Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof. So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
Before they went to sleep, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” The men said to her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the Lord gives us the land.”
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the outer side of the city wall and she resided within the wall itself. She said to them, “Go toward the hill country, so that the pursuers may not come upon you. Hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers have returned; then afterward you may go your way.” The men said to her, “We will be released from this oath that you have made us swear to you if we invade the land and you do not tie this crimson cord in the window through which you let us down, and you do not gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your family. If any of you go out of the doors of your house into the street, they shall be responsible for their own death, and we shall be innocent; but if a hand is laid upon any who are with you in the house, we shall bear the responsibility for their death. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be released from this oath that you made us swear to you.” She said, “According to your words, so be it.” She sent them away and they departed. Then she tied the crimson cord in the window.
The family line of Jesus is full of unlikely people. Again and again, they’re more sinner than saint. They regularly forget, disobey, or betray God. They’re not honorable or composed or polished, and they’re neither trusting nor trustworthy.
Rahab is one of these unlikely people. And she’s more unlikely than most to be named in Jesus’s genealogy (Matthew 1:5) because she is an outsider on three counts: she’s (a) a woman, (b) a Canaanite, and (c) a prostitute.
In a genealogy that stretches from Abraham to Jesus, she’s one of just five women named. In a patrilineal genealogy—a record of fathers and sons—she makes the cut. Just as shocking, she makes the cut despite being a Gentile, a non-Israelite, someone decidedly outside the family tree. And, of course, she’s a prostitute.
And yet God finds her worthy of a place in his family. He invites her to play a role in the story of Israel claiming the land God has promised. And he grafts her into the family early enough that she gets to be one of Jesus’s great- great- great-grandmothers.
What an encouragement to us! Not only does God want us in his family, he wants to use us. When we join the family, he’ll put us to work, helping move this story along to its beautiful conclusion. Rahab got to play a part in Jesus’s coming as a baby, but we get to join in as Jesus comes in glory.
Prayer: God, your grace is astonishing! You could care less about my pedigree, and you’re even willing to overlook my sin as you graft me into your family and your story. Would you help me to be faithful like Rahab as I do the work you’ve called me to do? Amen.