab- Matthew 1:5a), Ruth (Matthew 1:5b), Bathsheba (indirectly named as “her that had been the wife of Urias – Matthew 1:6b), and of course Mary (Matthew 1:16). Jewish genealogies usually don’t include the mother’s name, but Matthew saw the need to include them. Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth were Gentiles, and Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Mary were women who would cause gossip and raise eyebrows. Let’s take a closer look at Rahab.
After years of wandering in the wilderness it was time for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land. Moses had died and it was up to Joshua to lead the Israelites in the conquest of the land. The first place to conquer was Jericho, which was a heavily fortified city with a strong army. Joshua decided to first send in two spies rather than just storming in for the conquest.
“…And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.” Joshua 2:1b.
It’s no secret what Rahab’s profession was. She was a prostitute. Even though her way of life was not honorable, Rahab heard things and believed that the one true God was with the Israelites. She had heard about the miracle of how God had dried up the Red Sea in order for them to pass in safety. She had also heard how the Israelites had defeated King Sihon and King Og, which were also miracles from God.
“And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” Joshua 2:11.
Rahab was a pagan prostitute but knew more about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob than most of the Hebrews who had left Egypt. Had they trusted God 40 years earlier they would have entered the land, but they feared the giants there. Rahab understood that God had done miracles and knew that she wanted to leave Jericho and sin behind and go with the Israelites and embrace God Almighty.
Rahab made a deal with the two spies. She would help them escape if they promised not to destroy her or her family when they destroyed Jericho. Rahab had faith. She knew that Jericho would be destroyed and she knew that she could trust these men who represented the true God to save her and the ones she loved. Rahab’s trust was not misplaced, but she must have wondered about the battle plan.
The gates of Jericho were shut tight against the Israelites but God’s plan was that every day for six days they would walk behind the Ark of the Covenant and circle the city. On the seventh day they would do this seven times, then when there was a long blast on the shofar they were to let out a mighty shout. That’s when the walls would fall.
“And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” Joshua 6:16-17.
The shofar blew, the shout went up, the walls fell and the two spies went in and brought out Rahab and her family. Jericho was destroyed, but a pagan prostitute and her family were saved because of her faith in God Almighty.
What was there about Rahab that protected her? She had all the earmarks of a person who was condemned by sin. She lived in a very pagan culture and that should have been enough to blind her to God, but when she heard the accounts of what God had done to save the Israelites, she believed. Rahab worked in a very sinful profession but didn’t want to die in that lifestyle.
When she had the opportunity, she acted on her belief in God by protecting the Hebrew spies and helping them to escape. In return she asked them to help her escape from certain death.
“Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” James 2:25.
Instead of just believing the stories, she had faith. She put that faith into action.
“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31.
The harlot Rahab didn’t just give God lip service, but she chose to change her life and move away from her sin. We can learn a lot from Rahab. How often do we state that we’re Christians but don’t put our faith into action?
Many people throughout the ages have heard about Jesus, but something stops them from accepting Him. A good example is King Agrippa. When Paul was pleading his case before Festus, King Agrippa came for a visit. He knew Jewish history well and his family had been involved in many ugly dealings in the Jewish community. His great-grandfather had ordered baby boys under 2 years old to be murdered in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus. It was his grandfather who had John the Baptist beheaded and his father was the one who had the Apostle James martyred. King Agrippa knew about Jewish Laws and traditions as well as about Christian ways.
This knowledge should have made him receptive to Paul’s testimony. After Paul testified before Agrippa, Festus accused him of being out of his mind. Paul said
“For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” Acts 26:26-27.
Agrippa had all the evidence he needed in order to come to salvation, but he refused. He knew about Jesus, but he wouldn’t turn to Him in faith. Unlike the harlot Rahab, Agrippa wanted to stay in the sinful state he was in.
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Acts 26:28.
Almost isn’t enough. There can be no fence-sitting or gray areas. Either you believe and give your life to Jesus, or you condemn yourself to eternal death.
The decision to accept Christ is a personal decision. A parent cannot decide for a child. If you think you’re a Christian because you had been baptized as a baby, then you haven’t made your own decision. Baptism doesn’t bring salvation but understanding that you’re a sinner and only the shed blood of Jesus will take that sin away will.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
Rahab acted upon her faith and because she did, she and her family didn’t die in Jericho. She went on to live out her faith and became a part of the most important genealogy in history. She turned from her sin, married Salmon, and is listed as the great-great-grandmother of King David, and more importantly as an ancestor of Jesus. What happened to King Agrippa? He rejected Christ and is now regretting that decision.
Most people today have a general idea about Christ. Some even claim to know Him but embrace a religion that is far from the truth. Be sure that you truly know Christ. The Harlot Rahab lived long before Jesus walked this earth, but she knew the true God and changed her lifestyle. Rahab has gone down in history known in human terms as “the harlot Rahab”, but she didn’t remain a harlot. Be like Rahab and reach out in Faith to the one true God…reach out to Jesus.