JOSHUA 2:17-18,21 (NIV)
Now the men had said to her [Rahab], “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. “…Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
As we turn again to the genealogy of Jesus in our study of his faith and family roots this Advent, a fascinating woman is named in Matthew 1 as part of his lineage—Rahab. Her faith that God had favored the people of Israel, a faith expressed in her hiding of the Hebrew spies who were assessing the land and Jericho’s weaknesses, became the hallmark of how we remember her.
Rahab is an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ, and what makes her so unique is that it seems that her occupation was that of a prostitute. Matthew wants to make sure we see her mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in the first chapter of his gospel. What is going on here?
When you look in the mirror, do you always see your best self? “Good morning,” you say. “You are one shining example of a human being! What a joy it is to be you today, to actually be you. God loves you, adores you, in fact—and it’s more obvious why every single day. You are the one of the best of us, friend. Now let’s brush those teeth and get out there so the world can be a better place!”
If you say something like that each morning, good on you! A wise mentor once told me, “Humility is not too high a view of yourself or too low a view of yourself—it’s an accurate view of yourself.” If you’re anything like me, however, you typically see not only the beautiful work that God has done in your life; you also see the blemishes, the mistakes, the regrets, and the struggles that even followers of Jesus still attempt to carry around in our memory long after he has set us free. You and I see our whole story staring back at us in the mirror—and we often have little grace for ourselves as we do.
Jesus, however, sees your story, knows your story, just as he knew the story of every “sinner” he was accused of treating as a friend (Matt. 9:10-12). When Jesus sees you and I, he never sees us according to our past, failings, or broken story only—he calls us by our name, sees us as we are to him, and he calls us Beloved. We are never as far from God as we may feel like we are. A door of hope is always open with his Advent invitation welcoming us in: “Come, exchange your worst for My Best.”
Rahab must have had hard days considering her own past. As a prostitute, the narratives about her, uttered in the streets of the city, were most probably demeaning, belittling, and derogatory. Imagine no one caring about your story, how you got to where you are, and offering no compassion for you in your situation. Then, something miraculous happens in her life, just as it happens in ours. Rahab is given an opportunity to show faith, to take God as he is and as he comes to her, and to believe. She takes that opportunity, just as every friend of Jesus has taken that opportunity over thousands of years. Rahab becomes a friend of God with one decision of trust.
The next morning, when she looked in the mirror, is it possible that instead of seeing the same broken woman she saw every other day, that the winds of faith blowing through her spirit enabled her to catch a glimpse of the beautiful daughter of God the Father saw her to be? Faith can have that effect on a person. It often does; faith calls us out of our of our old story and welcomes into a new one—as the Spirit opens us to who we were made to be.
In Matthew 1:5, Rahab is mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy, and in Hebrews 11:31 she is named in the “Hall of Faith”: “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” In other words, Rahab believed.
Jesus, born under a Bethlehem sky all those years ago, was born to be a friend of sinners. Sinners were members of his own family, and their stories were not unfamiliar to him. As a salvation storyteller, Jesus knew how to turn a story around with a word, a touch, and a glimpse of pure love.
Jesus is a friend of sinners. You and I are called to be the same, knowing our own stories, and from where we have come by the Grace and Mercy of Christ. You and I are in good company with the Lord who receives us as we are, and shows us, along the way, who we are becoming by Grace.
Jesus, friend of sinners, I thank you for all you have done, and are doing, in my life. Continue to transform me day by day, until I become like you in every way. Transform my desires to match your own. Transform my thoughts to match your own. And give me eyes to see those who are broken by sin, ministering your love to them with compassion, forgiveness, and empathy. In Jesus’ name, amen.
In what ways, throughout your faith walk with Jesus, have you experienced him befriending you even when you were far from him? How could you extend that same friendship and acceptance to those not walking with God in your network of relationships?
For the Awakening,