Faith is the beginning, but our actions comprise our journey to Heaven.
There are only two women included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ: Ruth and Rahab. Today I’ll dive into the latter. I’m sure many of you know the infamous story of Jericho - how the walls came tumbling down to the shouts of the Israelites. But do you know who the catalyst of this victory was? If the answer to that question is “no,” it’s time for you to meet Rahab.
Our story today begins when the Jews finally entered the Promised Land of Canaan after wandering for 40 years in the dessert. Moses had died on the journey, so they were now led by a strong warrior by the name of Joshua. Upon approaching, he sent two spies to scout out the double-walled city. The two found lodging at a prostitute’s inn built on the city wall: Rahab’s home. When the king learned that the two spies were staying with her, he sent soldiers demanding that they be turned over. However, Rahab believed in God and all that he had told the Israelites, so she hid the two spies in her roof and sent the soldiers off on an empty quest. In return for her actions, she asked the spies to save her life as well as her family’s. A deal was struck: Rahab would keep silent about their mission and in return the Israelites would spare everyone in her household when the city was invaded. She was to hang a scarlet cord from her window as a sign so that the Jews would recognize her home as a haven and protect whomever stood within it. Rahab sent the spies safely back to Joshua, and a few days later the city fell. All was burned and offered to the Lord, except for the precious metals and Rahab’s family. Her faith had saved her.
There are two reasons that I love the story of Rahab. The first comes from the reminder that God always choose us, no matter our past mistakes, physical appearance, or societal standing. It’s human tendency to gravitate towards individuals whose appearance meets “our standards.” Think about the content you scroll through in your social media: it can be cluttered with influencers, dating app ads, super models, politicians, you name it. Our society values outward appearance. This can even be damaging in first impressions - many of us have learned the hard way to not judge a book by its cover. Some of my closest high school friends were the ones that people would tell me “don’t run in your circle” or “were too cool” for me. All of that changed with a few small acts of kindness - but had I never gotten past those initial surface level comments, I would never have known the blessings and grace that those women have and continue to bring into my life. These standards can also bleed into our professional lives - as a new hire at a big company I find that being the one with the least experience in the room has its pros and its cons. Coming from the STEM field, I also know firsthand that being the only woman in the room can be challenging as well. Unfortunate as it is, each one of us struggles with breaking some set of standards that our brain has built, whether that’s a comparison between ourselves and someone else, making friends, following someone on Instagram, or building professional relationships. This is where Rahab comes in: in a society full of shallow set standards, we can find comfort knowing that God doesn’t use the same criteria. He sees your heart, who you are, and who you will become. Think about it. Of all people to bring God’s people home & continue Jesus’ lineage, God rewarded an unlikely candidate for her faith: a prostitute. And just like Rahab, we will all be rewarded for our faith regardless of how we look, where we work, or what we post. God loves us for us - we have nothing to prove to Him.
More than that, we know from the fact that Rahab was included in the genealogy of Chris that our God does not hold our past against us. Instead, He opens the doors to redemption and restoration - showering us in his mercy, grace, and love without us even having to ask him. Just as he rewarded Rahab, when we choose to respond to God in faith we can be confident that He will respond with love, acceptance, and protection. Thus, we cannot let sin or suffering from our past keep us shackles any longer. God will forgive us over and over again. Rahab had two huge strikes against her: she was of the enemy people and she was a prostitute, yet God still chose her. He welcomed her into his own family line because she had one thing: faith. Imagine what He can do for you when you trust in Him!
Faith is an Action
“You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 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? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:24-26)
Put so beautifully in scripture, my second favorite lesson from Rahab’s story is that faith is more than just believing, it’s acting. Faith cannot stand alone, inactive. It needs to be exercised in our words and in our decisions: our actions need to reflect and remain consistent with our faith. Although living our “best life” includes eating what’s best for us, wearing what makes us feel good about ourselves, etc., we need to also remember that our best life includes our faith life. We will never be satisfied until we live out the gospel as we are asked to do at the end of every mass. Think about Rahab: had she not treated the spies kindly and acted on her understanding of her faith, she would not have obtained “righteousness,” nor would she have been in the lineage of Christ. Rahab’s active faith saved her, and it can do the same for us. As James says in verse 26, faith is the core of the Christian life. We believe in God and all that he has done, can, and will do. However, our righteous works will reflect the reality of our faith. It is a beautiful and powerful combination. Faith is the beginning, but our actions comprise our journey to Heaven.