I heard this story told one time, and so now I share it with you ... and by the way, do you remember the movie with Julia Roberts called "Pretty Woman" where, as one of my cynical friends said, "everyone ends up cheering for the prostitute"? Wait till you hear the end of this story ... guess who we are pulling for now?
It was evident to all who passed by. The sign was nothing more than a cord, a long red cord, and it hung from the window of her house, just inside the city wall. People who passed by knew what the cord meant, what was for sale on the premise: It was sex, her business: the "oldest profession." She was a prostitute and her name was Rahab.
Not the kind of lifestyle one would aspire to -- not what her mother and father would pick out for their daughter. Maybe she lost her husband, or her father had died, and to put food on the table, she did what she had to do.
She probably did not enter into this lifestyle easily, nor could she easily free herself. Her reputation was tarnished and her life branded. So the red cord, the long red cord, told the story of her life.
A knock one particular night was no different than most other nights as she greeted two men. But they were hesitant, nervous, and had heavy accents and different clothing.
She admitted them, expecting business, but it quickly became clear they were not the usual customers, but rather that they were two Israelites, seeking not a sexual favor, but a favor of information.
Rahab said, "I know who you are, and that the Lord has given this land into your hands. The story of his actions on your behalf has preceded you." It ends up that they did stay the night, but they were hidden on her rooftop. The king of Jericho searched the city for those who had entered to spy out their defenses.
In exchange for her help, they promised safety for her and her family during the coming invasion if she would do one thing: mark her house with the long red cord as a sign for the invading Israelites to know that this was one who has been promised safety. And so she was saved, and all her family. (Joshua 2 and 6; Matthew 1:5)
Can you lull for her, cheer for her and all the other broken people who are identified by the story of scripture? God has this habit of taking the least and making the most of them.
Now the rest of the story ... This is not the last time we hear the name of Rahab. She and her family alone were spared. When the walls of Jericho fell and the captives subdued, Rahab was safe by the Israelite camp.
In fact, when the area was resettled, Rahab married a man named Salmon, an Israelite. A grand child of hers is a man we know as David, king of Israel, of whose family line eventually was born one we know as Jesus, son of Mary and, as it was supposed, Joseph. Quite a family tree this Jesus has, huh?
You see, in spite of her occupation, God in his grace chose to save her. She was blessed by her willingness to accept his promise. In fact, it was a long red cord that saved her -- not one that hung from her window, but one that flowed from the cross. The long red cord of Jesus' blood flowed freely from his body and redeemed sinners -- even unworthy sinners like Rahab.
By God's gracious action and the shedding of blood sins are washed away, and sinners -- all sinners who cry out in faith -- will be saved. God chooses the most unlikely of sinners to be heroes of faith. Not only Rahab, but Abraham, who gave away his wife twice; Jacob, who was a trickster; David whose hands were bloody with murder; Peter who blew it three times; Saul who persecuted the followers of Jesus; and, now, two more great sinners: you and me. Yep, unworthy as we are, God redeems us by his gracious actions in Jesus' suffering and death.
We have been redeemed by the red blood of Christ (washed in the blood, as some would say) so that we might be of use to him for his eternally loving purpose. That of course is to save all who will hear the message of Christ as savior and lord.
Just kind of makes you want to jump for joy, right? Go ahead, do a holy backflip, jump for joy and, hey, tell the person sitting or standing next to you the good news about you and about them. They can have this gift also.
Have a great day ... how can you not?
Kenton Rohrberg is pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church, Hays.