Getting Rid of Your Labels
Today’s Reading: Matthew 1
The whole of the New Testament starts with today’s reading in Matthew 1. This is the story of stories—and it starts off all wrong.
Most adventure stories begin with the wondrous “Once upon a time” so we know we’re in for something truly amazing. That’s the way the New Testament should begin, right? After all, what is more adventurous and exciting than the story of salvation, redemption, hope, and the keys to eternal life?
Instead, Matthew starts his book of the same name with a genealogy. Why in the world would he do that? Because this story is not a fairy tale; this story is true. And he wants you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is true. The greatest story ever told starts like a phone book, a long list unpronounceable names. But this is important: Those names tell us that Jesus is real and that He can be traced. This is Jesus’ ancestry.com.
What makes this list amazing is that some names in this long list belong to people who had sketchy pasts. Not only did Jesus associate with liars, cheaters, adulterers, murderers, and prostitutes—as we’ll see throughout the Gospels—but Jesus had them in his lineage. And Matthew didn’t even attempt to cover it up!
Why does that matter to you and me? Because it shows from the outset that Jesus wants to associate with all of us. No matter what we’ve done or have become, we aren’t beyond His love or reach.
I know this is true. Throughout my years of ministry, I have seen hardened prostitutes changed. Too often prostitutes feel irredeemable because their past holds so tightly to them. And yet, no one shows a way out of a past like Rahab, the prostitute who shows up in Jesus’ lineage. Her story is epic, and we see her name in that long list of names in Matthew: “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse” (Matthew 1:5, AMP).
This is the Rahab from the Old Testament book of Joshua whose act of saving Hebrew spies got her inducted in Hebrews’ hall of faith (see Hebrews 11:31). She hid them, and when they returned Joshua and the Hebrews conquered Jericho when the walls came crashing down, the only family they saved was Rahab’s. Jesus is associated with a prostitute. Would you expect anything less? Not only was she saved, but she married a Jewish man.
Let’s reread Matthew 1:5: “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.”
Salmon and Rahab had Boaz, who married Ruth—of the Old Testament book of Ruth. Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse. And Jesse had a son named David. Not just any David. “Jesse was the father of David the king” (Matthew 1:6 , AMP).
Guess who was the great-great grandmother of King David?
Rahab, the prostitute, the harlot.
A quick thought for today: Almost every time Rahab’s name is mentioned, in both the Old and New Testaments, it says, “Rahab the harlot.”
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 the worst season of your life is your label and 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 addicted. Tim the alcoholic. Tim the road rager. Tim the unemployed. Think about what label would be after your name. For Rahab, “harlot” connects the past to her.
If time heals all wounds, then 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 1.
The only way the past lets go of us is when it is confronted with a future in Jesus. When you are connected to Jesus, the future is bigger and greater than your past. Rahab had a huge past. And could have easily driven her life by the rearview mirror, but something happened to her. She got a windshield bigger than her past. She got Jesus.
It’s always easier to drive forward using the windshield than the rearview mirror. With Jesus, we can look ahead and no longer be held back by the labels of our past