25 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? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. ~ James 2:25-26
Today, we close out our study of the second chapter of James. In this chapter, James established the argument that biblical faith is proven by the expressions of God in and through our lives. Having given us one illustration of his point on the idea that faith without works is dead, James gives us a second illustration.
In v.25 of today's text we read, "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?"
James provides us a powerful contrast between Abraham and Rahab. In Joshua 2 Rahab is presented as an example of a "righteous Canaanite." Rahab is remarkably unlike Abraham. It is also remarkable that God would use her as an example since she is introduced as a prostitute.
Rahab lived in Jericho and she made a living at running a prostitution ring. And then, on the day God sent spies into Jericho to spy out the land, the spies stayed in the inn owned by Rahab. Through Rahab's actions of protecting the spies of God, she was considered righteous. Rahab believed all she knew about God, and it was imputed to her for righteousness. After she had protected the spies, in Joshua 2, Rahab said she had heard of God’s victory in Egypt and understood Him to be "the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath."
Whereas, Abraham was a Jew, Rahab was a Gentile. Abraham was a man full of wisdom, but Rahab had made many foolish decisions. Abraham was at the top of the social order, while Rahab was at the bottom. Abraham received direct revelation from God but Rahab received very indirect revelation about God. And yet, in Hebrews 11 the list of the heroes of faith is given. Rahab is in the same text as Abraham. And, according to Matthew 1, Abraham and Rahab are in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus.
Rahab believed the truth presented to her and, as a result, God declared her right with Him. It was her faith that made her right with God. She was vindicated by the action she took to save the life of those spies. And, by the way, she told a lie in order to protect the spies. She had been an unbeliever for some time, and she was coming out of a culture that was quite contrary to God's. For many years, Rahab had succumbed to the prevailing immorality of her ungodly culture. She, in that context, became a believer in the God of the Bible. And, God accounted to her faith His righteousness.
That day Rahab took in those spies, she put her life on the line. Had she been found out, it would have cost her her life. She hid the spies in the attic of her Inn. And, as a result, she let the spies escape. She told the guys that came to find them that they weren’t there for she had told the spies how to escape. And, later, she protected herself by putting a cord in the window. In doing so, Rahab demonstrated her faith by works.
In the case of both Abraham and Rahab, their faith in the God of the Bible was shown by their choices. They both put their lives, dreams and hopes on the line. That is the kind of work that is associated with true faith to varying degrees. It isn’t that we go to church, read our Bibles, and sing a few songs. It is that we are increasingly committed to God to the point that we would sacrifice our hopes, dreams and ambitions, and we would risk our own lives to be true to His faith.
In v.26 of todays passage we read, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
A body without life imparted by God is nothing but a rotting corpse. It has absolutely no value. And, so is belief without behavior, just as dead, just as decaying. When it comes down to the crux of why we live and what is most valuable to us, our faith in the God of the Bible is most valuable to us. Oh, we are growing at this, and we have been known to fail, but we are in the process. And, even failure factors into the process that sometimes includes success. I'm glad God is not caught up in the linear.
There are times when God refines us by allowing us to fail and allowing us to fall back in our progress in our sanctification. His grace abides in the places where we see our faults and our inability to get it "right" on the first try. Our imperfections point us and others to His perfection. This, by the way, is part of our problem, we are caught up in being linear. There is great freedom in realizing that God doesn't look at our lives in a linear way. The progress in our walk with God is often non-linear. Learning to be ok with the discomforts that God allows or causes while He is writing our story is a major part of our progress. When we think we are writing our story, we are in the greatest trouble. Learning to trust that the wisdom of God transcends our finite understanding is one of the greatest keys in realizing His success in our lives. God's grace will always meet us at the door of confusion, frustration, and impatience.
We tend to think of our decisions in present-tense terms; right here, right now! But God spans the generations. When we find ourselves discouraged because our progress doesn’t look like it is happening in a straight line, we must remember that this is no problem for God. He uses all things, including our failures, as opportunities for us to gain what we need to gain to realize His victory in our lives. Our journey is safe in His hands.
Rahab demonstrated her faith by hiding the spies before she expressed her faith in the God of Israel. Out of all of the residents of Jericho, only Rahab and her family were saved from destruction and only because she expressed her faith through an action. Belief without behavior doesn't instill the culture of God into our souls. Belief with behavior allows God to do the miraculous in and through our yielded lives. Every decision we make has a domino effect way beyond our ability to predict or control. We can’t predict when or how, but our faith in the God of the Bible will always reap a harvest somehow, someway. And it is often when and where we least expect it.