Rahab’s Scarlet Rope

Today’s Reading: John 8:1-11

There are five women in the genealogy of Jesus – five women with stained reputations but also five women whom God chose to bless by placing them in this royal lineage. As Jesus was growing up, I am sure his parents taught him the stories of his ancestors.

What would Jesus have said regarding Rahab, the second of the women in his paternal genealogy? Let’s look at her story – a story that includes prostitution, deceit, dishonesty and finally REDEMPTION and a new life.

Tamar had disguised herself and acted as a prostitute one time in an act of deceit but Rahab made a living from prostitution. Rahab opened her home up to strangers as an inn or hotel in the walled city of Jericho. It was common for women who owned this kind of business to also offer more than just a place to sleep for the night but to also offer their body to the strangers passing through town.

But this night was different. Her guests served the God she had heard so much about, the God who drew her to Himself in a way that perhaps made her feel loved and worthy for the first time. So when she received orders from the king of Jericho to bring out the spies, Rahab lied and said the spies were no longer there. To protect these godly men, she hid them beneath bundles of flax she had laid out on the roof and lied about their whereabouts in order to help them escape safely.

Before the spies went to sleep that night, Rahab went on the roof to talk with them. “I know the Lord has given you this land,” she told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.

“Now swear to me by the Lord that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you. Give me some guarantee that when Jericho is conquered, you will let me live, along with my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families.” – Joshua 2:8-13

Rahab’s desire was to live. But beyond the idea of escaping death, Rahab’s heart desired to REALLY live – to experience the kind of life the God of Israel could give her. She had heard the stories and her heart longed to be a part of what God was doing. This foreign prostitute had developed a faith in God in the midst of a pagan world.

So Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute and her relatives who were with her in the house, because she had hidden the spies Joshua sent to Jericho. And she lives among the Israelites to this day. – Joshua 6:25

This is the story of how Rahab came to be in the lineage of Jesus. In this story, Rahab risked her life in order to spare the life of two men of God. She walked away from everything she had ever known – the sin, the shame, the regret, the scarlet rope – and began worshipping the God who had always loved her.

A man named Salmon (a descendant of Tamar’s son Perez) looked beyond Rahab’s past and gave her a future as his wife. Perhaps Salmon remembered the redemption of Tamar when he looked at Rahab and was willing to offer her the same grace that had been extended to his ancestor. Together they had a son and they named him Boaz. All three of these names can be found in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

What would the young man, Jesus, have to say of this woman in his family story? What would Jesus have to say of this woman with a history of sexual immorality? Perhaps Jesus’ thoughts went to Rahab when he knelt down and wrote in the sand:

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned through the first stone!” Then he stooped down and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
– John 8:1-11

Perhaps there is a “scarlet rope” in your past that has kept you in bondage when God wants to use it for your escape. Just like Tamar and Rahab, God’s perfect plan for you includes redemption and forgiveness – new life in Christ.

Or maybe it is not YOU that you are using the “scarlet rope” against. Perhaps there is someone in your life for whom God intends redemption and forgiveness but you are using the “scarlet rope” to keep her in bondage, unwilling to forgive or forget the sinful decisions she has made.

Jesus is stooping down and writing something in the sand. Listen closely. He is saying something. “But let the one who has never sinned through the first stone!” Let’s put down the stone in our hand, unwrap the “scarlet rope” from around her reputation and offer her the same thing that God offers her – redemption and forgiveness; new life in Christ.