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And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (James 2:25)
For most of her young life, Rahab had been a prostitute (πόρνη pornē) This is a woman who engaged in sexual intercourse for money. These are sexually immoral actions, but without knowing how she ended up in a life of prostitution, we cannot necessarily say this is a sexually immoral person. There could be any number of reasons she unwillingly started out in prostitution: (1) an older man forced her, (2) her husband left her or was killed and left her and a child destitute and starving, (3) or any other life circumstance. This is not to rationalize her immoral lifestyle, but she was not an Israelite nation that would have cared for her needs. A person not knowing God may engage in wrong behavior for survival, not necessarily because they enjoy it. So, James used her life as his next illustration that genuine faith has instantaneous good works, even from an outsider who has very little knowledge, moving the person in the direct opposite of what their life would have dictated a short time earlier. This is the faith of Rahab that moved her to a stand for God, utterly renouncing her former way of life. – Acts 3:19.
Rahab had heard of the Israelites and their God, so she had some basic knowledge that gave her genuine faith. The apostle Paul says: “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” (Heb. 11:31) Also, we have an account of Rahab telling the Israelite spies what she had heard. “I know that Jehovah has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how Jehovah dried up the water of the Sea of Reeds before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for Jehovah your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Josh. 2:9-11) Rahab took that little bit of knowledge of the true God and came to realize He was deserving of her worship over the Canaanite gods she had known her entire life. What she said showed her faith, but her actions of helping the Israelites spies evidenced her faith. So, her faith was not some dormant, desolate faith. She would have never been declared righteous by God if all she had had was some fake, fruitless faith. Her faith moved her to help the spies instead of allowing them to be killed. She put her life in jeopardy for a God, she had not known her entire life based on scant information, and we have the Bible as a whole. God further used this woman because she would later marry the Judean Israelite Salmon and make her Jesus Christ’s ancestress. – Matthew 1:5-16.
In the same manner that Abraham’s faith was evidenced by his actions, was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works? The story of Rahab is found in the Old Testament book of Joshua chapter 2, shortly after Moses died, and Joshua took over in leading the nation of Israel. It would be Joshua who would guide the nation of Israel into the promised land of Canaan. However, to get there, many obstacles would have been in their way. One of these significant obstacles would be conquering the city of Jericho. Nevertheless, through the power of God, they would overcome these.
The problem is that Jericho had very thick and high walls that surrounded their city, and it was nearly impossible to penetrate. Joshua summoned two men who were to go and spy out the city and come to report to Joshua what they had seen and learned. When the spies got into the city, they went to the home of a prostitute whose name was Rahab. The town king somehow caught wind that the spies had come into town and were at Rahab’s home, and he sent them to have them killed. Rahab knew that the king wanted to kill the spies, and so decided to hide them on the roof of her home under stalks of flax. The king’s officials arrived at the house, but Rahab told them that the spies had already left. The king’s officials went off trying to find the direction of the men to kill them.
When the king’s officials had left, Rahab asked a favor of the spies found in Joshua 2:8-14. “Now then, please swear to me by Jehovah that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our souls from death.” And the men said to her, “Our souls for yours even to death. If you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about then when Jehovah gives us the land, we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
The spies told Rahab that they would indeed spare her life if she tied a scarlet cord in her window. The scarlet cord was what Rahab used to let the spies down out of the city to spare their lives. Rahab could have just told the spies to get out of her house and never have let them in. Because she feared God and believed in the God of the spies, she took the risk of letting the men stay in her home. Rahab’s belief in God was authenticated in that she received the messengers and sent them out by another way. It would be a direct result of the action of Rahab saving the spies that would help in giving Joshua the victory over the city of Jericho.
Rahab is much-admired for her faith and for the real actions that resulted from it. A faith that prompted her to accept the true God of the Israelite spies and to send them away in peace. This faith made her abandon her former life in a moment and then become part of the Israelite people. When we admire her faith, we are not admiring her former life as a prostitute or giving consent to it. We are admiring that which moved her to abandon that life so swiftly and turn to a righteous life instead. This is a beautiful example of the power of true faith. Rahab is to be commended for the faith that transformed her, saving her and her family, as well as the spies.