The rope dangled out her window, still swaying from the men who had just used it to escape. Her name was Rahab, a prostitute who lived in the outskirts of the city and the margins of society. Standing at her open window, Rahab knew she had committed an act that could get her killed. The men who climbed out her window were Israelites, spies who had come to search out the city of Jericho. Rahab was the reason they got away.
She had likely heard stories about the people of Israel. News traveled steadily across the Jordon: the Israelites were led by a powerful God. Now this people and their God were just around the corner, and invasion of Jericho was imminent. So when two men appeared at her house, Rahab made a choice to surrender. With a bold voice for a woman without a voice in society, she believed in the God who sent them:
“I know that the LORD has given this land to you 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 and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:9-11).
Thousands of years later, the woman from the outskirts is still remembered: how she hid the Israelite spies and sent the king’s messengers in the wrong direction, how she lowered a rope out her window and helped the Israelites escape, how she was spared when the Israelites returned because she had followed their instructions. Rahab is mentioned three times in the New Testament: for her faith, for her righteousness, and for her heritage. A woman likely shamed among her own people, she was far from shamed by the God of the margins.
The Christian story of redemption hints that we, too, in the twinkling of an eye can find the direction of everything changed. At the rustling of the Spirit, by the breath of God, we can be made into something new wherever you are, whatever place we have hidden ourselves. “Give ear and come to me. Hear me, that your soul may live. And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David” (Isaiah 55:3). Fourteen hundred years after Rahab helped the Israelites, the Jewish Messiah was born from her very lineage. God used this life of little distinction in the bloodline of his own Son. There is no other religion that so radically calls the forgotten to be a part of the hope it offers. Christianity is not a static manual for right living, but the gift of participation in the hopeful message and person it proclaims.
The Judeo-Christian worldview is one that routes lives in a new direction. Being aligned with the God of Israel, Rahab was led to a place of safety during the battle of Jericho. “Our lives for your lives,” the spies had assured her, and they left her with instructions for the coming invasion: Tie this scarlet cord in the window and bring your family into your house. No one who is in the house with you will be harmed. Rahab agreed. As they slipped down the rope, she tied the scarlet cord in the window. And as promised, her life was both spared and renewed.
Such is the certain outcome of a life claimed by the living God. We are given hope and a future, and placed on a sure path. The Father takes the shamed and forgotten and remembers them. God proclaims liberty to the captive and release to those in darkness. God calls the guilty and the brokenhearted and sends them his own Son who makes a new way. The assurance of Jesus Christ is that he is leading us to the house of the Father. Like a scarlet cord across our lives, it is his life that brings us home again.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.