Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
Consider this your official rabbit trail warning! We have, of course, been working our way through the Book of James. I hope it has been useful in some way to you all. We are still in James, but we are taking a small detour along the way here. There will be relevance to our actual topic, but along the way we are going to make a very wide turn. So, let the beatings begin I suppose!
Most of us are familiar with the story of Rahab the harlot. If readers want a refresher, read the story beginning Here. Jericho, where Rahab lived, was right in the path the Israelites were to take after crossing the Jordan River as they began their march into and conquest of the promised land. Joshua had sent two men into Jericho to spy and gather intelligence about the city prior to the arrival of the Israelite army. Rahab, a local prostitute, hid the spies from the authorities, protected them, and aided them in accomplishing their mission and escaping.
As we all know, Jericho was ultimately destroyed by the advancing Israelites, while Rahab and her family were spared. So, this is a good time to cover what, to some, is an offensive episode in the Bible. In fact, it is among the episodes described in Scripture often cited to justify non belief in God. After all, what kind of god could do such a thing? So, let’s take an honest look at what happened. In a nutshell, the city was completely destroyed by the Israelite armies, and every living person in it was killed.(With a few exceptions, as we will see.) This cannot really be sugarcoated, as those are the facts as presented in the Bible.
Was God just and fair? Of course He was, as God is always just and His ways are always fair. The truth is, Jericho was a hotbed of pagan idols worship, in particular the goddess Ashtaroth who was the moon Goddess. This was a pagan, evil city which had rejected God and was deserving of His judgment.
So, of course, the question arises: How is it fair to destroy all of those people who had never even had the chance to come to know God? After all, no missionary or preacher had ever come to them and told them, right? Let’s take a look at Rahab, then.
Rahab lived in the city also. Obviously the march of the Isralites was well known, as Rahab mentioned the citizens knowing of them since the crossing of the Red Sea 40 years previously. So, Rahab as well as everyone else knew all about them. Jericho was a thoroughly pagan city, coming to a different belief system than that was no doubt extremely difficult. Finally, Rahab had no first hand information from a believer concerning the One True God. Yet, she said the following to the spies in Joshua 2:11 “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”
Notice something very important there; everyone was scared, but not all honestly sought and came to belief. Rahab didn’t know much, and she certainly had no proof. What she did have was a choice, and she made the choice to act by faith. Guess what? Her faith saved her, literally and spiritually.
Who all heard the news in that city? Everyone. Who chose to act in faith and believe? Rahab and her family. Here is another thought. God knew there was a woman and family in that town honestly seeking after Him. Remember how Jericho was destroyed? It just fell down. Those spies were not needed! Here is some food for thought: maybe those spies weren’t sent to spy, but to be witnesses to Rahab of the true God. She honestly sought Him, and He sent somebody to her.
God still does that today. I know of a missionary who answered a call from God to go to Mongolia and preach the gospel. Why Mongolia of all places? Maybe there was a Rahab there, maybe there was some single person who was honestly seeking the knowledge of God. Now guess what? There is a man there ready to tell that person all about Jesus.
Meanwhile, back to the Book of James. I terms of what we have learned so far during our study, what made Rahab notable; what made her worthy of mention here in James, as well as the “believers hall of fame” in the Book of Hebrews? It’s the same thing that separates the devils who believe and tremble from true believers. The people in the city of Jericho were much like those devils. They believed in what was about to happen to them; they may have even believed the God of Israel was real. Rahab, however, sprang into action. Rahab was not saved because she sprang into action. Rahab was able to spring into action because she had believed with a faith that was true.