Turn and Act!
Read James 2:25-26 (ESV)
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? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Have you ever felt like you could never be used by God because of your past?
If there is one thing we all have in common, it is the fact that we were all born sinners. Even those of us who grew up in the Christian faith have sins in our past that we’d rather not discuss. Sins that we may be tempted to think disqualify us from being used by God.
That’s why I love the account of Rahab in the book of Joshua. She was not one of God’s people. She was a Canaanite. She was one of the enemies who were living in the city of Jericho, in the land promised to the nation of Israel. The people of this land were so wicked and so unrepentant that God was going to allow them to be completely destroyed. Further, Rahab was not an innocent woman who just happened to be living in an evil city. She is described in Joshua 2:1 as a prostitute. She was living a life of sexual sin.
But in today’s verses, James said that despite her enemy status and despite her sinful lifestyle, she was justified in God’s eyes. How? She was justified by her acts of faith recorded in Joshua 2.
Joshua had sent two men into Jericho to spy out the land. They stopped at Rahab’s house because her home (which may have served as an inn as well as a brothel) was built into the huge wall that surrounded Jericho. From this prime location, they would be able to enter and leave the city undetected. But they needed her cooperation. When the king’s men heard the spies were in the city, they came to Rahab’s house to look for them. But Rahab had hidden them under flax stalks on the roof.
Why was she willing to harbor the men who would destroy her people? In Joshua 2:9-13, she said that she had heard about the Lord. She knew what He had done in the past and she knew that her people were going to be destroyed. She even confessed her belief that He is the one true God: “for the LORD your God, he is the God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (v.11). She knew that aligning herself with the Lord, instead of with her people, was her only hope of survival. So she begged the men to protect her and her family just as she had protected them. The men agreed and promised that if she tied a scarlet cord in her window, everyone inside her house would be spared when Israel attacked. She trusted what they said, and she obeyed their order.
James said that she was justified by her actions. But as we have discussed the past few days, her works were not what saved her but were evidence of the faith that did save her. She was justified and saved because of her acts of faith! She is listed in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 because she acted out of faith in the Lord God. “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:31). Rahab’s faith influenced her actions. She was saved from destruction and reconciled to God as a result.
The reality is, we all act out our beliefs. Rahab believed that God was powerful enough to destroy her people but she also believed that He was powerful enough to save her. She threw herself onto His mercy and acted out of allegiance to Him. This demonstration of her faith saved her but it also granted her a welcome into the people of God. She is even listed among the ancestors of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5)!
Friends, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, God can use you if you trust Him for your salvation, turn away from your sin, and then act out of that faith. If God can use, justify, redeem, and bless a prostitute from among the enemy, He can use You, too! Turn to Him in faith and act it out.
Lord, You are the God of heaven and earth but I have sinned against You in so many ways. I know that You are my only hope for salvation. Help me turn my back on my sin as I turn to You in repentance and act out of my faith in You. Amen.