The New Testament is the story of stories, and it starts off all wrong. Most adventure stories begin with the wondrous “Once upon a time”, but Matthew starts his book with a genealogy. Why in the world would he do that? The greatest story ever told starts like a phone book with a long list of unpronounceable names. This is important, though. What makes this list amazing is that some names belong to people who had sketchy pasts.
One of these names is Rahab from the Old Testament book of Joshua whose act of saving Hebrew spies got her inducted into the hall of faith. “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:31, ESV). Not only was she saved, but she married a Jewish man.
Now don’t miss this. Almost every time Rahab’s name is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, it says, “Rahab the prostitute.” How would you like that, if every time someone said your name, they included with it the worst season of your life? Can you imagine that act or the time you regretted most was the tag line connected to your name?
What if it looked like this? I’ll use my name so I don’t indict anyone. Tim the thief. Tim the embezzler. Tim the adulterer. Tim the baby aborter. Tim the wife beater. Tim the divorcee. Tim the porn addict. Tim the alcoholic. Tim the unemployed. Think about the label that would be after your name. For Rahab, the label ‘prostitute’ connected her to her past.
If time healed wounds or shame, we wouldn’t need God. Time is not that strong, but God is. There is only one place in the entire Bible where ‘harlot’ or ‘prostitute’ is removed from Rahab’s name. It’s when her name is connected to Jesus in Matthew’s genealogy: “…Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king” (Matthew 1:5-6). The only way that the past lets go of us is when it’s confronted with a future in Jesus.