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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.

Journeying through James, 2:17-20 – Works Change Lives

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:17‑20 (NLT)

I am really glad that we’ve decided to build a new fellowship hall. Now is the time to pray and think about how God will use it. Naturally, that made me think about good works. I started doing online devotions from James when the COVID pandemic started, and next few verses of James, that I am going to focus on, are about good works.

James is writing to people who are confused about the importance of good works. To help get that point across he refers to the demons. Why? What do they have to do with understanding how faith and good works go together?

The point is this: works change lives. That’s a fact. This is what God wants you to know. The demons know this. That’s why they work so hard at what they do. Their efforts lead countless people away from Jesus Christ. They are organized and work hard.

Every good thing you do, kind word, helpful deed can change someone’s life. That’s a powerful and simple truth. Maybe you’ve been praying for something or someone for a long time and you don’t see any good results. Your prayers, for example, don’t seem to be working. At other times, choosing to forgive, being kind, or being helpful can be really hard to do.

We’re not able to see how God is working in all of these situations, but He is. And by faith, Jesus wants you to see that your life can have a greater purpose. It is hard, because people might not recognize the good works that you do, but God does. He’s given us reason to hope that our good works can change lives.

We don’t have to cower and fear like the demons do. Christ has died for our sins and he has given us back our lives to live for him. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV).

What all this means is that God wants us to be the type of people who are concerned about what sin and the demons seek to destroy. Ask the Lord to show you what he has given you to do. Ask the Lord how you can be an example of his love. It’s awesome that the Lord asks us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We’re not able to see how God can use the good works we do. That’s for him to know. We are to know that what we do can change lives.

Let’s Seek Him, Hosea 6:3

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:1‑3 (NIV)

Let’s take a look at these words of Hosea’s prophecy. The section in particular is just verse 3 from Hosea 6:1-3.

It says, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

In the Hebrew text, the word that is translated “let us acknowledge” is used very seldom in the Hebrew Old Testament. It harkens to an expression that Jesus said a number of times in the Gospels. He told us “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew7:8; see also Matthew 6:33, Luke 11:9-10, Luke 12:31, John 5:44).

As dependable as the sunrise is in the morning and the seasons changing year after year, is the Lord willingness to come to us and share the good knowledge of His love and care and glory that he has for his people. What the Lord is encouraging us to do, even from Old Testament times, is to seek him; search for him and the text adds the words “press on or pursue.”

These are words of great passion and give us an idea, not that the Lord is difficult to find or that He is hiding himself from us, but He wants us to passionately, with all our heart acknowledge His presence and good hope for us in Christ.

You see, this is the hope and acknowledgement that is hidden from the hearts and minds of unbelievers. It is however the strength, the song and the eternal hope of those that follow Jesus Christ, our precious Lord and Savior.

For it was Christ himself who said, “I am the door” (John 10:9). Since we have such an open door to enter God’s loving presence, should we not ask all the more for anything and everything (e.g. John 14:13-14)? And lastly, should we not all the more ask the Holy Spirit to remind us (Luke 11:13, Romans 8:14) of the access that we have to our Heavenly Father (Hebrews 4:16); not to mention, to remind us constantly of how much God wants to enrich our joy in Him! (Luke 12:32-34)

For further study related to this: Look up and meditate on how your everyday life can be an expression of Ephesians 3:14–21, finding your satisfaction in experiencing and sharing Jesus!

Go Boldly to God’s Throne

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15‑16 (NIV)

Go boldly to God’s Throne. What a privilege Jesus has won for us. We have immediate access to God He gave Himself as a living sacrifice so we can draw near to the throne of God with bold confidence. He made it possible to for us to have a personal relation with our Heavenly Father! We are His dearly loved children because Christ has taken away that which separated us—our sin. We come as children through the open door. Our God is ready to lavish His mercy and grace upon us. Rather than focusing on our frailties and unworthiness, let us look to Jesus who is our High Priest that understands our weaknesses. He was tempted just as we are, but He chose not to sin. He was the Lamb of God without spot or blemish and in His present-day ministry He makes intercession for us. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding and assures us that Jesus Himself is our access into the presence of the Father Jesus is our confidence and we speak to our Father without reservation. In His presence, we can speak openly and be honest with ourselves and with Him without fear of judgement. There we accept His mercy to help us in times of distress, and accept His grace to overcome temptation.

Journeying through James, 2:18 – Keep the lights On

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” James 2:18 (NLT)

When we lived in Sierra Leone, one of the things that was very different was living without electricity. The oddest thing was that the town we lived in had electrical lines; the infrastructure was there. We had fixtures and lights built into our house. Technically, we did have lights, even though they never shined. This helps me understand what James is talking about when he says, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

It was rare in the town we lived in, but when the electricity came on, it empowered us to be able to do many good things. Picture your good deeds as lightbulbs shining. Jesus taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).

My prayer is that God would graciously empower us to shine with the love of Christ. In other words, it’s great to have the lights, but it’s really obvious and a blessing when they are powered on.

Journeying through James, 2:15-17

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:15‑17 (NIV)

I am a fan of slapstick. I’ve watched the Three Stooges, and the picture that James describes reminds me of one of their slapstick routines. They’re in a sinking boat, and one decides to help by drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat to, “Let the water out.” In others words, if someone could really say, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” and think they’re showing compassion—their faith is sunk. The poor person would just stand there and think, “Really? Seriously?!”

James is talking about bare essentials here: food and clothing. Stuff that someone needs to stay alive. This verse is not really about charitable giving; the real issue is more serious. If someone really acted like this, it would reveal that they aren’t listening to God, or worse yet, don’t really know Him. The apostle John, for example, wrote: “Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God” (3 John 11, NLT).

What we can learn from this is an appreciation for the opportunities that God brings into our life to bless others. We can ask God to help us understand that everything we have is a gift from Him. He gives us the privilege of sharing.

Journey through James, 2:14

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? James 2:15 (NLT)

Let’s say that someone you know needs you to give him a ride. This person is having an emergency. You have a car, but, with a dead battery, it’s not taking anybody anywhere. Let’s say that your car was given to you, too. Some guy gave it you because he loves people, and he figured you’d use the car to bless others. The idea is that our faith in Christ has a purpose to it. It is living—because Jesus lives. It works. It is good for something. If faith from Jesus Christ comes into one’s life, but brings no tangible blessing to others, it differs fundamentally from the faith that Jesus and his apostles demonstrated.

Journeying through James – the Law of Liberty

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:8‑13 (NIV)

We are free to serve the Lord in ways that are consistent with how the Lord looks at people. James uses the expression “law of liberty” twice, in James 1:25 and 2:12. It’s a law that sets people free because it puts love first. The only example that we have of someone who did that perfectly is Jesus Christ.

Being patient and forgiving with someone gives the person the opportunity to see how God looks at them. That’s hard for people to grasp, but “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19, NLT). We often like to focus on the fact that God has forgiven us. That is truly wonderful and kind, but I think we have a harder time understanding that Christ’s blood paid for everyone else’s sins too! Showing mercy for Jesus’ sake changes lives—pass it on.

Journeying through James – Looking at the Heart

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:1‑5 (NIV)

It’s very difficult for us to see people differently than how they might obviously appear to us. We have well-known adages like, “Beauty is only skin deep,” to remind us of that. Discrimination is a human problem that needs the forgiveness of Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit to make us think differently. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV).

There are many reasons why someone is poor and even if it were their fault, who are we to judge. “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV). The challenge is to not let how we see people cloud how the the Lord see them. Serving others and loving people, as God does, can be very different than what people and your culture might say.

Journeying through James – Favoritism

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1‑4 (NIV)

What is your sense of equality is based on? Some people say they’re not judgmental, and I think most people like to think of themselves as fair and impartial. I think James is saying that you should let God be the judge of that. In other words, everybody makes judgements, but not everybody makes them the way that God would. The best example to take is Jesus’ example. He didn’t come to judge anybody, but lived a life of love. He patiently preached the Gospel in the hope that everyone who heard would be saved.

If you know Jesus, you know that none of us measure up to Him. That is meant to free us to accept one another as sinners who need God’s love and forgiveness in Christ. If you value people, even yourself, by race, wealth, social standing, or educational level, you are judging by what the world values, not by what God values. On the inside, God looks at the heart and wants to transform the eyes of our hearts to see others as Jesus does.