The story of Rahab is a fascinating one in the book of Joshua. I love that a prostitute is the one who God sovereignly directs the spies to meet as their “inside man.” I love that the story has a subtly inappropriate feeling for uptight people who want to reinvent the idea of grace – the spies of the Lord’s people come to Jericho and immediately wind up in the home of a prostitute not a priest…that’s a God-story, not something we church folk would dream up. The possible implications are clear and messy and exactly like God would have them.
• God is not nearly as afraid of messy situations as we are
• God doesn’t seem to mind putting us into situations that others might call “thorny” because He knows how to write beauty into a story – and the greatest beauty always begins in places that seem messy or at least questionable – because beauty is, in part, about surprise.
• The colors of the evening sky surprise us, and we call it beautiful
• Seeing a baby for the first time after she’s born is surprising – all the perfectly detailed little fingers and the soft strands of hair give way to the shocking reality that a living person was growing inside another living person – and we call it beautiful
• Watching 50’ waves on the ocean or seeing canyons of impossible scale and majesty takes our breath and fixes our eyes – and we call it beautiful
• Seeing a father jump in the way of danger for the sake of his children, or watching a mother cradle a sick and contagious child as their illness feels like it’s too much for them – we call it beautiful
• BUT without the mixture of colors, without the pain of labor, without the roar of the ocean, without the dizzying elevation of the rock wall, without the dangers from without and also from within – without these tensions there is no breath-taking moment, there is no awe, there is no beauty in the most glorious sense.
And God isn’t afraid to put light right in the middle of darkness, as risky as it sounds and seems, because the risk is far less than the reward is great – and really, it’s not such a big risk because God has designed the world so that light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.
But aside from all of that, I saw something I’d never seen before. The storyline sees Rahab and the spies strike a deal – because she hid them and didn’t turn them over to the Jericho authorities they would not allow their conquest of the city to lead to the destruction or death of this woman or her family. And the sign that they tell her to use, to let the armies of Israel know to extend protection to her household, is explained clearly:
Behold, when we come into the land, you shall ties this scarlet cord in the window…
The scarlet cord represented a place of safety, and there have been sermons, essays, blogs, books and commentaries that have recognized the beautiful image of the scarlet cord and it’s connection to salvation. The blood of Jesus and the flow of scarlet in Rahab’s window are powerfully connected.
But it was actually further down, in verse 21, that I saw what I had overlooked prior to this reading.
Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
It wasn’t just the cord in the window that caught my attention this morning, it was the timing.
In verse 18 their instructions were clear: tie the scarlet cord in the window “when we come into the land.” But her actions in verse 21 were beautifully prophetic: as soon as they snuck off, long before they were coming back into the city for battle, she’d already tied the cord in the window.
The timing here is powerful.
It would be days, weeks, before they’d be back, before they’d need to look to find the window with the scarlet cord. It wasn’t necessary in that moment. And yet Rahab wasn’t interested in waiting until they were back – because catching a glimpse each day of that red thread was enough to stir her heart to rest and be encouraged that the coming destruction wouldn’t take her or her family to the grave!
Their promise to her led her to enjoy the reality of her hope long before the fulfillment of the promise had brought her salvation. She was walking in the rest and peace of her salvation long before she had actually been saved.
But there was another wrinkle that I found beautiful as well: technically, they were in the land already, and so her display of the scarlet cord was an announcement that the kingdom had already set foot on Jericho’s soil, so the scarlet cord was really just a public reflection of a hidden reality.
• Jesus has not returned yet to set everything right
• But He has already set His foot on the soil of the land that is His
• The reality of the kingdom might not be a public revelation yet, but it’s already a promised reality – which means our hope exists in a state of anticipation
• And the question becomes: am I putting out the scarlet cord?
• Ironically, this proclamation of the victory of God over His enemies was a complete mystery to everyone except Rahab and her household!
• The scarlet cord meant nothing to anyone outside of her house and the leaders of Israel
• But it hung from her window as a symbol of grace, a tangible and daily reminder of the coming of the new kingdom, and also of her invitation and promised, safe position within that kingdom
And the follow up question that must be meditated on is just as important: what is my scarlet cord?
• This is a crucial question
• Is it my testimony? Is it my devotional time? Is it something else?
• Rahab’s thread was a tangible thing, not just an idea…but it didn’t become an idol – it was a sign that kept pointing to what was coming.
• Where is my symbol?
• What should it be?
• Is it a discipline, is it allocated time, is it a physical thing, is it a behavior?
What am I displaying in my life that continually reminds me of the truth that has not yet arrived but is guaranteed to show up?
Rahab even makes it clear to the spies that she and the rest of Jericho have been living in fear for 40 years – ever since they heard about the Red Sea crossing (Joshua 2:10)! And now, finally, for the first time in her lifetime, the fear that had melted her heart became hope that sealed her joy!
Put your cord out now!
Don’t wait until the King returns!
Hang it out the window, let it become a daily reminder of what’s coming and what has already been promised!