The Scarlet Cord

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

The Scarlet Cord

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Joshua 2

Today I am going to address one of the greatest rescues of of all time. In this story you will see an amazing chronicle of God's mercy, love and even His plan for your salvation.

Before the Creator we all stand in need of rescue, for we are all sinners by birth and by choice (Romans 3:23). God expects a perfect life from us but we don't have one to give Him. No one can live with God who is imperfect, and since we are all flawed we all come short of His glory. Yet, God's love had a plan - a way to redeem us from our situation.

In our Old Testament passage today, we discover a very important step in God's plan to redeem us - and it involves a very unlikely person. The individual in question was a prostitue in the City of Jericho. She had heard about the God, Yahweh, but she did not have any idea concerning what was about to happen that would change her life and her eternity. Jericho was a city that worshipped a moon god, and that had been the only religous identity that Rahab had known - until she heard about the God of the Hebrews - the true God. She had lived her entire life in a place that worshiped a moon god - an idol - and had done so for a long time.

In Joshua chapter 2 we discover that the Hebrew people were days from approaching the city of Jericho. They send two spies into the city to learn all they oould before the Hebrew army invaded.ueror it. The spies entire the city and go to the room of Rahab, the prosititue. After all, foreign men who came into a large city and visited a prosititue would not draw any attention from the residents of the city. Once there, they explained who they were to Rahab, who shared that she had heard of their God and the mighty things He had done. She expressed faith in the true God. So the men told her what was about to happen, that the city would be destroyed, but she and her household had a path to be saved. She was to place a scarlet cord hanging from her window, and they saw the scarlet cord, her life and that of her family would be spared. Rahab was about to be saved through listening to God's worfd, trusting what God was saying to her through those witnesses and then simply acting upon her faith by placing a scarlet cord in her window.

The God-ordained plan was simple. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). It wasn't what she did that saved her, it was rather her faith - her believing what God said with enough faith to act on it actually secured her from death and judgment. One would think that this idea must have seemed a bit foolish to her. How could she trust what she was told? First, how could the city of Jericho, so great and mighty, be overtaken by people who had been living in the wilderness for 40 years? But Rahab did not question the requirement, rather she 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 from that day be connected with King David and with Jesus. Look in your Bible at Matthew 1:5-6, which reads ...

"5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king ..."

Then we read in Matthew 1:16 ...

"16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ."

So, you see, Rahab believed God, acted on that faith and God saved her - placed her in the family line of the Lord, Himself. How amazing is that! It all depended on her willingness to believe God's message and to act upon it.

In essence, Rahab experienced a rescue - a divine plan was provided by which she and her family were to be spared. Her sins were great but God's grace was greater. Her debt to God was massive but God's love was bigger.

Her escape from the judgment that came upon Jericho is a picture of the escape of all sinners who are spared from the judgment a scarlet cord or line that runs through the Bible - that scarlet cord is the blood of Jesus.

The scarlet cord suspended from her window was a red line, like the blood spilled at the Tabernacle, for the sins of the believing people.

That scarlet cord, that blood line from the Tabernacle, was pointing to a price to be paid on a hill outside Jerusalem by the Savior.

You see, the scarlet cord was a symbol of something important - it was a symbol of the blood of Christ.

Rahab acted by faith and though she could not have totally understood all that it meant, she trusted God’s message of love and salvation.

Now, let's answer a question: 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.

Our generation understands very little about the blood atonement of Jesus Christ - the terrible price He paid to resuce us from sin and death. 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 how God used Dr. Graham to preach over 60 years 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.

Today I want us to zero in on one important facet of the story - the scarlet cord 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 the people during the Old Testament days 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.

Look 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 received as 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.

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

The scarlet thread reminds us 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 are as important as this symbol of Christianity – the cross of our Lord.

  • The symbol is not a burning bush.
  • The symbol of the Christian faith is not a golden altar
  • The symbol of our faith is not a bowl and towel
  • The symbol of our faith is not a seven-pronged candlestick
  • The symbol of our faith is A CROSS.

The cross is where Jesus paid for my sins. There he bore the horrible weight for my sin and the accepted the terrible wrath of the Father for all sinners. 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 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. Now why can't I just do good things and make it heaven through my own actions? I'll tell you why, God demands from me a perfect life. That is something I do not have. No matter how many good things I try to do, none all of them, nor all of them put together, can 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 didn't do what I should have done. The only hope I have is for a perfect life to be given in my behalf. That is exactly what Jesus did at Calvary. He is the spotless Lamb of God. He poured out His blood to provide "The Great Bailout" - to pay a price that no one else can ever 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 cord speaks to us of the seriousness of sin. We often take sin lightly and many think God will wink at their sin and excuse them from 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 His 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 whose sins placed Him there.

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 mistake of attempting to wash 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." (Alas! And Did My Savior Die - Isaac Watts)

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

The scarlet thread was a symbol of the redemption for 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 placed upon the door for the people to be saved as the Death Angel passed over.
  • 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 life is in the blood. Thus the blood foreshadowed the great sacrifice of a perfect life which our Savior provided 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 death.

Let us never be embarrassed by the blood. Jesus was not ashamed to shed it for us.

  • They plucked out His beard.
  • They spat in His face.
  • They drove nails in His hands.
  • They tore His clothes from Him.
  • They lifted Him up to die a shameful death.

He was not ashamed of us - let us never be ashamed of Him and the blood He shed for us.

There is a story told about a city church and a cornerstone there 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 the 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 outward act of placing the scarlet cord 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.

Look at 1 Peter 1:18-19

"18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."

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

"9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

We need to call sin by its rightful name and confess our sins, and we must place our faith in God's provision  - the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


I read a story some time ago about a father who 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 of asking God to bless his mom and dad, other family and his 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.