Journeying through James, 2:25–26 – How Rahab the Prostitute Was Considered Righteous

“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 (NIV)

First, we need to ask, “Who is Rahab?” Grab your Bibles and go to the Old Testament book of Joshua:

“Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove. He instructed them, ‘Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.’ So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.

But someone told the king of Jericho, ‘Some Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.’ So the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab: ‘Bring out the men who have come into your house, for they have come here to spy out the whole land.’

Rahab had hidden the two men, but she replied, ‘Yes, the men were here earlier, but I didn’t know where they were from. They left the town at dusk, as the gates were about to close. I don’t know where they went. If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them.’
(Actually, she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them beneath bundles of flax she had laid out.) So the king’s men went looking for the spies along the road leading to the shallow crossings of the Jordan River. And as soon as the king’s men had left, the gate of Jericho was shut.”Joshua 2:1–7 (NLT)

The backdrop is that Joshua is leading the Israelite army from one victory to another. They are in the process of fulfilling a promise given to their ancestor Abraham 450 years earlier.

What Rahab did in trusting God was more important than who she was: a gentile prostitute, who wouldn’t have been accepted in Israel (Leviticus 19:29).

Look at the powerful confession that she makes (from Joshua 2:8-13, NIV):

“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 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 Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.’”

For Rahab personally, who God is and what He did captivates her heart and mind. You can see this in her testimony: She loves God more than life itself, because if she got caught, the people of Jericho would consider her a traitor! Also, notice that she loves her family, which is a good, godly trait.

Everybody else in Jericho is blind to any hope in God. The people in Jericho knew what God had done, but unlike Rahab, they do not act like believers.

  1. God noticed the sincerity of Rahab’s faith. God brought the spies to her! That’s providence. Jericho was a big city, yet the Israelite spies ended up in the home of the very person in all that big city who was prepared to help them: One whose occupation made her home an easy access point for outsiders getting into Jericho, and whose state of heart of mind made her ready and willing to give up everything to follow God and join his people. God’s hand was at work in all of this.
  2. God miraculously strengthened her faith to boldly approach them. She didn’t know what the two spies would do. Would they honor their word? Would the Israelites really save her and her family? What would the future hold? How would she make money? Where would they live?
  3. She chose to act on what she believed. Be like her! It starts with filling your mind, as she did, with who God is and what He does. Do that! Consider how marvelous and awesome the Lord is; the more we are aware of His grace, His power, and His presence in all things, the more acting in faith becomes natural to us.
  4. Be ready to be used by God at the right time. Jesus bought you with His blood. You are to be used by Him for God’s glory and as a blessing to others. Rahab started a new life through faith. She became part of God’s people (Joshua 6:22–25) and even part of the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

It all starts with seeing, through the Spirit, how beautiful God is and how sure His promises are. Rahab came out of Jericho and lived her life for God by joining his people; it’s time for us to come out of Jericho and live our lives for God by following Jesus. This is a matter of practical action and daily life, so here are some everyday examples of what this may mean. They’re just examples to get you thinking, and may apply to your situation or not; the bigger question is: what is Jesus doing in your life, right now? Where and how does He want you to stand in faith for Him?

  • If you want to be married, or if you already have a husband or wife: Have you hidden in your heart what God says about marriage and relationships? Pray that God would fulfill His will for relationships in your life. The sacrifice of Christ’s blood has made us worthy to ask for such things (Hebrews 4:14–16). And you, personally, choose to live as a man or a woman of God, putting him first in all your relationships, with his Word as your guide to what that looks like.. You can be confident knowing that whether you feel like you’ve succeeded or not, God, for Jesus’ sake, won’t forsake you. Also, boldly and patiently believe that God will work His good will in your spouse. God can do anything; how far are you willing to trust Him?
  • Are you needing a better job? Ask God to give you work that will glorify Him, making the best use of the life that He’s given you as a gift in Christ (Romans 12:1-2ff.). The Lord Jesus taught: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT).

Patient persistence – waiting on God – is more important than immediate answers. God knows what you need and how to build up your heart and faith as you wait for His answer, and you can trust that the will of Him who created you with your unique talents and skills is to use those talents and skills in a way that will bring joy and blessing to you and those around you.