The Advent series at church this year is about the 5 women Matthew names in Jesus’ genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. I love this series for so many reasons (which are probably obvious to anyone who knows me well). For a few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about Rahab. Admittedly, I hadn’t given her story much thought before. I knew about her, the same way I know about quantum physics. (That is to say, it exists, I guess, right?) But now I can’t shake her story.
In short, Rahab was a prostitute with quite the reputation. Even the king knew Rahab and knew her home was a likely place for men to visit. When Israelite spies were sneaking around, the king asked for her. Instead of handing over the Israelites, Rahab sheltered them, garnering protection and refuge for her own family, and claiming her place in God’s family.
Throughout Scripture, Rahab is heralded as a hero of the faith. In Hebrews, she’s counted among the “great cloud of witnesses” to whom we look for encouragement and inspiration. And yet.
In his sermon, Zach pointed out that in the New Testament’s two references to Rahab, she is given the same name: Rahab the Harlot. Seriously? We can’t get over the fact she was a prostitute? We can’t just call her by her name? Why do we need to define her by her sin?
My immediate temptation is to roll my eyes at the misogynistic old men who must have penned those portions of Scripture. Maybe they let their own biases and culture influence their work. Because surely, the God I know wipes the slate clean.
In that same Hebrews passage, it doesn’t say “Noah the Drunk” or “David the Murderer” or “Peter the Traitor,” so why “Rahab the Harlot”?
Zach suggested that the title doesn’t define what is most true about Rahab. Rather, it points out the lie from which she’s been rescued. Rahab was indeed Rahab the Harlot, and might have stayed that way, if not for God’s intervention and her brave determination to act.
What would my name be? Lindsey the Perfectionist. Lindsey the Liar. Lindsey the Arrogant. Lindsey the Approval-Seeker.
My sins are different than Rahab’s, but they do not distance me less from the God of righteousness and justice. And now that I’m thinking about it, maybe our sins manifest themselves differently but are the same at their core: a desire to control our circumstances, greed, a lack of trust, a desire for approval. Rahab and I are not so different, you see.
Jesus seemed to understand the significance of a name. He called wavering, faltering Peter the rock. He reclaimed Jacob–the deceiver–as Israel, one who wrestles with God. Abram and Saul, too, get name changes, and not in proportion to their own faith, but according to the people God knew they could be with His help and by His grace.
I think Jesus has called me Lindsey the Chosen and Lindsey the Free. I’m learning to embrace my new name, letting go of the lie that once was true.