The Scarlet Cord

Bible Book: Joshua  2
Subject: Blood of Jesus; Cross, The; Salvation; Rahab; Faith
Introduction

A few years ago our nation went through a financial crisis, one that many feel we still have not escaped even here in 2014. At the time, those in leadership felt that it was critical to “bailout” some of the large corporations that were on the brink of collapse. Billion dollar companies received help from the government – banks, insurance companies and car companies received billions of dollars in assistance. Whether the idea was a good one or not will be debated for years to come, but a great bailout is not a new thing. In fact, I want to talk to you today about the greatest bailout of all time. You see, there is a debt that all of mankind owes, and one which we cannot ever pay on our own. Our Lord, however, agreed to pay that debt for us at great cost to Himself, but one cannot receive it without meeting God’s conditions.

To understand The Great Bailout which God provides, we are going to look at a woman in the Old Testament who was gloriously spared from an ignominious death through faith in God. She lived in Jericho and, as we know, that city was only days from being destroyed when Hebrew spies confronted her. Everyone in the city was going to die, but God had a bailout plan that Rahab was willing to accept.

Rahab lived in that city and by all reports she was wicked and was an idol worshipper, but she heard about the true and living God, and she believed in her heart that He was the only one who could save her and her family. She was told by Hebrew spies to place a scarlet cord or thread outside her window and she would be spared from death when the assault came against the city. The idea must have seemed a bit foolish to her. How could she trust what she was told? Rahab did not question the requirement, but placed her faith in God and dropped a scarlet cord from her window so that it would hang visibly to the attackers. Not only was she spared from death, but her name would forever be connected with King David and with Jesus. We see this in the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1:5-17.

In essence, she experienced a great bailout - a price was paid that she could not pay. You see, she had a debt she could not pay. Her escape is a picture of all sinners who are spared the judgment of God through a payment that God makes for them. But, how are we spared?

The scarlet cored was a symbol of something important - it was a symbol of the blood of Christ. Her act was one of faith, and though she could not have totally understood all that it meant, she trusted God’s message of love and salvation. Gloriously, the red cord she placed in the window pointed to the blood Jesus would shed at Calvary to redeem lost sinners from destruction and judgment. Why was blood necessary for our redemption? Why did Jesus have to die by shedding blood? That is what I want us to consider in these next few moments.

The man in the hospital bed had leukemia. I was there to visit him, as I had done before, and to pray for him. His daughter was in the room and I could see that the situation had gotten worse since my previous visit. His eyes were closed and his skin was terribly discolored. I asked how he was doing and his daughter said, "He is very, very weak, but they told us a few minutes ago they are going to give him a transfusion of blood, and when he gets the blood he will be okay."

I thought about her statement as it applies to our spiritual condition. There are many who are lost and will perish unless the blood of Jesus Christ is applied to their lives. My friend, when the blood of Jesus is applied to your life, you are "okay". Also, there are many Christians who are weak in service and joy because they do not understand the doctrine of atonement and the power that is in the blood of Jesus Christ.

The truth is, our generation understands very little about the blood atonement of Jesus Christ - the terrible price He paid to "bail us out." In fact, many reject the idea altogether. Once, when Billy Graham was a young preacher and had just preached on the subject of the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, a man came up to him and said, "Young man, you do a great job preaching but you're never going to get anywhere if you keep preaching on the blood. People don't want to hear that stuff anymore." Well, I don't know where that man is today but I see that God has used Dr. Graham to preach face to face to more people than any human being in history.

The fact is, God is very serious about the subject of the blood of His Son. I read somewhere that the love of God is mentioned in the Bible 209 times. That tells you that the love of God is a very important subject. But, did you know that the blood atonement and the idea of a blood sacrifice is mentioned in the Bible more than 1,300 times? The blood atonement through Christ is alluded to or mentioned 6 times as often as the love of God. No doubt God mentioned this to us in His Word so often lest we forget the importance of the blood of Christ.

The story is told of an elderly couple sitting on the front porch of their house one evening. The husband says, "Honey, I'm going in the kitchen and fix us a great, big ice-cream sundae." She replied, "You can't do that. You always forget to put the whipped cream on mine and you also forget the cherry. You are just so forgetful, you will never make mine right." He said, "Oh no, I want forget.” He rose to go in the house and about 15 minutes later he came back to the porch with two ham sandwiches. They began to eat them and she said, "See what I told you, I knew you would forget." He asked, "What do you mean, what did I forget?" She replied, "You forgot to put mustard on my sandwich."

We are so prone to forgetfulness, and this is especially true when it comes to spiritual things. Today I want us to stop for a moment and remember the power in the blood of Jesus Christ.

Our text is found in Joshua 2:18. Today I want us to zero in on one important facet of the story - the scarlet cord or thread which she placed outside her window. That scarlet cord was very important. Without it, she and her family were doomed! With it, they were safe. What, pray tell, does that scarlet cord symbolize?

Remember that Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 10 that the things that happened to these people were examples for us. Thus, there is definitely an example, a symbol here for our edification. This scarlet cord was crimson red and no doubt stood as a symbol of the protection of the sacrificial blood.

You will remember that the Israelites had placed the blood of a lamb above the door of their houses when they were in Egypt. That blood protected them from danger. It was a symbol of the atoning blood, which would be supplied by our Lord at the cross of Calvary. The scarlet cord was just another symbol of that same atoning sacrifice. We see this also in Hebrews 9:19-23, "When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.’ In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."

The cord was a sign of the faith, which Rahab had in God's provision for her protection and deliverance. Her faith was honored and she was spared. She went on to marry an Israelite, and became the mother of Boaz, the great-great grandmother of King David and was in the house and lineage of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What an amazing story, and it all started with her faith and that scarlet cord.

What does the scarlet cord say to us? It tells us that we owed a debt we could not pay. We needed "The Great Bailout." I want you to think about that crimson red rope hanging from her window as a symbol of the blood that Jesus shed for us. Let that cord speak to your heart and soul today in three ways.

I. The Scarlet Cord Speaks to Us of The Suffering of our Savior

The scarlet thread reminds of the blood, the blood more specifically of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This takes us back to the cross. After all, the symbol of the Christian faith is a cross. There are many things in the Bible which were of great historical significance to Christians, but none of them present is as important as this symbol of Christianity – the cross of our Lord. For example, our symbol is not a burning bush. The symbol of the Christian faith is not a golden altar, not a bowl and towel, not a seven-pronged candlestick! NO! The symbol of our faith is a cross. Why?

The cross is where Jesus paid for my sins. There he suffered the horrible weight for my sin and the terrible wrath of the Father, all to redeem you and me. Consider the great distance between the streets of gold in heaven and the via dolorosa where our Lord carried that heavy cross. How can we understand the vast contrast between the crown He wore in heaven, the one He laid down for us, and the awful crown of thorns He bore for us when He died in our place! Yes, the scarlet thread was a sign pointing to a coming event, the event of the cross where Jesus suffered for us.

The suffering of Jesus for our sins is the price that was paid for our redemption. God demands from us a perfect life. That is something we do not have. No matter how many good things I try to do, it cannot make up for one evil thing I have done. No matter how many times I determine to do right, it does not make up for the time I wasted not doing what I should. The only hope we have is for a perfect life to be given in our behalf. That is exactly what Jesus did a Calvary. He is the spotless Lamb of God. He poured out His blood to provide "The Great Bailout" - the pay a price we could never pay!

But why this Cross? Why this symbol of the blood?

II. It Scarlet Cord Speaks to Us of The Seriousness of Sin

The death of Jesus upon the Cross is for one reason and one reason only - to be a sacrifice for our sins. The scarlet thread speaks to us of the seriousness of sin. We often take sin lightly and many think God will wink at their sin at the judgment to come. But to see what God thinks of sin, look at the death of His Son at Calvary. If God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, what do you think He will do with those who reject the Savior who poured out innocent blood for their sins?

You see, it was our sin that crucified Jesus. It was not just the Romans who put Him to death. It was not just the Jews who put Him to death. It was not just Pilate who condemned Jesus to death. No, it was each of us and all of us. So many would like to separate themselves from that terrible event and would like to deny their part in it. Many are like Pilate who tried to wash his hands of the whole affair. Wash your hands all you wish, but until your washed through the sacrifice of our Lord, you remain soiled and polluted.

There is an interesting story in history concerning Pilate. When he was called back to Rome for failing to handle the problems in Israel effectively, it is said that he committed suicide. Fellow soldiers threw his body into Luke Lucerne near a mountain called Mt. Pilatus. Legend has it that for many years people who lived in the city of Lucerne could nightly see Pilate rise up out of the waters of Lake Lucerne to again wash his hands of the terrible deed of allowing Jesus to be crucified. Of course that is a legend, but it reminds us of the serious nature of washing in any fountain except the one that Jesus supplies.

We all had our part in the deed. Jesus died there for us on that cross. Isaac Watts penned:

"Well might the sun in darkness hide

And shut his glories in,

When Christ the mighty Maker died,

For man, the creature's sin."

III. It Scarlet Cord Speaks to Us of The Sacrifice for Sinners

The scarlet thread was a symbol of the redemption of Rahab and her family. It stands as a symbol of all those who trust in God's provision through the blood sacrifice of Jesus for sins. This is God's plan for redemption - it is the picture of the atoning sacrifice!

  • In Genesis God slew the animals and covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Through the blood sacrifice, they were covered. That blood was a mere symbol of what God would do at Calvary many centuries later.
  • Abel presented an acceptable sacrifice to God, for it came from his flock and required the shedding of blood. Cain presented a sacrifice from his crops, one which required no blood. God rejected the sacrifice of Cain and accepted that of Abel. That event was a picture of the way God would receive or reject sinners: "Without the blood there is no remission for sin."
  • In the Exodus the blood had to be upon the door for the people to be saved from the Death Angel.
  • The first thing Noah did after the flood was to offer a blood sacrifice to God. Always, it was the blood which was required.

Why was blood required? Blood was required in the Old Testament because that blood foreshadowed the great sacrifice of our Savior at the Cross of Calvary. He poured out innocent blood to redeem us who are guilty. He paid the price we could not pay; he removed the debt that had placed us in spiritual bankruptcy. The blood symbolizes life. If you lose enough blood, you will die. You may be otherwise healthy, but a major cut that cannot be closed will lead quickly to death. Jesus shed His blood and gave His perfect life to redeem you from your wicked life.

Let us never be embarrassed by the blood. Jesus was not ashamed to shed it for us. They plucked out His beard. They spit in His face. They drove nails in His hands. They tore His clothes from Him and lifted Him up to die. He was not ashamed of you; do not be ashamed of Him.

In a city church there was a cornerstone which read: "We Preach Christ Crucified." The church became very modern and the preacher stopped mentioning the blood of Jesus. They church chose a new hymn book from which to sing because they did not want one that had hymns about the blood of Jesus in it. Then, one day, someone pointed out that vines had strangely grown up around and over the cornerstone. Now the stone no longer read: "We Preach Christ Crucified," but read: "We Preach." The words, "Christ Crucified," had been blotted out by the vines. What can we preach, if we do not preach Christ crucified. The songwriter asked the question and answered it like this:

"What can wash away my sins,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can make me whole again,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh precious is the flow,

That makes me white as snow,

No other fount I know,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!" (Nothing But The Blood, Robert Lowry, 1876)

IV. It Scarlet Cord Speaks of the Simplicity of Salvation

God did not ask Rahab to do something she could not do. She was asked to simply believe. Her act of faith by placing the scarlet thread in the window was a mere token of her inward faith in God's provision. God asks that we believe. It is so simple that people miss it altogether.

My wife and I visited with a lady who needed to know the Lord. A friend had asked that we talk with her about her lack of faith in Christ. When I went through the plan of salvation, it was easy and she acknowledged her sin, her belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. She acknowledged her need to be saved. When I asked her to simply ask Jesus to save her, she refused. I asked why she would not trust Christ as her Lord and Savior. Her answer stunned me. She said, "That is too easy! It has to be more difficult than that. I have to do something more than simply trust and pray." No matter how I tried to persuade her that Jesus paid it all, she could not accept it. My wife and I left that home heartbroken because a woman could not simply trust what Christ has done for her!

Look at 1 Peter 1:18-19. You are not redeemed by your silver, gold, a good life, your parents' faith, a church membership, good deeds, or any other work of your own. Oh, no! You are saved, if you are saved, by the blood sacrifice of Jesus.

Christians, we need to remember that the same blood, which saves the lost, continues to cleanse us. Look at 1 John 1:9. We need to call sin by its rightful name and confess our sins to Him.

Conclusion

We must be humble and come like a little child. A father had to punish his son. He took the boy afterward to his room to tuck him into bed. The father and son almost always prayed together and the boy would usually pray the simple prayer asking God to bless his mom and dad, and other family and friends before jumping into bed. But this night as he knelt by his bed, with his father by his side, he prayed like this: "Father, I have been a bad boy. I wish I was a good boy. God, make me more like my daddy."

The father tucked the boy in bed and went to his own room. But the father could not sleep. The prayer of his son was haunting him. The father slipped out of his bed and got down on his knees and with tears running down his face he prayed, "Father, my son has tender heart. He is willing to confess and ask forgiveness. God, he wants to be like me. I ask you here on my knees, O God, make me more like my son."

There is someone here today who needs to have the humility to recommit your life to Christ. We need to admit that though we are saved we still have the need to become more like our wonderful Lord.

There are others here who need to give your lives to Jesus today. Trust what He did at Calvary for you. He shed His blood so that you could be saved. Rahab trusted Him, and she did something which might have looked foolish to others. She hung a scarlet thread outside her window to show her faith. God does not ask you to do that, but He does ask you to publicly claim Him as your Savior. Come to Him now! Don’t be fearful! Don’t be embarrassed! Just step out in faith and meet me here at the front of the church as we sing. See, I have a scarlet cord in my hand. If there is anyone here today who will trust the blood that Jesus shed and the life He gave at Calvary, come and take the other end of this cord. We will pray together and you can know the salvation, joy and eternal bailout that Rahab found. And, like her, your name will be written in God’s book forever.