M I G H T Y I N S P I R I T
With every wisp of wind, the cord scraped against the concrete sill of Rahab’s window. It dangled down the outer wall of Jericho, stopping short of the ground by some six feet. To and fro it gently swayed, making its faint sounds and marking the days, constantly reminding her that it was the sign of salvation and safety.
The spies of Israel had used the cord to escape from her home, known more for men clamoring to get inside than outside. Rahab had been a harlot, but something was different about her now. Her heart wasn’t burdened, her countenance unstrained. Yes, the city folk still whispered when she walked by, but now she could think of the cord, think of what it meant, and crease a small smile.
She knew the cord swaying in her window, scarlet in color, was at once saving her life and marking her rebirth.
Perhaps this is how Rahab’s life unfolded in the few days after her encounter with two Israelite spies whom she protected from her king’s men and then directed to safety. Chapters Two and Six of the book of Joshua detail the story of this Canaanite woman of ill repute. She aided and abetted in espionage against her own city, struck a deal for the safety of herself and her family, and committed gross treason against her people all because of one fact: She came to the conclusion of who God really is.
“For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath,” she tells the spies in Joshua 2:11. It is this statement of faith that reveals why Rahab was saved from the destruction of Jericho, her red cord serving as a sign to the Israelites that God would-and had-saved her.
“Rahab’s sins had been scarlet, but the scarlet line freeing the spies, and remaining as a token of her safety, typified the red blood of Jesus whereby the worst of sinners can be saved from sin and hell (Matthew 21:31,32),” writes Bible teacher Henry Lockyer. “There was in Rahab’s mind, no matter how faintly understood, a distinct call from God, that she was being singled out from her own idolatrous people to aid the God she had a growing conception of. Her faith of this God who worked great wonders was altogether marvelous and singular.”
So marvelous was her faith and mighty her spirit that Rahab and the venerable Sarah, Abraham’s wife, are the only two women named in the famous Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11. Rahab again is commended by James, our Lord’s half-brother. He speaks of how Abraham’s belief in God was accounted to him for righteousness and then in James 2:25 states: In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
“She too was ‘considered righteous for what she did.’ Although her faith was like that of Abraham, she was unlike the patriarch in almost every other way. She was a pagan, a woman, and a prostitute. Nevertheless, she chose to become identified with the people of Israel, a decision based on faith,” writes scholar Donald W. Burdick. “Far from being dead or worthless, her faith moved her to risk her life to protect the spies. As a result, she was declared righteous. James does not give approval to Rahab’s former life; it is her living faith, seen against the background of her previous immorality, that he commends.”
As is often the case, where man sees a red flag, God sees the cord of faith, scarlet as the blood of Jesus.
Rahab’s home, a shell sitting on beams atop the expanse of Jericho’s two tall walls, miraculously survived as the walls tumbled around her. She eventually would live amid the nation of Israel (Joshua 6:25), and apparently marry someone named Salmon, whom scholars believe may have been one of the spies she protected.
How do we know of this pairing? Matthew 1:5, in giving the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ, reveals the depth of God’s love and forgiveness. For there, listed among some of the greatest names in history, is that of the sin-stained harlot Rahab (spelled Rachab in the King James Version), a woman who in God’s providence was worthy of the family tree of Christ.
She was Ruth’s mother-in-law. She was King David’s great-great grandmother. And she was a matriarch in the line of the sinless Savior whose blood is the scarlet cord that for believers has saved us all.