Red Ribbons of Hope

 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. (Joshua 2:18)

I love everything about Christmas–the sights, the sounds, the smells. I love the lights and decorations, the hustle and bustle of the airports and malls, Christmas music (but only after Thanksgiving), and my mom’s molasses cookies and homemade eggnog. I love that the season seems to bring out the best in people–everyone is just a little more patient, a little more gracious, and smiles linger just a little longer.

I would like to think that, even for those who don’t know Christ as their Savior, part of the draw of Christmas is the Hope offered by a baby who came to earth in the most humble way possible. There was no pomp and circumstance for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Instead, he came in a way that made Him truly accessible to all, and He came to take on the sins of everyone, even the outcasts and worst offenders. He offered Hope for the lost, and that’s the Hope that we celebrate at this time of year.

It’s the very same Hope that prompted a young woman to risk her life over 3,500 years ago in the city of Jericho. The familiar, but often overlooked, story of Rahab is a powerful portrayal of genuine faith, God’s grace, and the Hope offered through Christ. As I recently reread this portion of Joshua, I came across a devotional by Ann Voskamp, which pointed out that the Hebrew word (tikvah) for the scarlet cord Rahab threw out her window is also the Hebrew word for hope. Just let that sink in. Her simple act of obedience was so much more than a sign to the Israelite spies. It was the turning point of her life: a decision to put her faith in the Hope offered by Christ. It was her connection and lifeline to Jesus Christ. Rahab’s entire family was spared because of that scarlet rope, and more than mere physical protection, the rope symbolized Rahab’s faith and the atoning blood of Jesus that washed her sins clean. It looked forward to Christ’s sacrificial death and looked backward to the Passover and God’s deliverance of the Israelites who put blood on their doorframes.

We can find remarkable inspiration in the life of Rahab. Inspiration to find Hope in the darkest circumstances, to respond to God by stepping out in faith, and to take risks that solidify our faith.

God’s grace is more abundant. Rahab’s life would have been deemed hopeless by many. She was a prostitute, living on the fringes of a pagan society, but God looked past her sin to her heart. When the spies sought her help, she boldly declared her faith in God:

I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2:8-11)

If God judged us according to our sin, we would all fall far outside the bounds of His grace. Thankfully, His grace isn’t dependent on us, because we would fail every single time. As believers, God doesn’t judge us according to our worth, but His righteousness. His grace is unmerited and always sufficient, for when we are weak, He is strong.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (1 Corinthians 12:9) 

Rahab was saved by His grace on the basis of her faith, not her works. Regardless of how hopeless our situation seems, God’s grace is always more abundant. No problem is too big for God to handle.

God will use anyone who is willing. Rahab’s past did not preclude her from being used by God. In fact, she was still entrenched in her sinful lifestyle when God used her to protect the spies. She didn’t have special knowledge or an education that taught her to fear God. The key? Rahab was willing and responded to God’s call. She heard of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites and the wonders He had performed, and she immediately believed. While everyone around her was trembling in fear, she did not hesitate to risk her life to align herself with God and His people. She stepped out in faith, valuing service to God more highly than her own life. In the midst of a godless society, her faith set her apart.

God rewarded Rahab’s faith and willingness to step outside of her comfort zone. Much like He spared the lives of the Israelites who demonstrated faith and put blood on their doorframes, God delivered Rahab and her family, gave her a place amongst His people, and blessed her richly. Rahab would later bear a son, Boaz, who was the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth; she was the great-grandmother of King David; and therefore, a direct line to Christ. She is one of four women listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ, and one of two listed in Hebrews Hall of Faith. Despite Rahab’s storied past, God used this former prostitute in His ultimate plan of redemption through the Messianic line. Rahab’s legacy went far beyond the walls of Jericho, because she was willing and responded to God’s call.

We may think that we are not worthy or that God could not possibly use us in any big way, but we see example after example throughout Scripture where God did just that. God loves to use people who are weak and broken to showcase His glory. All He asks is that we are willing to step out in faith and trust Him.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

Is there something God has been calling you to do that you have been putting off? If so, consider the faith of Rahab, and trust God to use you for His glory.

Faith requires action. The test of Rahab’s faith required risk and action on her part. Rahab didn’t give a wishy-washy declaration of allegiance to God. Instead, she followed her statement of faith with two very bold acts: hiding the spies and throwing a scarlet cord out her window. Her deliverance hinged on the visibility of that cord. Rahab’s response was immediate in both belief and action. She believed in God on the basis of what she heard; she affirmed that belief when God presented her with the opportunity; and she acted in faith without hesitation when it was required.

In the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:25-26)

Although Rahab’s faith saved her, her works completed her faith. Her works were the evidence of her faith.

What about us? We are blessed to live in a country where we can openly worship the Lord without fear of physical harm or death, but are we living out our faith in visible ways? Do others know without question whom we serve and follow? Are we faithful to God with what he has given us, so that He can trust us with more? Is our faith strong enough to weather a test like Rahab and openly declare our allegiance to God, even in the face of danger?

This Christmas, red ribbons have new meaning for me. As you tie that last bit of ribbon around your gifts, think about Rahab’s scarlet cord of Hope. And when you unwrap your gifts, think again about the Hope those ribbons signify. As we celebrate Christ’s birth and the Hope he offers to us through His redeeming death on the cross, let’s remember the faith Rahab demonstrated through her simple act of obedience. And let’s remember that no situation is beyond God’s power to redeem, transform, and bring life where there is brokenness and sorrow.

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