Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The scarlet cord: The hope of salvation

She secured one end of the rope and then, as silently as possible, lowered the other out her window. She turned to the fugitives and whispered: "Go! Hide in the mountains for three days until the search parties have returned. Then you may return to your people." The two Israelite spies double checked the rope and prepared to lower themselves over the wall. They remembered the oaths that they had given Rahab up on her rooftop in exchange for their safety.

One saw a scarlet cord lying on the table and smiled. It is fitting, he thought, with Passover so near. He grabbed the cord and placed it in her hand. Whispering, he explained: "When we come into the land, place this scarlet cord in this window. Bring your father and mother and all your family here. No one will lay a hand on anyone in this house."

"So be it," she replied as he hoisted himself out the window. She soon felt the tug that indicated both men had made it safely to the ground.

As she pulled the rope back in through the window, she peered intently into the darkness below. She could barely make out their silhouettes as they crept away from the base of the city walls, but they seemed to heed her advice. They were heading toward the mountains and away from the Jordan.

She tied the scarlet cord to her window sill and hung the loose end so that it would be visible to those outside. Like a small trickle of blood high up on the wall. "So be it," she said aloud again before heading off to bed.

Rahab confessed to the two spies that the whole city of Jericho was terrified. True, the Israelites seemed trapped on the other side of the flooding Jordan. But the people of Jericho had heard of all the great works the Lord has accomplished for his people —the crossing of the Red Sea, the defeat of the Amorite kings— and they recognized that the swollen river and their impenetrable walls offered no defense against the God of heaven and earth.

Yet Rahab, after aiding and abetting the Israelite spies, secured from them a promise of protection. This deliverance took the form of a scarlet cord she was to hang in her window. The Hebrew word for cord in Joshua 2 (tiqvah) is most frequently translated elsewhere as hope or expectation. In a very real sense, that scarlet cord was Rahab's hope. It was all that separated her and her family from certain judgement. That cord would get her safely out of the city. It would allow her to live at peace among her former enemies.

In writing to Timothy, Paul describes the Lord Jesus Christ as our hope. It is His blood that protects us from judgement. It is His blood that offers salvation. Only His blood can gives us peace with God.

(Joshua 2:1-24; 1 Timothy 1:1)