Greetings Summit Family!
Yesterday, James challenged us to consider Abraham, a man described as a “friend of God.” That declaration was directly related to Abraham’s faithfulness to God which was demonstrated through his actions. James immediately transitions from sharing Abraham’s faithfulness to that of Rahab, the prostitute.
“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (2:25-26)
To recap Rahab’s faithfulness, one needs to refer back to the book of Joshua, chapter two. Joshua records that spies were sent into Jericho to “look over the land.” They enter Jericho and go to the house of a prostitute, Rahab. It is possible they chose her house because of the culture surrounding her profession. When people “frequented” her establishment, discretion was probably paramount. It would have been a place where a lot of questions were not asked of the “patrons,” but still a place to gather information.
It is recorded that Rahab’s house was built into the city wall. So, it would have been the perfect place to facilitate a quick escape. I think the most common question most would have is: Why was she willing to protect the spies? That seems to be a natural question to ask because she was in stark contrast to James’ first example! Abraham was the “father” of the nation so to speak and had enjoyed a lengthy relationship with the Lord prior to his “test” with Isaac. Rahab is a minor, PAGAN character. Abraham represents the “nation” and Rahab was a foreigner. Abraham would have been highly respected. Rahab would have been considered disreputable. Abraham was a man. Rahab was a woman. Women were not equal citizens at that time. (Interestingly: Rahab is the only woman except Sarah mentioned in the list of heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11!)
James is continuing his proposition that faith will be demonstrated in our works. In Abraham’s case, God spoke directly to him. “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward.’” (Genesis 15:1) “The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.” (Genesis 18:1) “Then God said (to Abraham), ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah.” (Genesis 22:2) These examples confirm Abraham’s personal relationship with God. So, it might be easy to conclude there was reason for Abraham to be willing to demonstrate his faith in God through his actions.
Rahab, on the other hand, was truly a pagan. She did not have a prior personal relationship with God. She was a resident of Jericho and was a Canaanite. Because of their evil practices and intense idolatry, the Canaanites were in serious rebellion against God. The pagan practices of the city were such that God instructed Joshua and the nation of Israel to completely destroy the city, “every living thing in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” (Joshua 6:21)
Yet, God also provided instructions to “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her…Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho – and she lives among the Israelites to this day.” (Joshua 6:25ff)
We know that God knows all things. It seems obvious God knew that Rahab must have had a heart that was receptive to believing in Him, belief she demonstrated in her actions. What is encouraging to me is that while it is clear her faith was in its infant stages, she acted on that faith. This letter about having a perfect/complete faith has now included a person who would have been considered a person of little faith. The Lord said: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you.’” (Luke 17:6)
Her faith may have grown from what she had heard about the nation of Israel and their God. She would have been exposed to the various accounts of victories the nation had over the king of Basha, the king of Hesbon, king Shon, king Og, king Arad and Israel’s other victories. It seems clear she believed God to be a god to be revered and feared.
Like Abraham, Rahab’s faith impacted her decision to protect the spies and believe that God would overthrow Jericho and she gave evidence of that faith through her actions.
Most of us are probably familiar with the expression: “Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.” That is a creative way of saying that what we do should compliment what we say we believe. James knows how important it is for his readers to genuinely demonstrate their faith through their actions. He knew the world would be watching them. THE WORLD IS WATCHING US!!!! Their greatest method of evangelizing their world came when they were able to witness the evidence of their faith through their actions.
The same opportunity exists for us today. Do we provide evidence of our faith through our actions? Would there be sufficient evidence to “convict” us to being faithful to God.
James ends the chapter with a solemn statement: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” What is a dead body able to do? NOTHING!
Faith that ceases to demonstrate functionality through our actions is also dead!