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Good News for Rahab

• Greg Boyd

The genealogy of Jesus includes a woman named Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute. Such an inclusion is not only shocking, but it also is scandalous. Why was she included and what does it mean for us today?

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Rahab is part of the famous story of Jericho. She lived in a house that was part of the outer wall of Jericho, which was the most accessible but the least protected. She was a prostitute, and her home would have lived in the “red-light district.” She was part of the dispensable part of society. The Isrealites sneaked in through her house, but some one sees them. The king of the city confronts Rahab about the Israelite spies. She lies to those investigators to protect the spies.

In the Ancient Near East, it was assumed that any god was a terrorizing god, and Rahab thought that the Israelite God was causing great destruction and fear. She was asking for mercy from the spies so that she would not be a victim of that violence.

What does Rahab’s story tell us about the meaning of Christmas? First, it’s shocking that Matthew includes women in Jesus’ genealogy. Even more shocking is the fact that two Canaanite women would be included, Tamar and Rahab. The most shocking of all is that he includes a prostitute. Those who were a part of this trade lived at the bottom of the social strata. It was never a profession a woman would chose if she had any other options. Rahab was an ultimate outsider, yet her presence in Jesus’ genealogy tells us that Jesus was not ashamed to call Rahab a friend and part of his family.

This is a prophetic forecast for Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was thought to be a sinner because he scandalously ate with prostitutes and hung out with sinners. He was turning things upside down as he taught that such people were closer to God’s kingdom than the religious leaders of his day.  Matthew 21:31 reads: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” This confronts the judgmental attitude that shapes so much of the church today. Christmas brings an end to judgment and opens the path to agape love.

Secondly, Rahab was likely a prostitute because she had been disowned by her family due to some kind of scandal. With this in mind, she asks that her family, including those who had disowned her be shown mercy. She was asking for mercy for her father who had condemned her to a living hell of having to have sex with multiple strange men every night. She gives love to those who have not loved her. She embodies the forgiveness of the Kingdom Jesus came to bring. Rahab is a foreshadowing of the forgiveness and reconciliation that Jesus came to bring.

With Christmas, God comes and brings the unexpected. He includes all, and we must therefore release the common pattern of judgment. Jesus forgives us all of everything and opens up a path for restoration and flourishing, just as he did with Rahab.

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Topics: Role of Women

Sermon Series: The Matriarchs of Christmas

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The MuseCast: December 14

Focus Scripture:

  • Joshua 2:10-14

    We heard how God dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you left Egypt, and what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you put under a holy curse and destroyed. We heard it and our hearts sank. We all had the wind knocked out of us. And all because of you, you and God, your God, God of the heavens above and God of the earth below. “Now promise me by God. I showed you mercy; now show my family mercy. And give me some tangible proof, a guarantee of life for my father and mother, my brothers and sisters—everyone connected with my family. Save our souls from death!” “Our lives for yours!” said the men. “But don’t tell anyone our business. When God turns this land over to us, we’ll do right by you in loyal mercy.”

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3 thoughts on “Good News for Rahab

  1. Cindy says:

    I really loved this sermon, sooo good and helpful. I especially appreciated the practical advice about forgiving others. I will apply it. My on going question to Jesus is” how do you relate to/live with a person who in life situations (work/family/neighborhood) that continually harms you?” How d you set boundaries that don’t end up being subtle ways of punishing that person. I am sure Jesus will help me with this but I would appreciate any ideas or thought
    on this topic, and I bet it is so individual that really only Jesus spirit can direct individual situations. I am learning that He is sooooo good at that .

    1. Paige Slighter says:

      Cindy, thank you so much for sharing! In 2019, we did a sermon series on loving others called 4D Love. This particular sermon might be useful to you http://whchurch.org/sermon/barriers-to-love/.

      -Paige from the Communications Team

  2. Stephen El says:

    I am behind and catching up but am really loving this series. I find the individual stories fascinating and the overall arc of Jesus’ genealogy is an excellent lesson in diversity and inclusion. And yes, I believe women like Rahab were attracted to Jesus not only because He was non judgmental, He was also safe. Pretty sure every woman who came in contact with Jesus instinctively knew, ‘here’s a man who’s not trying to get under my robe.’

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