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A Scarlet Rope

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne was required to wear a scarlet “A” to signify her shame for having a baby out of wedlock. Humiliation and social stigmatizing were thought to be an appropriate punishment for a woman who committed adultery. If this had taken place in Joshua’s time, Rahab might have been forced to wear a scarlet letter as well. She was the town’s prostitute, the infamous adulteress of Jericho.

But the Israelite spies believed her place would be the perfect hideout. What happened next would change the trajectory of her life. In our text today, perhaps for the first time in her life, Rahab became a hero. She saved the spies and, in due time, her family as well. Rahab agreed not to say a word about the spies and to tie a scarlet cord, or rope, outside the window where she let the men down (v. 18). This way, when they returned, they would know which home to spare from destruction.

It must have taken tremendous courage for Rahab to let the spies leave. If the Jericho king and his men discovered her betrayal, Rahab would most likely have been tortured and murdered. Nonetheless, she kept her promise and did everything just as they agreed. Perhaps she was searching not just for a way out of Jericho, but a way out of her old way of living. Rahab’s brave act is remembered by the author of Hebrews, in the passage often referred to as the Hall of Faith (Heb. 11:31). As she obediently tied that scarlet rope (Josh. 2:21), her faith triumphed over her fear. God used that scarlet rope as a symbol of faith.

>> Have you ever been given a label? Maybe you’ve been called slow, failure, old, or even a mistake? No matter what label people have given you, God calls you loved. He sees your faith. You are His child. He replaces the world’s false labels with the new identity He alone can give (1 John 3:1).

BY Chris Rappazini

Chris Rappazini is the associate professor and program head of the BA and MA in Pastoral Studies at Moody Bible Institute and Moody Theological Seminary. He is the vice president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society and previously served as the associate minister of preaching and teaching at Southside Christian Church in Spokane, Washington. Chris and his wife, Ashley, and their three children reside in Northwest Indiana.

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