Theme: Rahab’s Salvation and Ours
This week’s lessons describe how by faith Rahab became an unexpected recipient of the grace of God.
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.
Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
I started out by saying that this is a story of God’s mercy, which indeed it is. When the spies arranged to save her life, they said that she was to tie a scarlet cord in her window. That was to mark the house, such that no one would touch it when the Israelites came. It was a powerful symbol of her deliverance. Going all the way back to Clement of Rome, there has been a tradition to trace the scarlet cord through Scripture and see it pointing to the blood of Christ. It’s called “the line of the blood,” beginning with Abel’s sacrifice of the lamb and leading to Calvary. It is through the mark of the blood that we are saved.
Now I don’t know whether that’s reading too much into it or not. It may be. But what Rahab was to do was strikingly parallel to what the Jewish people were to do at the time of the exodus from Egypt, when they were to take the blood of the lamb and mark the lintel and the doorposts of their houses so that the angel of death might pass over.
Now let me say as I close that it’s also our story if you understand it correctly. We’re the Rahabs of this world. Our background is her background, and our salvation is exactly what she experienced. And furthermore, we are a part of, and dwell in the midst of, a wicked people; and we too have our own sins. It might not have been the sin of prostitution, though it may have been. But whatever it is, it’s our sin. We know what it is. And so, in our alienated state, like the citizens of Jericho, we have found ourselves under the judgment of God awaiting that which is certainly due to us for our sin.
But then what happened? God allowed us to hear the gospel, the good news, to find out who He was, that the real God is not the gods of the people among whom we live—those false gods, those images that we throw up to make ourselves feel better. But we heard about the real God, the God of the Old Testament, the God of the New Testament, the God of Jesus Christ, the God who died for us to provide our salvation. And we had messengers come, representatives of that God, to teach us about Him. And by the grace of God, just as in the case of Rahab, we believe that. And also like Rahab, that faith produced works in us, and we began to live differently. We began to live as Rahab did against the world because, you see, our situation now is the situation in which she found herself between the moment of her belief and the time of her deliverance when Jericho was destroyed.
Like her, we live in the midst of that kind of a pagan city. We believe on God, the true God; but the deliverance that we anticipate is not yet. So we live in faith, and we live boldly against the culture because it’s a culture contrary to the culture of our God. We say, as Rahab did, and Athanasius did, and all the other great saints have done in their own historical situations for thousands upon thousands of years, “Here I stand against the world because I stand for God and His righteousness.” What am I to say to you if you’re a person who, in the symbolism of this story, are not like Rahab but are still living in Jericho, living there in unbelief? You may be deluding yourself. You may be looking around at the walls. You may be saying, as the citizens of Jericho must have said, “Well, we don’t have a whole lot to fear. Look at these walls, these big, thick walls. As long as we’re surrounded by our secular embattlements, we’re safe. And besides, Jericho has been here for thousands of years. Look how long our secular culture has endured. Why, we’re alright. We don’t need the God of Israel.”
And yet, I wonder if it’s not the case, as it was of the citizens of Jericho, that, internally, your heart is failing you with fear. You’re saying to yourself, “What if this God really is all-powerful? What if this God really is the true God? What if this God really does demand righteousness and holiness of life? What if there really is a final judgment? What if I must really stand before Him one day?” If you’ve gotten to that point, let me say that you don’t have to remain in unbelief any longer. Rahab must have been there herself at one time. But she passed from unbelief to faith. And as she passed from unbelief to faith, she passed not only from the kingdom of the Amorites into the kingdom of the Jews; she passed from the kingdom of Satan’s darkness into the kingdom of God’s light. That’s what you need. You need only to put your life in the hands of that God and say, “I know that that’s the true God, and that’s the God I’m going to follow regardless of the standards or pressures of my culture.” That God will save you. He has done it before. That God will do it again. That God will do it now if you’ll trust Him as Rahab did.
From church history, what does the term, “the line of the blood,” refer to?
From the lesson, what other story in the Old Testament does Rahab and the scarlet cord remind you of? What are the similar themes between the two?
In what ways does our spiritual situation parallel that of Rahab? What biblical ideas are the same?
God’s judgment is coming on all who reject Christ, just as it fell on the Amorites and the city of Jericho. Pray for the Lord to give you opportunities to share the gospel with those who need to hear it, before it is too late for them.