Put Out The Red Rope
Harlot. Prostitute. Sex worker. This was the life of Rahab.
A woman living in the city of Jericho. A city known for its idol worship.
A city the Bible says was a wicked and corrupt society. We don’t really know the circumstances which led to Rahab becoming a prostitute. Perhaps she was born into it. Perhaps her only choices to make money were prostitute or beggar. Perhaps she had to do whatever she could to provide for her mother and father. We don’ know. But, we can imagine that as she serviced the men who would come in and out of her daily life, she was not living the life she would’ve wanted.
The life that other women enjoyed. The life of wife and mother. The life of caretaker to those she loved and homemaker to her children. A job like this would’ve brought a certain amount of shame and ridicule even as it does in our society today.
But her life is about to change. Over the years she has heard many stories from the men she has entertained. Stories of the Israelites and their God. The one who split the Red Sea and orchestrated their escape from their Egyptian slave masters. The one who came down as a cloud and hovered over their temple. The one who provided manna from the sky to feed them. The citizens of Jericho had heard these stories and they had grown fearful of the Israelites and their God. Perhaps they had heard that God had promised them the land of Canaan and their fear grew deeper because they were IN the land of Canaan. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in the path of God’s destruction! And we can surmise that as Rahab heard these stories over the years and saw the fear in the hearts of her people, she came to this understanding…this God is the one true God.
Maybe you can relate to Rahab. Maybe you didn’t grow up in church, maybe you can remember the first time you heard the stories about this God of the Israelites. Maybe you kept meeting women who talked about Jesus. Maybe you would catch a Joyce Meyer’s show by accident while flipping through the channels. Maybe you would pick up a book that would talk about this God, and maybe you can relate to what it is to come to the conclusion that Rahab did…that something is different about this God. The people who follow this God have experienced something I haven’t. They seem to rely heavily on this God and he seems to work on their behalf. Perhaps you’ve heard the stories of men and women who have been delivered from their addictions and healed of their illnesses. Marriages that have been saved. Lives that have been turned around. Who is THIS God? Whoever he is, it seems as though he really is the one TRUE God.
And we can surmise that Rahab has come to this conclusion because one day two Israelite spies ended up on her doorstep and she didn’t turn them away. Perhaps they were hiding out and stumbled across her doorstep to do so. We don’t know. But what we do know is that this was no accident. Because God doesn’t do things by accident. God has seen Rahab. God has heard the wandering of her heart…is this God real…could it be…who is this God that saves his people…who is this God who is so mighty and powerful but also so kind as to lead the least of these, the Israelites who are a bunch of former slaves with no great kingdom of their own. And just like Rahab, he knows the wonderings in your heart. He knows the questions and what ifs of your heart. He knows your deepest desires and concerns.
So perhaps she lets these spies in because she is curious. She wants to know more. She wants to be a part of whatever it is this God is apart of. She wants to be saved, too. Saved from whatever destruction awaits Canaan. But the spies ending up on her doorstep was by no accident. God is giving Rahab a chance to turn to him. He has heard her wanderings. He knows her heart. And when those spies are knocking on her door, it is really God knocking on her door saying “Will you let me in?” He’s got a plan for her…and he has a plan for you, too. Is God knocking on your heart? Is there a situation in your life that God is using to say, “Will you let me in?” He is giving you a chance to turn to him. He is giving you a chance to walk in faith in him. God comes to our doorstep and knocks! Revelations 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me.”
And the king got wind that these spies were in the city and he sends men to her door demanding she bring them out. But, she tells them that the men escaped through the city gates at nightfall and to chase after them quickly so they can catch up with them. But, really she had hidden them on her roof. I believe in this moment, Rahab has made a choice. She has made a choice to serve this God that she has heard of. She has no promise yet from the Israelite spies for her protection, but she takes a step of faith in the direction of this God. Her God. She is making him her God by choosing to follow him and not the culture that surrounds her. She could’ve turned them over to the King and maybe would’ve reaped a great reward for doing so, but she doesn’t. Her action in some ways looks like the action we must take in our lives when we choose to follow God. We have to take a leap of faith in his direction. We have to hang up all our hopes on him. Trusting that he is who he says he is. That he is who we’ve heard him to be.
Rahab goes up onto the roof and says in Joshua 2:8, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that terror of you has fallen on us, and everyone who lives in the land is panicking because of 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 Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings you completely destroyed across the Jordan. When we heard this, we lost heart, and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven and above and on earth below. Now, please swear to me by the Lord, that you will show kindness to my father’s family, because I showed kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father, mother, brother, and sisters an all who belong to them, and save us from death.”
Right her, Rahab proclaims her faith in their God and by doing so makes him her God. She says “the Lord your God is God in heaven and above and on earth below”. She has come to realize that the gods that her people have been following are not the one true God, but that the God of the Israelites is. And you can just imagine the desperation she feels in this moment because she knows that Jericho is going to be destroyed because their God is the real God. This realization is something we all have to come to in order to follow God. We have to turn away from the idols of our culture. Turn away from ourselves and realize, there is one true God and he alone is worth following. Isn’t this the question that lies before each one of us? This world we live in is filled with wickedness and every kind of evil and depravity. You don’t have to look far to see it. People surround us calling good evil and evil good. And God is coming to our door and saying, will you walk in faith with me and be saved?
The spies accept Rahab’s request and tell her to put down a scarlet red rope out of her window and to hide her whole family in her house and that they will leave that house alone and destroy the rest…and so she does. Now, this time between Rahab being told to put down the red rope and Jericho falling is probably at least a few weeks. So, you can imagine during this time the feelings that Rahab is experiencing. Moments of great hope that she and her family will be saved by this God, this God that she has now made her God. And moments of great anxiety and distrust when she begins to worry, “But will they do as they said? Will we really be saved? What if they forget? What if this was all a trick? Are we really safe? Will we really be saved?”
I think we can all relate to how Rahab must’ve felt during this time. The time between us putting our faith in God and seeing the fruits of that faith. There’s this in between time of uncertainty. And what can we do while we wait to see? We can do what Rahab did. She put out the red rope. She may have had her moments of doubt, but she kept hope alive. She put out the red rope. She took steps of obedience. She gathered her family in her home.
Perhaps some of them questioned her and gave her grief. And surely, she comforted them. Surely, she let her new faith gain wings as she remembered the God who she was putting her trust in. Perhaps she reminded them that this is the God that parted the Red Sea. This is the God who hangs out with the desert dwellers. The one’s who have nothing, but their reliance on God. We are putting all our trust in this God, surely he will help us, too. And as the weeks go by, her faith arises. It’s challenged and it grows. God often uses these in between times of his promise and the fulfillment of his promise to deepen our faith. To grow it.
And when that day came, and Jericho fell, everyone in the city was killed. And THEN Joshua told the two spies that had hid in her house to go to the prostitute’s house and get her and her family. And they did. Can you imagine? She had to wait until AFTER the city was destroyed to be rescued. She sat in her house probably huddled together with her family and hearing all the destruction outside the door. Perhaps this is the moment she first learned to pray out loud. Perhaps she led her family in crying out to the Lord. And then who shows up? The very same men who had made her the promise. I think it’s significant that the Bible says Joshua sent the two very same men to get her. Why? Because the moment she saw them she knew. We’re saved. The promise was kept. Had it been two other men, perhaps she would have thought, “Uh oh, are we next to be destroyed”, but because it was them she knew. It’s as if God is saying “I didn’t forget you. My promises are true. You are mine and I take care of what’s mine.”
From there, Rahab and her family go and live with the Israelites. Her community and way of life… almost everything she has ever known is destroyed. But, she is welcomed in…this gentile woman is adopted into the Israelite community. Much like how we enter the family of God. WE are adopted in by the blood of Jesus. Each one of us a sinner who opened the door the day God knocked at our doorstep. She goes onto marry Salmon, an Israelite man from the tribe of Judah. And they have a son Boaz who marries Ruth. Now if you don’t know the story of Boaz and Ruth, Boaz ends up marrying Ruth, a widowed woman, destitute, left scavenging for scraps of grain to feed her and her also widowed mother-in-law.
Could it be that Boaz knew of how his mother, Rahab, came to be an Israelite? Do you think she shared over and over again her testimony of how she came to know the one true God? Perhaps hearing these stories from his mother growing up, this softened his heart toward women who were considered the outcasts of society? Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed, who ends up being the grandfather of Kind David. And who comes from the lineage of David? Jesus. Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, becomes one of Rahab’s direct descendants. Thus, making Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, in the lineage of Jesus. She was essentially a great, great, great, great, great, great (I think it’s the 35th) grandma of Jesus.
Why? Because of God’s great grace. Because God is a personal God who looks at our hearts and bids us to enter in. I don’t know about you, but this story gives me great hope. It reminds me that God is faithful. That he pursues us. That he has great plans for the believer who steps out in faith toward him and moves forward in him in obedience. It reminds me that He is worth pursuing. He is the difference maker in my situation. I am victorious through Him. There is nothing you’ve done, no situation you are currently in, that can compare to the plans God has for the One who seeks him and calls him Lord and Savior. The one who keeps his eye on the prostitute and calls her out into his purposes for her, is the same One who is looking at you now and saying follow me. I have a plan to save you.