Where the Scarlet Thread Is Tied: Lessons from Rahab

Several years ago while I was living in South Asia, I attended a weekly women’s Bible study with believers from my local church. Every Thursday night, I gathered with seven to ten other women, tried to follow along as they spoke rapidly in their native tongue, and fellowshipped with them.

One week we were reading the story of Rahab and discussing what each of us had personally taken away from her story. She was a woman who lived in Jericho at a time when neighboring cities were constantly at war with one another. Israel sent spies into Jericho, and they sought shelter in her home. When the king learned enemy spies were hiding in his city, he ordered her to turn them over to his officials.

But Rahab knew there was something different about these men, or at least there was something different about the God they worshiped. She’d heard stories about how the God of Israel had proven himself powerful. She told the spies, “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Josh. 2:11 NIV), and she hid them when the king’s men came looking for them. Once it was safe, she let them climb out her window to freedom.

Before the spies left, Rahab struck up a deal with them. She would not alert the king to their presence if they would spare her household when Israel came to destroy Jericho. The Israelites agreed, as long as she kept a visible sign for them that they’d not been betrayed.

“Despite hardships and persecution, my friend has tied a scarlet thread on her home and her life.”

The spies asked Rahab to tie a scarlet thread to the window out of which they climbed so when they returned to the city they would see the thread, know she had kept her promise and then spare her family the destruction that would fall on Jericho. “So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet thread in the window” (Josh. 2:21*).

Applying Rahab’s Story to Our Lives

After reviewing the story, we took turns talking about what we learned from Rahab or how her story spoke to us. I was tired and ready to head home, so I shared a shallow-but-honest statement about how the story reminded me that God is my ultimate authority.

Then one of my friends, the wife of a local pastor, spoke. Her family, who were all Hindu, had rejected her because of her beliefs. They teased her, ridiculed her, and called her stupid for believing the Word to be Truth.

She had shed countless tears over them and cried out to her Creator for him to speak to their hearts, but she was content to wait on his timing, however long that may be. Their rejection and persecution were hurtful, but she endured for the sake of Jesus, who loved his very own persecutors. Then she said something that just about knocked the wind out of me.

“But, when the time comes, they will know where the scarlet thread is tied.”

Despite hardships and persecution, my friend has tied a scarlet thread on her home and her life. Regardless of what others may say or do, she is committed to being known as a woman who knows the One who saves. Her life is a living testimony to the gospel.

She will leave that thread tied by continuing to share her beliefs with her loved ones, interceding for them, and loving them by God’s grace. In a city of about twenty-one million people, her home will forever proclaim truth.

A Change in My Worldview

Though I felt my insight into the story was adequate, my friend blew my response out of the water. I was concerned about authority when another in the room experienced the rejection of her own family because of Christ. No government official has ever ridiculed me because of my beliefs, much less a member of my own family.

“She will leave that thread tied by continuing to share her beliefs with her loved ones, interceding for them, and loving them by God’s grace.”

It was a reminder that believers all around the world face hardships I cannot fathom. I no longer had to go online to read about the persecuted—I was sitting among them. I’d been asking that God would open the hearts of the people in my city and had completely neglected to ask him to strengthen the hearts of those who already knew him and were facing difficulties because of it. My view was so limited.

I left that night with a new resolve: to intercede on behalf of local believers like I had never done before. Yes, I could share truth with the people here, but how much greater if someone shares with them who speaks their language, understands their culture, relates to their hardships, and knows what it is like to give up generations of idol worship? I was there to both share the gospel and build up the existing church.

While I took the first part of that responsibility very seriously from the start, it was only after that night that I strove to encourage and strengthen those who can speak to the hearts of the people there in ways I could not. I hope you’ll join me in lifting up our brothers and sisters who are living, loving, and working among their own people who have yet to meet Jesus.

Let us pray that the scarlet thread would be tied with boldness around their lives. That family, friends, neighbors, religious leaders, and everyone in between would see that we worship a real, powerful, living God.

Maybe then, knowing where they will find truth, they will knock on the door where the scarlet thread is tied.

Jen Westerfeld served with the IMB in South Asia. She is grateful to be  currently working in collegiate ministry in her home state of California. 

*Though English translations of this verse use “cord” or “rope,” the word “thread” is used in the Hindi translation of the story, which is reflected throughout the article.