Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
In our previous post in this series on James we saw how the author uses the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice to illustrate how genuine faith results in works. If you remember, we pointed out that Abraham was reacting to a direct command from God – the point being that those who have true faith will come open the Bible and obey the direct commands from God they find there.
Which brings us to Rahab. Her story, which can be found in Joshua 2, in some ways parallels that of Abraham. Both were people of faith, whose obedience could have cost them dearly. Both did the right thing, despite their actions being counter-intuitive.
Yet, there is a significant difference between the two. While Abraham was acting according to a direct command of God, Rahab was not. Indeed, her actions in behalf of the nation of Israel appear to have come from her conclusions about God absent any revelatory voice. Hear her words:
“I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”
I believe this is a significant difference, and at least one of the reasons Rahab was chosen here, out of all the other possible Old Testament examples. With Abraham, we see the importance of obedience to direct revelation. Rahab, however, adds a different nuance, namely:
A person of faith will identify with God’s people.
Put brackets around the above phrase. Highlight it. Underscore it. Then remember it every time you see some professed Christian on social media decry the church, try to deconstruct the church, or claim to live out their faith apart from the church.
The body of believers has come under increased attack from outside forces over the past couple of decades. Laws and policies designed to limit the church’s influence are multiplying, and becoming more popular. And from “within”, abuses in some churches are being painted as characteristic of all Bible-believing local assemblies.
And it’s not likely to get better anytime soon. Unless there is a cultural shift, association with the body of believers will become less and less acceptable as time goes by. Just as identifying with the Israelites was risky business for Rahab, so identification with the church will carry social, professional, and personal risk. Yet it is instructive to remember the end of the Rahab narrative.
She was saved, and Jericho was destroyed.
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