In this post we'll look at another "knot" in Jesus' family tree found in Matthew 1 - Rahab. Her main story is found in Joshua Chapter 2. She is described as a "prostitute." While it is true that in the Hebrew, the term could also mean "innkeeper," the New Testament Greek uses a term for her which can only mean "prostitute." Sort of like with the term "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14. Yes, in Hebrew, it can also be translated "young maiden" (which liberal scholars have had a field day with over the years). The problem is that when the verse is quoted in the New Testament, and when the term is used of Mary, the Greek word, parthenos, can only have one meaning - one who has not had sexual relations with anyone. The Holy Spirit knows whereof He speaks through His Word.
For our purposes, Rahab also represents another Gentile in the family tree, specifically another Canaanite. As we said in the last post, the Canaanites were a very wicked and violent people. In Tamar's case, she had something very bad done to her, and in turn, she retaliated by doing something very bad to Judah. There is no record that she ever converted. She may have, we just don't know.
But with Rahab, we do know. She had heard the stories about the mighty acts of Yahweh long before the spies, "by coincidence," found their way to her. (Joshua 2:8-11) She eviently had chosen to believe in this God. This explains why both Hebrews 11 and James 2 describe her act of hiding the spies and helping them to get back to Joshua as an act of faith. For her work of faith, she and her family were spared when the Israelite army destroyed Jericho after God brought the walls a tumbling down. From that day on, Rahab lived among Israel as a member of the people of God (Joshua 6:25).
So this Canaanite woman in the family line of Jesus can teach us several lessons. First, we believe by hearing. She believed first by hearing the stories of the acts of Yahweh. We believe by hearing the word of God, specifically the message about Christ (Romans 10:17).
Second, Rahab shows how true faith demonstrates itself in works. Her faith led her to do the right thing in protecting the two spies from the Canaanites, who would have tortured and brutally murdered them if they had found them. So why was she not killed with all the other Canaanites? According to Hebrews 11:31, it is because she acted "by faith." Then James weighs in by saying that Rahab was considered righteous for what she did. While it is true that with God we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone, it is also true that in the eyes of the watching world, we are justified by our works. I believe this is the point James is making, which is why he is not at odds with Paul, who would also say that we act out of what we believe in order to "adorn the gospel" or in the NIV, "make the gospel attractive." (Titus 2:10).
Finally, Rahab teaches us that when we come to God, we also come to His people. You can't really have one without the other, although many today seem to be attempting that. If you love Christ, you'll love His bride, too, imperfect as it often is. Augustine of Hippo said it rather crudely. "The church is a whore, but she is my mother." And so, as her descendant and fellow Gentile in Jesus' line, would soon say, "Your people will be my people, and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16).
Lo and behold, this one who was immersed in pagan idolatry and was radically converted to the one true God, and who demonstrated it by her works of faith and who aligned herself for the rest of her days, not only with God, but with His people, married an Israelite by the name of Salmon, and became the mother of Boaz, and thus, the mother-in-law of Ruth, not to mention the great great grandmother of King David. Salmon, hmm? I guess Rahab might be the patrion saint of all those Christians who swim upstream against the current and who march to a different drum.