Rahab – Al Brown

Al Brown

Abraham was a great and highly respected leader. His life was commendable. His faith and what it cost him was especially impressive. James taught that his faith moved him to obey God, and any other kind is a dead faith (Jam. 2:21-24).

James’ second example of “faith in action” was Rahab (Jam. 2:25-26). She was as different from Abraham as night is from day. She is often ignored when people of great faith are discussed. Compared to others, she seems to be a poor choice. Still, by inspiration, James picked her.

Rahab was not just any woman; she was a prostitute. Some, embarrassed, try to cover this up by claiming the Hebrew word means innkeeper. It does not; it means “harlot.” Her reputation and character were jaded even among heathens. She was not even a temple prostitute. They had some respectability in heathen society.

Regardless of her past, James said her faith was on a par with Abraham’s; it was active. Thayer defines such faith as: “conviction…and trust, conjoined with obedience.”

Her faith was certainly crude (Jos. 2:9-13). It rested on what she had heard about Israel’s God, and she did not know much when the spies approached her. She had never seen a miracle, but she had heard about them; and she believed the testimony was true. In contrast, Israel saw some of the greatest miracles God ever performed, but they still would not believe.

Acceptable faith involves more than just accepting testimony. It also requires trust, commitment, and action. Rahab was convinced God would overthrow Jericho. She trusted the spies’ word as men of God and committed herself to helping them. Then, she activated that commitment; she helped them. Would her faith have been acceptable if she had refused to act on it?

Her faith demanded more than a token involvement. The king had evidence she was hiding the spies. He challenged her to surrender them (Jos. 2:2f). If the spies were found, she could lose everything —even her life.

Perhaps Satan tempted her by asking: “Yea, hath God said…?” She could have responded as many do today—by putting questions marks where God puts periods. There was ample reason to doubt the outcome, as there always is. She was a heathen and a prostitute, so Israel may not accept her. Israel may not conquer the city. If they failed, where would she be? Why run the risk? Her faith involved considerable risk.

There were other great risks. She lied. The spies had to escape under the very noses of the watchmen. She had to hang a red rope from her window for a month before Israel returned. After the first week, the rope was exposed at least eighteen days (Jos. 2:18). Would that make you nervous? All of Rahab’s family had to remain in her house several weeks. If anyone told the authorities what was happening, she and her family would probably be killed.

Would you make such a commitment and then follow through with it? People who will not stand up for Christ today when false doctrine is taught and/or immorality is practiced would not have done what she did! Yet, that is the only way acceptable faith can respond. Faith can be very expensive, and it has always been so. It was for Daniel (Dan. 6:10-24), Stephen (Acts 7:43-60), the apostle James (Acts 12:1-5); and it will cost you too (Mat. 16:24, 26; 10:37-39; Luke 14:33)!

Allegiance to Christ could cost you your job, career, friends, money, family, a comfortable church home, pleasurable habits—even your life. It will certainly cost you unlawful relationships and sinful practices. Paul was ready to die for Christ (Acts 21:13). Would we be faithful if it required our life (Rev. 2:10; 1 John 3:16)? Do we have Job’s attitude: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15)? Some things are worse than dying.

Rahab did exactly as she was instructed. Some would call this legalism, but it was not. It was faithfulness. Christians today are called “legalists” when they obey God—as if obedience was a terrible sin. Those who make this charge are liars doing Satan’s bidding (cf., Mat. 7:21).

Rahab’s faith was rewarded (Jos. 6:22-25). It always is—if not in this life, then certainly in the one to come. She was the great-great-grandmother of David and an ancestor of Jesus. She was numbered with the Old Testament faithful (Heb. 11:31). James said she was an example of the faith God’s saints are to have—a faith that works (Jam. 2:25).

Her faith may have been small, but Christ can do great things with even a small but genuine faith. He said: “verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Mat.17:20).

We all need such a faith—the kind W. H. Bathhurst described in his poem. It has been set to music, and we teach and admonish one another with this spiritual song:

O for a faith that will not shrink,

Tho’ pressed by ev’ry foe,

That will not tremble on the brink

Of any earthly woe.

That will not murmur of complain

Beneath the chast’ning rod,

But in the hour of grief or pain,

Will lean upon its God.

A faith that shines more bright and clear

When tempests rage without;

That when in danger knows no fear,

In darkness feels no doubt!

Lord, give us such a faith as this;

And then, what e’er may come,

We’ll taste e’en here the hallowed bliss

Of an eternal home.

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Author: Editor

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