Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Ettu Nomb (8-Day Lent) Special - Themes: Nativity of St. Mary, Faith
Volume 7 No. 435 September 6, 2017

III. Ettu Nomb Special: Featured - Faith

The Faith of Abraham

One thing the Old Testament makes particularly clear is that passionate faith and the sometimes brutal nature of reality go hand in hand. ...

How Faith Grows

Would you like to see your faith grow? Then let's study together James 2:21-24 to learn from Abraham how trials can make our faith complete. ...

Messy Faith

True faith trusts God, takes action and leaves the results in his hands.

Keeping the Faith

God has such unconditional love for us that it is truly beyond our human comprehension. ...

Malankara World Journals with the Theme: Faith

Malankara World Journal Ettu Nomb Specials

III. Ettu Nomb Special: Featured - Faith

The Faith of Abraham

by R. C. Sproul

"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth" (v. 13). -Hebrews 11:8-22

God's self-revelation in Scripture does not come to us as just one book or one genre of literature. Scripture contains sixty-six different books and many literary genres that together give us a rich and multifaceted depiction of our Creator and the life of faith. For a realistic explanation of how faith works itself out in the lives of ordinary sinners, few portions of the Bible give a clearer picture than the Old Testament narratives. In these stories, we read of adulterers, thieves, liars, murderers, and tyrants who were transformed by God and who persevered in faith even though they sometimes fell back into sinful patterns. In other words, we relate easily to these stories because they are about people just like us.

One thing the Old Testament makes particularly clear is that passionate faith and the sometimes brutal nature of reality go hand in hand. So often we see that turmoil was the crucible in which the faith of the old covenant saints was formed. The greatest Old Testament examples of trust in God are found in accounts of the most difficult of circumstances, just as we find in our own day.

Hebrews 11 gives us many examples of faith as it comments on the lives of several faithful old covenant men and women. Verse 8, for instance, reminds us that Abraham left Ur and journeyed to far-away Canaan "by faith" (Heb. 11:8). This was no easy feat for the patriarch. He was elderly and well established when he heard the Lord's call (Gen. 12:4), and he had to leave behind almost everything he knew and many of his comforts to go to a land he had never seen. This was great faith indeed, for who could make such a journey apart from confident trust in our Creator?

Abraham not only believed in God; he believed God. He had not the faith of demons, who know God exists, but saving faith that reveals itself through obedience to the Lord (James 2:14-26). We better understand the greatness of the patriarch's faith when we see that Abraham remained a stranger on the earth even during his time in Canaan (Heb. 11:13). He never owned any part of the Promised Land except his burial plot (Gen. 23), so from a worldly perspective he foolishly left everything behind in Ur. But Abraham was no fool. He bought the plot in confidence that the land would be his, that he would inherit it at the resurrection. Placing his bones there was a kind of deposit that showed his trust that he would finally receive his inheritance (Heb. 11:14-16; see also vv. 17-19, 22).

Coram Deo

Many people in this world will regard us as fools for leaving everything behind for God. So often, the sacrifices that we make do not lead to any evident reward in this life, so it is easy for earthly minded people to believe Christianity is a fool's game. Yet, we know that the Lord will bless us abundantly at His return for all that we have given up for His sake (Mark 10:29-31). And as these heavenly treasures cannot be lost, we actually make the wisest decision possible when we follow Christ.

Passages for Further Study

Esther 4:1-5:2 When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes oand put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. 2 He went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. 3 And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, pwith fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them qlay in sackcloth and ashes.

4 When Esther's young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. 6 Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate, 7 and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. 9 And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, 11 "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law-to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days."

12 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 "Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for wthree days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish." 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Esther Prepares a Banquet

5 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. 2 And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. ______

Daniel 6 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, "We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God."

6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement[a] to the king and said to him, "O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked." 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, "O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?" The king answered and said, "The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked." 13 Then they answered and said before the king, "Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day."

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, "Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed."

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!" 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?" 21 Then Daniel said to the king, "O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm." 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions-they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: "Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.

27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions."

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.


Matthew 14:22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."

28 And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."


1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Source: Ligonier Ministries Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

How Faith Grows

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: James 2:21-24

A few days ago I posted the following quote as my Good Words for Today:

If my love for Jesus never leads me to take a risk, how much do I really love him? If my faith never causes me to do things that make no sense to others, including my Christian friends, perhaps I'm playing it too safe. If everything I say and do seems perfectly comprehensible to the world, then I need to do some soul-searching.

That quote got a number of encouraging responses. Then there was this comment from a man in Nigeria:

My sincere question is "Why does it take us so long after being a Christian to get to this stage when the disciples got there in 3.5yrs?" Am I missing something here?

His question is both honest and very common. I would say to my friend, "You aren't missing anything." We all wonder from time to time, "Why is it taking me so long to get better?" Here are a few examples:

"I thought by now I wouldn't struggle so much with anger. Why is it taking me so long to get better?"
"I still get tempted by pornography. Why is it taking me so long to get better?"
"I go to church every Sunday but I still have doubts. Why is it taking me so long to get better?"
"I thought I'd be a better person by now, but I've got so many bad habits. Why is it taking me so long to get better?"
"I'm a bitter person even though I cover it up most of the time. Why is it taking me so long to get better?"

Many of us wish we had an answer to that question. We might assume that upon conversion, we would rapidly sprout wings and fly to heaven. But it doesn't happen that way. God has ordained that even though we are being made like Jesus, it only happens a little bit at a time. And sometimes that "little bit" seems very little indeed.

There is victory to be had but it will not come easily or quickly. We are in a war with spiritual foes who will not easily yield their ground. In our series on James, we have come to a passage that helps us understand how God builds our faith through the trials of life. As opposed to a dead faith that produces nothing, Abraham's dynamic faith was made complete when he offered his beloved son Isaac on the altar.

Would you like to see your faith grow? Then let's study together James 2:21-24 to learn from Abraham how trials can make our faith complete.

Faith Tested

"Wasn't Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?" (v. 21).

This was a masterstroke by James because the Jews traced their spiritual lineage back to him. As far as the Jews were concerned, Abraham was the ideal man of faith. After years of walking with God, he is put to the supreme test of his life. It was such a dramatic moment that James says he was "justified by works" when he offered Isaac on the altar.

Rather than retell this familiar story, I'd like to make some observations on the larger context:

First, the test came after many years of walking with God. In some ways, Abraham's whole life was one test after another. It started when God called him to leave Ur of the Chaldees. Hebrews 11:8 points out that he left "not knowing where he was going." That in itself was a huge test. Genesis 15:6 spells out the moment when Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness. If we ask, "When was Abraham ‘saved' in the New Testament sense?" the answer would have to be Genesis 15:6. That's the point Paul makes in Romans 4. That took place approximately thirty years before he offered Isaac on the altar.

Second, the test came after Abraham had experienced both victories and defeats. We see his faith shining when he left Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 12:1-3). Yet when he took Sarah to Egypt, he lied about her (Genesis 12:10-20). He won a great victory and was blessed by Melchizedek (Genesis 14), received a great promise from God (Genesis 15), and then got into trouble by having a child with Hagar (Genesis 16). He was circumcised in Genesis 17, then he lied about Sarah again in Genesis 20. Abraham was a man of faith, but he was also a man of human weakness.

Third, the test came in a most unexpected way. When God called him to go to Mount Moriah, Abraham had no idea what God intended. He had no reason to imagine God would want him to sacrifice his own son. Nothing in his experience with God could have prepared him for this moment.

Fourth, the test was never repeated anywhere else in the Bible. This is the only time God ever asked anyone to sacrifice his son. As such, it stands alone in the scriptural record.

So how should we view it in light of Abraham's life? It certainly stands as the supreme and most extreme example of his faith. God meant to put Abraham on the spot by asking him to yield to the Lord the son who was himself the embodiment of God's promises. Hebrews 11:19 tells us Abraham believed that even if he put his own son to death, God would raise him from the dead:

"Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death."

In this verse we learn something that is only hinted at in Genesis 22. Twice in that chapter Abraham intimates that he expects that somehow, some way, God was going to work things out so Isaac would live. When he saw Moriah in the distance, he gave this instruction to his servants:

"Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you" (Genesis 22:5).

Did you get that? "We" will come to you. Not "I" will come back, but "we" will come back. Abraham believed he and his son would somehow return together. Then as the two of them walked along, with Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice, the son asked his father, "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7). Abraham's reply has become a synonym for the man of faith speaking faith into what is a humanly hopeless situation. "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son" (v. 8).

The writer of Hebrews tells us why Abraham could talk like that. He believed God could raise the dead.

Didn't know how.
Had never seen it happen.

He reasoned from what he knew about God to what he knew about the situation. And the only thing he could come up with was, "I'm going to put my own son to death, and then God will raise him from the dead." That's pretty fantastic if you think about it, especially since no one in history had ever been raised from the dead, and this happened 2000 years before Christ.

Faith Perfected

"You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected" (v. 22).

What was at stake on Mount Moriah? It wasn't just the life of Abraham's beloved son Isaac. When Abraham raised the knife to kill his own son, he was also in effect killing the promise of God. If Isaac died, the promise of a great nation would die with him. We might call this the reverse of the temptation Abraham faced when he slept with Hagar. That was an attempt to fulfill God's promise through purely fleshly means. In that case, Abraham refused to wait for God's solution. In this case, Abraham doesn't try to reason out how God will fulfill his promise if Isaac is dead. He determined to obey God without asking how it would all work out.

Now we can stand back and see the story in clear perspective. Did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac? Yes. Was it a legitimate request? Yes. Did Abraham know in advance how the story would end? No. Specifically, did he know about the ram in the thicket? No. Well, then, what was it that Abraham knew? He knew what God had asked him to do, and he knew God had promised to give him a son through whom he would bless the world. What he didn't know was how God was going to reconcile his promise (to bless the world through Isaac) and his command (to offer Isaac as a sacrifice).

It is at this point that we see Abraham's faith at its highest and best. Even though the command made no sense from a human point of view, Abraham intended to obey it anyway. He meant to obey God's command even though it meant killing God's promise.

Herein lies a lesson for all of us. When God makes a promise, it is folly and disbelief to wonder how he will keep his word. Faith does not reckon with "how." Faith believes and leaves the "how" in the hands of Almighty God. If we spend too much time trying to figure out "how" God will take care of us, we are likely to talk ourselves into a corner.

Faith Affirmed

"So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God's friend" (v. 23).

A little Bible chronology will help us here. When James mentions the Scripture, he quotes Genesis 15:6. In that chapter God puts Abraham to sleep while the Lord walks alone between the carcasses of the slain beasts. In ancient times, two people made a covenant official by walking together between the pieces of a slain animal. But why does God walk alone? Because the fulfillment of the promise ultimately depends on God, not Abraham. The sequence looks like this:

Abraham believed God.
His faith was credited to him as righteousness.
Abraham falls asleep.
God walks alone between the pieces of the slain animals.

Nothing could be clearer. Abraham was "saved" or "reckoned righteous" on the simple and single condition of believing what God had said. The offering of Isaac came many years later, perhaps 30 years later. We can lay it out this way:

Abraham believed God (Genesis 15).
Abraham offered Isaac (Genesis 22).

So it is perfectly fair to say Abraham was justified by faith. That's the argument Paul makes in Romans 4 and Galatians 3. It's also true Abraham was justified by works because the offering of Isaac demonstrated the reality of his faith.

Faith Clarified

"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (v. 24).

Faith has more than one meaning in the New Testament. It can refer to a body of doctrine ("the faith once delivered to the saints") or it can refer to a living trust in God ("faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen"). When we talk about "faith" today, we sometimes mean something like "a positive feeling things will work out" ("I've got faith the Cubs will win the World Series this year"). That last sentiment may in fact finally come true this season. Who knows? It's a hope based on the team's good start leavened by more than a century of disappointment. While I don't deny it takes faith to believe the Cubbies will win it all this year (I hope they do), whatever you call that sort of faith, it's not the same thing as saving faith. True saving faith springs from a transforming trust in the eternal promises of a God who cannot lie. Said another way, the faith that saves us starts with God, not with us. It is a conscious choice to reach out and trust the promises of God that come to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

That sort of faith is alive because it rests on the living words of the living God of the universe. It's not as if James is saying, "You should let your faith change you." He's going further than that. He means to say, "True faith will change you." That faith will be seen sooner or later.

Abraham and Jesus

For 2000 years Christians have seen in this story a picture of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Genesis 22 we see what a man would do for the love of God. But at Calvary we see what God would do for the love of man. Abraham was only asked to sacrifice Isaac; God actually sacrificed his only Son. More than that, Jesus endured physical death and spiritual death to obtain redemption for sinners. When God's hand was raised at Calvary, there was no one to cry out, "Stop. Do not harm the child." There was no ram in the thicket to offer in his place. So God's hand fell in judgment on his own Son, and Jesus died for you and me.

Abraham offered his son.
The Father offered his Son.

Isaac carried the wood.
Jesus carried the cross.

Isaac was laid on the altar.
Jesus was nailed to the cross.

Abraham was willing to put his son to death.
The Father willed his Son should die.

The ram was offered in the place of Isaac.
Christ was offered in the place of sinners.

Abraham received his son back "figuratively."
Jesus literally rose from the dead.

What are we supposed to take away from the story of Abraham and Isaac? As I studied Genesis 22, I was struck by something God said to Abraham after the great trial was over, the ram sacrificed, Isaac spared, the promise reaffirmed. It comes as part of the happy ending to a very great trial. God commends Abraham by saying, "You have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (v. 12; see also verse 16).

"You did not withhold from me."
God says, "I asked for your most precious possession and you gave it to me."

The real lesson for all of us comes down to this. God intends to bring our faith to completion. The only way that happens is for us to go through a time of trial. Think of it this way. Suppose you like to play chess. Suppose you buy one of those computer games that teaches you how to play chess. You work at it, you study it, you play simulated games day after day. Eventually you get so good you never lose. You are undefeated in your own basement, playing against the computer program. That is indeed a kind of mastery. But it is something else entirely to sit down at a table and play against another person. That's when you find out how good you really are. In a sense, walking with God means that eventually our faith must become more than theoretical. At some point, we've got to get "out of the basement" and into real life.

Sometimes we win.
Sometimes we lose.

Look at Abraham. Even though he is the "father of faith" in the Bible, he lied about Sarah twice and got involved with Hagar (at Sarah's instigation), a situation that came about because his faith was weak and he thought he needed to "help God out." My point is, God tested Abraham over and over again. He does the same thing with us. That's the only way our faith can grow stronger.

A beloved hymn contains these lines:

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.

Abraham's ultimate test was not about money. It touched something much deeper. Would he withhold his own son from the Lord? I'm not sure how well I would have done in that moment. I'm not sure I would have been as strong as he was. But that's okay. His tests and mine are different. God constantly brings us back to the same place in life where we are asked, "Will you yield what you hold dear to me?"

Just as Abraham didn't know what God was about to ask, we have no idea what tomorrow may bring. But we do know this. God puts us in hard places so our faith will grow under pressure. In that sense, we are justified by faith when first we believe in Christ, and we are justified by works as our faith is put to the test over and over again. We shouldn't be surprised to discover the road to heaven is filled with danger, toils, trials, and challenges. It's all part of God's plan to bring our faith to completion.

The hymn I mentioned earlier ends with these lines:

Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

May that be our prayer today and every day.

Lord, do whatever it takes to bring my faith to completion. Help me not to doubt or to hold back, but to yield all I have to you. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 Keep Believing Ministries, All rights reserved.

Messy Faith

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

"And in the same way, wasn't Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead"
(James 2:25-26).

Some stories in the Bible don't quite fit.
This is one of them.

Daniel in the lion's den fits.
Rahab the harlot doesn't fit so well.

We admire David for killing Goliath.
We're not so sure about Rahab telling a lie.

We teach our children to sing "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho."
I don't know any songs about Rahab.

And yet . . . Rahab hid the spies and sent them on their way.
That meant Joshua got the crucial information he needed.

She ended up saving her whole family.
She gave birth to a son named Boaz who married Ruth.
She was David's great-great-grandmother.
She shows up in Matthew 1 as part of Jesus' genealogy.
She made it to the "Hall of Fame of Faith" in Hebrews 11.
She becomes an example of living faith in James 2.

Did I mention she was a prostitute and a liar?

Faith can be messy at times. True faith is rarely as neat and clean as we make it out to be on Sunday morning. Real faith is always mixed with very human imperfections. If you doubt that, just take a look in the mirror. You have faith, or at least you try to have faith, or you muddle through as best you can. How close to perfection are you?

That's my point.

Though Rahab was far from perfect, her name shows up in an honorable way in the Bible. Messy faith is better than no faith. Let's start there as we think about Rahab. What can we learn from her story?

# 1: Faith Can be Found in Unlikely Places

Rahab had at least four things going against her:

First, she was a Gentile. That meant she had no part in the covenant God made with Israel. To use New Testament terminology, she was a foreigner to the grace of God, literally and spiritually. She had no connection with the promise God gave to Abraham and his descendants. She starts this story as a complete outsider.

Second, she was a woman. That meant she had little legal protection and no real standing in her society.

Third, she was a pagan. Her family had no doubt been raised with the idol worship common to all the Canaanites. She had no knowledge of the Torah and thus no understanding of the sacrificial system.

Fourth, she was a harlot. The word refers to a woman who sells her body for sexual uses. It is sometimes translated as prostitute. We have a variety of words in English to describe what has been called "the world's oldest profession," but they all go back to the same place. Rahab sold her body for money. There is no need to cover it up or pretend it means something less offensive. In fact, it's important for this story that we know the truth. Rahab might seem to be the last person in whom you would find saving faith. But that judgment (which church people make almost without thinking about it) reveals how little we understand about the grace of God.

A woman guilty of repeated sexual sin might not seem like a good candidate for salvation, but appearances are often deceiving. Not every church member is as righteous as they appear on Sunday morning, and not every sinner is as far from the kingdom as we sometimes assume.

Though Rahab did not realize it, the Holy Spirit had been working in her heart, preparing her for the moment when the spies would show up at her door. There is a lesson here if we will only pay attention. God has his people everywhere, even in the most unlikely places. You wouldn't think a "fallen woman" in Jericho would end up in Hebrews 11, but that's exactly what happened.

Let me put it this way because I need to remind myself of this truth: God often saves people I wouldn't save if I were God. Which is yet one more reason why I'm glad he's God and I'm not. My "grace" has definite limits; his does not. He will save the most notorious sinner who turns to him. That even includes self-righteous church people like me. As Philip Yancey points out, if we say, "There is grace even for people like Rahab," we have unconsciously put ourselves in a different category. The real truth is, there is grace even for people like Ray Pritchard.

That's my plan, by the way. The grace of God for people like me. It's the only way I'll ever get to heaven.

# 2: Faith Shows Itself in Unusual Ways

We find the heart of Rahab's story in Joshua 2.

As the Jews entered the Promised Land, the walled city of Jericho stood directly in their path. There was no way around it. They could never live in the land unless they somehow conquered the Jericho with its system of double walls that repelled all invaders.

Joshua decided to send out two men to enter the city and spy out the situation. When those two men entered the city, they made their way to Rahab's house. Because she was a prostitute, it would not have been unusual to see men coming and going at all hours of the day or night. But they weren't as discreet as they thought. Someone saw them, realized they weren't from Jericho, and reported them to the king. He sent a message to Rahab ordering her to turn over the spies.

But she lied to the king.

She sent word that the men had already left the city and she didn't know where they had gone. But that wasn't true. Instead, she hid them among the stalks of flax on the roof. Believing Rahab's lie, the king sent soldiers on a fruitless chase into the surrounding countryside. Meanwhile, Rahab gave a powerful statement of her faith to the two spies still hiding in her house.

First, she declared God had given them the land (Joshua 2:8)

Second, she said fear had fallen on the people of Jericho (Joshua 2:9).

Third, she recounted the miracles God had done at the Red Sea (Joshua 2:10).

Fourth, she declared her faith in the sovereignty of Israel's God. The heart of her confession comes in Joshua 2:11, "The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below."

Fifth, she asked that her family be spared during the coming invasion (Joshua 2:12-13).

The rest of the chapter tells how the spies agreed to her request, how she hid them and sent them out of the city of Jericho with specific instructions about how to avoid the king's soldiers. Eventually the spies made it back to their lines and reported to Joshua the entire land was filled with fear.

What sort of faith is this? Rahab's faith did not involve what we might call "religious" acts. Sometimes we read James 2 and think the "works" he calls for start and end with religious habits, such as Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, giving, and so on. While those things are vital for a growing Christian life, Rahab's example shows us James is thinking about things like kindness, generosity, hospitality, and caring for those in need. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that Rahab said a prayer, learned the Torah or offered a sacrifice. She must have done that later when she joined the people of God, but it is never mentioned.

Rahab was a hero because of her "non-religious" acts. She heard the truth about God, she believed it, she testified to it, and that faith led her to act courageously in the face of great danger.

She hid the spies, lied about it, and then sent them out secretly.

We may debate about the morality of her lie (and that's a useful conversation to have), but neither James 2:25 nor Hebrews 11:31 raise that issue. In a moment of great crisis, she became a traitor to her own people and joined the people of God. If discovered, she would have been immediately put to death. Debating about her lie is a luxury we have 3500 years later. In the most important moment of her life, she didn't hesitate and didn't debate anything.

She took her stand for the Lord.
She protected his people.
She made provision for her whole family.
She risked everything in the process.

That's why James uses her as an example of living faith. Her faith was not dead. It was very much alive. Rahab wasn't the only one who knew about the advancing Jewish army. The entire land had heard the news and was in a state of panic. They knew what Rahab knew but did nothing about it. The Canaanites were like the demons who "believe and tremble" (James 2:19). Only Rahab had true faith that moved her to action.

God bless Rahab.
We could use more courageous believers like her.

There is one more lesson we can learn from her life.

# 3: Faith Receives an Unexpected Reward

We can list the results of her faith this way:

First, she was justified. That means God declared her righteous. James 2:25 says she was "justified by works." Don't be confused by that. Her faith in God, as simple and uninformed as it was, led her to take action. We can just as easily say Rahab was justified by faith because her faith was so alive that she risked everything to save the spies, herself, and her family.

Second, she was spared when the battle came. We all know how Joshua "fit the battle of Jericho" because we learned that song when we were kids. We know how the Jews marched around the city for seven days and how "the walls come a-tumblin' down." But Joshua 6:25 adds this detail:

"Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, her father's household, and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent to spy on Jericho, and she lives in Israel to this day."

At God's command, the city was totally destroyed and everyone in it was put to death. Everyone, that is, except Rahab and her family. Her faith saved her whole family.

Third, she was added to the nation of Israel. As a result of her heroism, a Gentile woman, a Canaanite who had been a prostitute, was added to the people of God. She lived among the Jews for the rest of her life.

Fourth, she was included in the line of Christ. Matthew 1 contains a genealogy that starts with Abraham and ends with Jesus. Here is Matthew 1:5-6:

Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab,
Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth,
Obed fathered Jesse,
and Jesse fathered King David.

We don't know much about Salmon except that he married Rahab. Some think he was one of the two spies. That may be true, but we can't be sure. What matters is that Rahab not only left her life of sin, she married a godly man and then gave him a son named Boaz. You can read his story in the book of Ruth. If you follow the genealogy on down, it means Rahab the former prostitute became the great-great-grandmother of King David.

A thousand years later, Jesus was born. Rahab is part of Jesus' family tree. If you know Jesus, one day you will meet her in heaven. And there at last she will be no more Rahab the harlot. She will forever be known as Rahab the child of God.

Fifth, she was honored as a woman of faith. We've already seen what James said about her. But don't forget Hebrews 11:31:

By faith Rahab the prostitute received the spies in peace and didn't perish with those who disobeyed.

She not only made the book, she was listed along with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the other great heroes of Israel. Both James and the writer of Hebrews note that she was a prostitute. Did they do this to shame her? No, they did this to magnify her faith, thus showing that no one is beyond the grace of God.

Why Abraham and Rahab?

Why did James choose Abraham and Rahab as his two examples of living (James 2:21-26)? Abraham is easy to understand; Rahab not so much. Perhaps James wanted to pick examples at the extremes:

One was a man; the other a woman.
One was a Jew; the other a Gentile.
One was a revered patriarch; the other was a redeemed prostitute.
One was ready to sacrifice his son; the other hid the spies.

Though different in many ways, and separated from each other by hundreds of years, they had this in common. What they did, they did by faith.

Abraham offered Isaac. Rahab hid the spies. Both events were largely hidden from public view. Only Abraham and Isaac knew what happened on Mount Moriah. Rahab hid the spies and sent them off in another direction so they wouldn't be caught.

Neither knew the outcome of their faith before they acted. Abraham didn't know about the ram in the thicket when he raised the knife. Rahab wasn't expecting Jewish spies to drop by for a visit.

Both were heroes in the eyes of God.

Two Enduring Lessons

We can learn two lessons from this:

First, you never know when the test will come. Abraham couldn't have foreseen what God wanted when the Lord told him to take his son and go to the region of Moriah. Likewise, when Rahab awoke that day in Jericho, she had no inkling that two men were about to show up who would change her life forever.

Second, living by faith is always risky business. It's not as if Rahab thought, "If I hide these spies, I can become David's great-great-grandmother" or "I'm going to be in the Messiah's line." Life doesn't work like that. She probably never lived to meet David. She never read Matthew 1. She simply did what she did and ended up saving her whole family.

When I read this story, I'm reminded of Todd Beamer and the other heroes of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. That morning all the passengers boarded the flight in Newark, expecting an uneventful flight to California. But fate intervened in the form of terrorists who took over the plane. Then came the split-second decision and the declaration, "Are you ready? Let's roll."

You never know when the test will come.
You won't have a lot of time to decide.
You can't foresee the results in advance.

True faith trusts God, takes action and leaves the results in his hands.

So we are left with the story of Rahab. It's rare to meet someone with that name. It's almost as if "Harlot" is her last name. In the eyes of God, Rahab is an honorable name. She made the book precisely because she was a woman of faith. Her past did not define her future.

I cannot end this sermon without remarking on the miracle of God's grace. The Canaanites built a thick wall around Jericho to keep people out, but no wall can keep God out. No one is beyond the reach of God's grace. Even in the midst of judgment, God reaches out and saves a harlot who turns to him in faith.

But think of all the men she had slept with.
Think of all that sin.
Think of her stained reputation.
Think of her past.

God says, "I know all about her past, and it doesn't matter because she believed in me." Not that sexual sin doesn't matter. It matters greatly. After all, she is still called Rahab the harlot. But she is free now, and forgiven, and on the road to heaven.

So what's your sin? You may be reading this sermon and right now you feel unworthy to go to heaven. If so, I have wonderful news for you. Only unworthy people go to heaven. The people who think they are "worthy" end up in hell. So if you've been sleeping around, or messing around, or fooling around, or making one stupid mistake after another, I've got good news for you. Your sin makes you an excellent candidate for salvation.

Remember . . . If God can save Rahab, he can save anyone. That includes you. And just for the record, I would rather be Rahab the harlot on my way to heaven than to be Sally the Sunday School teacher on my way to hell.

We started out talking about messy faith. That certainly describes Rahab, and it describes the rest of us too. If you wonder why there are so many messed-up people in the Bible, it's because that's all God has to work with. All the perfect people are in heaven. Let me end by calling to mind one sentence from a familiar gospel song called To God Be the Glory. The second verse goes like this:

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood.
To every believer, the promise of God.
The vilest offender who truly believes
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

How true it is. Rahab proves it, and you can prove it too by coming to Christ right now. Don't let your past keep you away. Come to Jesus! Your sins will be forgiven, you will be saved, and your life will never be the same.

When the old-time preachers would give an invitation, they would say, "Won't you come?" "Won't you come to Jesus?" Let me make that same invitation to you right now.

Won't you come?
Won't you come to Jesus?

Copyright © 2016 Keep Believing Ministries, All rights reserved.

Keeping the Faith

by Carrie Dedrick, Editor,

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

To the left of my computer, there sits a purple heart-shaped rock inscripted with one simple word: Faith.

This rock is nothing out of the ordinary. My husband bought it for me from Ten Thousand Villages as a birthday gift. I believe it is intended to be a paper weight, though no paper lies beneath it. It is just a rock that takes up about two square inches of space on my desk at work.

Just a few months ago, I didn't have much of the Faith that my rock reminds me of. I was searching for a job, as many Americans are, and had given up that any worthwhile company wanted to hire a young adult with a lot of passion but little experience. I had sent applications complete with thoughtful cover letters and organized resumes to about 60 organizations, without a bite.

I had never faced rejection before; success had always come naturally to me and the change was hard.

Though I was still attending church, I hadn't realize my lifelong faith had gotten lost somewhere along the way.

Looking back, it does not seem strange that I didn't notice my faith was missing from my life until after the fact. It was like losing an old favorite t-shirt. I hadn't worn it in awhile and assumed it had made its way deep into the bottom of the laundry basket; when I finally went to look, it wasn't there.

During this time, I should have reached out to God for peace and solace. Instead, I buried my feelings of incompetence and my fear of failure until they overcame my mind and I broke down in sobs that could last for hours or I uncharacteristically lashed out at my husband.

It wasn't me and I knew it. There was a turning point around this time when I knew it was time to "get help," as they say. I discovered a local Christian counseling organization and I attended a few sessions with a counselor.

During one session, my counselor looked into my eyes with sadness in her own. "Carrie," she said, "Do you know how much God loves you?"

Such a straightforward, and yet incredibly deep question startled me.

Suddenly, I understood what I was missing. It was that moment when I looked for my lost t-shirt and realized it was really gone.

I thought I knew God loved me, but I didn't really know. I mean, I have been going to church since I was a baby. You learn that God made you and loves you when you are a little kid. I'm pretty sure John 3:16 was my first ever Sunday school memory verse.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

I've had that verse memorized for years, but when was the last time I truly thought about it?

God has such unconditional love for us that it is truly beyond our human comprehension. Do I now feel like I should have reached out to God when I was struggling? Yes. And for awhile, was I angry at myself for not seeing that God was right there with me the whole time? Definitely.

But God's love is so infinite that I should not feel like a failure as God's child because it took me awhile to see him there. I do not need to punish myself because Jesus already served as our ultimate sacrifice. Now no matter how many sins we commit in this life, God is always loving us, waiting for us to step back and realize that he never really left.

In time, I regained my faith. It was not painful or difficult to resume the relationship with my Lord that I had put on pause. Instead, it was like wrapping myself in the most warm, comfortable blanket imaginable, but I also had an overwhelming sensation of pure joy.

My whole world is changed.

Every once in awhile, I look to the left and see my purple rock. And when I do, I am reminded that every day, every hour, minute and second of my life, I am not alone. God is with me. Always. Forever. Amen.

Intersecting Faith and Life:

When have you been so distracted by your life that you have forgotten that God gave you the gift of life? What can you do to renew your faith?

Further Reading

Romans 8:35-39

Source: Crosswalk the Devotional

Malankara World Journals with the Theme: Faith
Malankara World Journals with the Theme: Faith

Volume 7 No 400 [CCCC] Mar 1, 2017
Quad Centum Souvenir Edition
Chapter 17: Faith

Volume 7 No 394 Jan 20 2017
Theme: Faith, Born Again

Volume 6 No 367 Sep 3 2016
Ettu Nomb Special Day 3: Faith

Volume 6 No 359 July 22 2016
Theme: Child-like Faith

Volume 4 No 247: November 21, 2014
Theme: Lessons from St. Mary - Faith

Volume 4 No 215: April 24, 2014
New Sunday - St. Thomas: Doubt and Faith

 Volume 4 No 203: May 20, 2014
Theme: Great Lent - Week 4, Faith

Volume 4 No 200: March 5, 2014
Two Centum Mega Special Issue

Section VIII Faith/Sacraments

Volume 3 No 175: October 24 2013
Theme: Fear Intersects Faith

Volume 3 No 171: September 26 2013
Theme: Faith

Volume 3 No 127: Feb 28 2013
Focus: Great Lent - Week 4 - Faith

Volume 2 No 102: Oct 4 2012
Theme: Faith and Belief

Volume 2 No 100: Sep 26 2012
One Centum Issue - Special Souvenir Edition
Theme 3: Sacraments
Malankara World Journal Specials on Ettu Nomb

Malankara World Journal Ettu Nomb Specials

MWJ Ettu Nombu Archives MWJ_8day_Lent_archives.htm

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