THE SCARLET CORD

Help doesn’t’ always come from the sources we think it will.  One of the intriguing things in Scripture are the times when God breaks the mold of our thinking.  Jesus did it with the story of the Good Samaritan.  The Jews of the time couldn’t think of a single good thing about a Samaritan.  If one of them fell among thieves and was left injured, their prejudice was so deep that they might well have said they had rather take their chances with the thieves as to have a Samaritan come to their aid.  Yet Jesus told the story of the man falling among thieves who was passed over by the priest and Levite.  But a certain Samaritan came by, looked at the man in need and went to him to help him.  He went far out of his way, risking his own life to minister to the Jew who would have hated him.

One of my favorite such stories in found in the second chapter of Joshua.  The children of Israel were on the banks of the Jordan preparing to enter the Promised Land.  Joshua had learned the lesson about sending out twelve spies to look over the land.  So he sent two spies, just like he and Caleb, to check out the situation.  They crossed Jordan and came to the walled city of Jericho.  Of all places when they entered the town they entered the home of Rahab the prostitute.  It was a hostile city, fearful of the Jews and ready to kill such spies to keep the danger of destruction away.  Why would they go to her house to find a place to stay?  We aren’t given an answer but most likely it was God’s providence that led them to her house.  God already knew her heart and willingness to help them.  But it likely was also because this would be the one place they could go without arousing suspicion.  Men were going in and out of her house all the time.  Whatever happened when they entered her house, it didn’t take long for them to recognize they could trust her.  Did she somehow recognize them as from the Jews?  Did they explain to her their mission and the people they represented?  We don’t know, but we do know that she recognized them as from Israel.  She knew that it wouldn’t take long for the word to spread that she had taken in these men.  The king sent to her to bring the men out and she told them that they had indeed entered her house, but that they didn’t stay and had left her house and the city before the gates were closed at the end of the day.  Knowing her profession it was believable, so they sent out troops chasing the spies out in the area around the city.  In the mean time she had hidden them among the flax on top of her roof.  After danger passed she went up on the roof to them and told how the people in Jericho were shook to the core about Israel.  They had heard of their escape from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land by God’s mighty hand.  They knew of the Egyptian army following the Israelites into the bed of the Sea and the waters crashing down on them so that the whole army was destroyed.  They knew of the battles with the kings in the desert and how Israel had destroyed them.  She told them how the people throughout the area had lost heart when they heard of all that had happened.

Imagine how these men felt when she came upon the roof where she had hidden them and laid out what she knew of Israel.  If they had ever heard of the report given by the ten spies that came into the land 40 years earlier, this had to be shocking.  Those spies came home telling how strong the people were in the land.  There were giants there.  We were like grasshoppers in their sight and in our own as well.  Their plea had been that we can’t take this land.  It is too strong for us to fight them.  Now they are hearing this lady say the people there had been living in dread and fear since the time they crossed the Red Sea.  She had a request of them.  “I’ve spared your life.  When you return to fight this city spar the lives of my family and I.”  They agreed to do as long as she kept the scarlet cord in her window and she got the whole family into here house they would be protected.  Sure enough when God gave Jericho into the hands of Israel, they spared the lives of Rahab and her whole family.  From that time on she lived among them and served the God of Israel along with them.

In light of all of this think of two mentions of Rahab in the New Testament that offer us some more insight.  First, she is mentioned in Matthew 1:5 in the genealogy of Jesus.  She is one of four foreign women that married Jewish men and became part of Jesus family background.  The others were Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba.  The second time is found in James 2:25 “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.”  Both these are important passages for us.  If you have ever heard anyone make excuses about their ability to do anything because of their family background it would be good for them to remember the first of these Scriptures.  Jesus had people in his background that had lived horrible lives.  Think of having a prostitute in your background.  The other is that in a list of people who were saved by putting their faith to work in the Lord, she is one of the two illustrations.  The other was Abraham who believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.

So God had his man to use her as an example of one who is saved by an obedient faith in the Lord.

There is a question that arises from this whole event.  “Is it ever right to lie about a thing?”  I was in a group of people not long ago who were discussing the whole topic and one person declared that the Bible says, “All liars will have their part in the lake that flows with fire and brimstone.”  I brought up this passage.  What if Rahab had said when the authorities came looking for the spies, “I have them hidden upon the roof of my house among the reeds for the roof.”  Instead she said they had gone out earlier and they should rush out to find them.  They followed her advise and went searching for the spies in the woods but missed them.  Soon they were aroused by her and escaped through the window over the wall with the help of the scarlet cord she was to leave out when they were coming in to destroy the city.  What if she has declared, “I’m sorry but I can’t tell a lie.  The men are hiding upon the roof.”  The spies would have been killed and the mission of God set back for a long time.  Just as when God commanded Samuel to go down to the house of Jesse and anoint his son to be the next king.  Samuel said if he did Saul would have him put to death.  God said to tell Saul he was going down to offer a sacrifice and when he arrived they made the feast and then he anointed David to become the new king.

What if tonight you were asleep in your bed and your wife and children were all in bed asleep as well.  Suddenly there is a noise and you hear someone breaking in.  You tell your wife to grab the children and hide.  She does and you go to confront the robbers who are breaking in.  When they get in and tie you up and begin to ask where your wife and children are, what will you say?  Would you say, “I cannot tell a lie.  My wife and children are hidden in the closet in the attic.”  Surely not.  Surely you would have the presence of mind to say, “They aren’t here.  They have gone to the grandparents for a visit and I’m here alone.”  There are sometimes in our lives when we must violate one law or principle to fulfill a higher law or principle.  The life of your wife and children is of far greater importance than whether or not you tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Sometimes we have two great laws of God in conflict.  In this case the principle of protecting your family is more important than obeying the laws of the land or being consistent all the time.

Rahab didn’t just make a claim to believing in God.  She went from belief to action when she risk her life to protect the spies.  I’ve had people to asked what I thought I would do if someone broke into my home and were about to harm my wife or some of the grandchildren there.  I’ve usually said I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to shoot such an intruder and usher them quickly into eternity.  Usually someone will say but we aren’t supposed to kill people.  First, we aren’t supposed to commit murder and protecting the family or any innocent person isn’t murder but putting our priorities in the right place.  Second, when the choice is between the life of a crook, an intruder or robber and my family, friends or some innocent person, it would be a greater crime to allow it to go on when I can stop it.  Sometimes two laws conflict and we must choose the higher law.  In Rahab’s case it was either lie about where the spies were or be guilty of turning God’s men over to these officials where they would be killed.  She chose to be the protector of the men God had brought into her home.

Praise God for Rahab and her example for good.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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