Rahab is the second woman of Christmas listed in Matthew’s genealogy of the line of Jesus. Rahab’s story is recorded in Joshua 2 – it is short, yet made a significant imprint on the arc of Biblical history. She is later held up as a picture of faith in both James 2 and Hebrews 11.
The book of Joshua picks up where the first 5 books leave off. Israel has been wandering in the desert for 40 years trying to get their act together so that they could enter the Promised Land. They are almost there, and God is rising up Joshua to lead them. There are many enemies between here and there though, so Joshua sends some spies ahead to check out Jericho, one of the border towns of the Promised Land.
This was a dangerous mission, and the spies are intending to stay undetected. So where do they go? The same place anyone would that wanted to be undetected. You go to the seedy part of town where nobody asks your name and you can rent hotels by the hour. This is where they encounter Rahab. We know something about Rahab’s hotel because both Hebrews 11 and James 2 talk about her and use the Greek word ‘pornay’ to describe her. You don’t need a translator to know what type of hotel that was.
Despite the best clandestine efforts of the spies, they are discovered by the government of Jericho. Some heavy’s are sent to make quick work of them, and the spies hide for their life. When the enforcers show up at Rahab’s hotel and ask where they are, she surprises by lying on behalf of the spies. She points down the road and tells them that if they hurry they just might catch them.
What would motivate Rahab to do something like that?
She explains to the spies. “I have heard of your people and of your God. I heard how your God opened up the Red Sea and saved you from your enemies. Can I be part of your community and relationship with your God?”
What is the message of Rahab as it pertains to Christmas
It is a simple message: the centrality of faith. It was certainly not Rahab’s works, behaviors, or resume that saved her. Hebrews 11 and James 2 both say it was her faith that saved her, and that we should all hope to have faith like that.
How can the story of Rahab help us grow our faith this Christmas?
Hebrews 11 – the same chapter that holds up Rahab – defines faith as,“being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
How can we be sure of what we hope for? Christmas points to the deep longings we all have – to be rescued, redeemed, loved and cherished. God did that for us when Jesus enters human history.
How can we be certain of what we do not see? Christmas helps us see Immanuel – God with us – through the Incarnation into human flesh.
May the story of Rahab remind you this Christmas that it is by faith that the truth gets into us, but that the faith also gets stronger in us by remembering what God did at Christmas time 2,000 + years ago.