A Scarlet Cord in the window

Welcome to A Scarlet Cord of Hope, the 2021 advent series of University Fellowship Church Women written and read by Jaime Sherman, who penned our Christmastime narratives from biblical, Jewish, and historical sources to tell how God wove hope from creation to the creche and who continues to point us to the final fulfillment of hope in the one-day-soon second coming of Jesus Christ. Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

today’s suggested reading

Joshua 2 and 6

Today’s Audio

Rahab was a woman of the night, an outsider in the social storyline of Jericho, and a Canaanite marked for death by the God of heaven and earth. But a knock on her door one night changed the course of her life and placed this outsider inside the family line of the Messiah.

This “harlot,” as she was so often called, lived in a home built into the rampart closest to potential enemy attack, while the “somebodies” lived in the bustling city center furthest from danger. At its root, her name meant “one who strays,” though her profession may have been forced upon her early in life, a life numbed by the selfish demands of others. When two men came knocking one day around 1400 B.C., she likely expected a night like any other that would fill her pocket but further empty her heart. But here on her doorstep were two men of Israel, who simply wanted a place to sleep and to hide, for the city was abuzz with the rumor that enemy scouts had passed through the city gates. The king of Jordan wanted their heads, but by faith, Rahab gave him a faulty report.

"True, the men came to me,” she said, “but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them” (Joshua 2:4-5).

In truth, Rahab had hidden them on her roof under stalks of flax laid in order, for if the king’s men doubted her words and searched her home, they would simply find a pile of stinky, peeled stalks left to dry before being made into linen cords. But the spies were safe — at least for a bit — as a search party rushed to the Jordan River as far as the fords in hot pursuit of men who were at that very moment listening to Rahab give a bookend account of the Israelites’ desert wanderings. She described the fear that gripped the Jerichoians for the 40 years between God leading the people out of captivity in Egypt until their final battle of the wandering years that brought the defeat of Sihon and Og. 

“I know that the Lord has given you the land,” she said, “and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before 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 the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father's house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death” (Joshua 2:9-13).

The spies responded with kindness, “Our life for yours even to death!” they said. “If you do not tell this business of course, then when the LORD gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you” (Joshua 2:14).

Because the city gate was closed, not to mention under heavy surveillance, Rahab let the two men down by a rope through the window in her home, and she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way” (Joshua 2:16).

The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear” (Joshua 2:17-20).

And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed.

And she tied the scarlet cord in the window

Joshua 2:21

This scarlet cord was not the rope (in Hebrew chebel) that allowed the men to escape through the window but rather a cord (in Hebrew tiqvah) most likely of flax twisted into a linen cord and dyed with carmine from the female larvae of a scale insect common to the area. The word tiqvah is the same one used for hope and comes from the root word qavah, to wait. 

We see the scarlet cord hanging from Rahab’s window in Jericho’s wall and sense her hopeful expectation as she counts three long days for the spies to return. The blood-red cord hangs from her window, signaling a coming salvation from the crumbling walls of Jericho but more so from eternal separation from God, who was working out His story through her to one day bring His Son into the world. For the men would return as promised, the walls of Jericho would fall, and she, the outsider, would be tethered by a scarlet cord of hope into the family line of the Messiah.

Tomorrow we’ll learn more about how Rahab fits into the genealogy of Jesus. Today as you read Joshua 2 and 6 (or all of the first chapters of the book because it’s all so good), thank God for welcoming the outsiders into His family and ask Him for opportunities to share the hope of life in Christ with those currently living outside His family.

today’s Song

  • Rahab’s Lullaby (God Above, God Below) FAITHFUL featuring Sarah Macintosh, Rachael Lampa, Sandra McCracken
  • Click here for the season’s full playlist and other song recommendations.

Jaime Sherman is a writer and editor for ufcwomen.blog but most importantly a child of the King of kings, the wife of one amazing man for nearly 20 years, and mama of five girls and one boy. Learn more about her adventure in writing and enjoy some free resources on our main page for this series.