I enjoyed reading Al Mohler’s post “Where does the Story of Christmas Begin?” This thought in particular caught my attention: “A closer look at the narratives in both Matthew and Luke reveals a richness that familiarity may hide from us. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ….” Dr. Mohler, as usual, is on target. We tend to put aside verses in the biblical text that don’t appear to be of particular interest– like genealogies. However, this is not wise. The Holy Spirit included these names for a reason. His version of the Christmas Story includes more detail than we have become accustomed to thinking about. Each of the names in the genealogy represents a story within the larger story of Christmas. In some cases, we know very little about the stories of the persons named. But each one played a role in God’s plan of redemption. There is drama and wonder connected with each name. For example, let’s look at Rahab. Failing to understand her role in the Christmas story robs us of some of the richness that Dr. Mohler writes about.
At first thought, it seems almost inappropriate to speak about a prostitute in connection with Christmas. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has no such reservations. Rahab’s story and the conquest of Jericho show how intricate God’s planning is. Trusting God at any particular moment may often appear unwise in the light of conventional wisdom. In order to cause Jericho to fall and become the initial victory in Israel’s conquest of Canaan, God chose some unconventional means to accomplish his ends. For example, to prepare for the attack, Joshua sends spies to check out the city. Their mission was discovered and their lives were in danger. But God had prepared Rahab, the prostitute, to provide refuge for the spies so they would escape the from the king of Jericho. Hebrews 11 records Rahab’s protection of the spies as an act of faith, and she is listed along with Abraham and Moses. Not only did she have faith, but we even find her listed in lineage of Christ. God caused a prostitute in a pagan city to play a key role in redemptive history. Imagine if you were writing the story and decided to include an episode that had the line of the Christ child dependent upon a prostitute coming to faith and offering shelter to Israelite spies. That is probably not something you would write.
Yet God did. All of human history is anchored around the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Everything that had happened up to the point of Christ’s birth occurred in order to bring Mary and Joseph together so that they would serve God’s redemptive purpose. Joseph’s role was to provide the place of safety and family care for his virgin wife and her unborn Son. Part of that plan, centuries earlier, was to call a prostitute to give shelter to Israel’s soldiers. The inclusion of Rahab in the Holy Spirit’s Christmas story shows us just how thorough God’s plan was. It also shows us that it is by faith and not by works that God’s people will come to him. And finally, it shows us that there is no barrier that God cannot break through to accomplish his purposes. God is indeed able to carry out his will.
Rahab enters into the Israelite covenant community. She becomes the mother-in-law of Ruth, and she becomes the great-great-grandmother of King David. The Holy Spirit’s Christmas story is rich in wonder and faith. It is the story of Christ, the Savior of the world.
We will look at Ruth’s part in the story in the next post.