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THE SCARLET LINE

“She bound the scarlet line in the window” (Joshua 2:21).

What exceeding riches of grace are exhibited in the narrative centering around this scarlet line. Most preciously is this discovered when we see pictured forth the marvelous, kindness of God to poor, perishing sinners. The twelve tribes of Israel with Joshua at their head are now entering into the possession of the land of promise. “And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.”

Look not so disdainfully upon this scene, ye self-righteous, for it is of the Lord. A vessel of mercy whose name is in the Lamb’s book of life, an object of Jehovah’s everlasting 1ove, is being sought out (Isaiah 62:12). One who to the end of time is set forth an object of God’s distinguishing grace, Rahab the harlot. When the Son of God was in the world in the likeness of sinful flesh, those who highly esteemed themselves murmured that Jesus was gone to be the guest of one that was a sinner, and they contemptuously designated him the friend of publicans and sinners. It is one of the surpassing glories of the gospel that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1 Tim. 1:15).

Before the coming of these men Rahab had been much disturbed in her soul. She contemplated the entering in of God’s host into Canaan as the messengers of his righteous vengeance. She believed that her people and her city were doomed to destruction. Then might Rahab say within herself, How shall one so wicked as I escape? The day dec1ines, and the mantle of night begins to shade the doomed city, and there in the twilight enter two strangers, men of the children of Israel. It is not so dark but that they are seen of many, and tidings of their presence in the city are taken to the king of Jericho. They are seen of Rahab the harlot, she knows them, too. Who can portray her emotions of soul as she beheld them? O, not with the eyes and emotions of an harlot does she look upon them. Others look upon these messengers with enmity, and would take hold of them with violent hands and slay them. But this woman is moved by a gracious and divine power, and is in exercise before the Lord. She believes that he is, and unholy, a sinner, she trembles before him, but trembling and contrite she is drawn to him; her heart; craves his indulgent mercy, and these two men are his, his sacred ones, for Jehovah is the God of Israel. She is moved toward these men because of their God with all graciousness of spirit. “She received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11:31). No doubt she felt unworthy to lodge the representatives of the favored nation of the Almighty, but an inward satisfaction glowed within in the honor conferred upon her that they should seek shelter under her roof. “He that receiveth you receiveth me.” In some little measure no doubt she tasted this blessedness. “She received the spies with peace.” But her comfort of mind in her graciousness of heart toward these Israelites is soon disturbed; it has been told the king of this doomed city, “Behold, there came in hither tonight of the children of Israel, to search out the country. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that arc come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.” Will Rahab surrender them a prey to their ravening foes? No, she will shew by her works her faith in God, who is the King of kings. “She brought them up to the roof of her house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in other upon the roof.” “Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” This woman’s faith was a living faith, and her faith moved her to shield, to save these spies from the vengeance of the king of Jericho. Her works of faith were thus evidencing her justification. “Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way?” (James 2:25). The woman took the two men and hid them; she comes down from the roof to face the officers of the king of Jericho, said thus: “There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: and it came to pass, about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly: for ye shall overtake them.” What is this? Is this the fruit of faith? Never. Faith in the Lord is a good tree that is planted and grows by the operation of God, and cannot bring forth evil fruit. No lie is of the truth. Let us ponder upon this scene of light and darkness, there is profitable instruction in it to those who fear the Lord. Say not, I would never do so. Child of God, you know not how weak you are, unless by the power of God the next moment you will sink in the depravity of your sinful heart into all wickedness. Rahab to shield these hidden spies resorts to her deceiving tongue, anal pours forth lies to the men of Jericho. They believe her lies and hasten, as they imagine, in pursuit of the fugitive spies without the gates of Jericho. The spies were benefited by Rahab’s lies. Was this lying excusable! Jesuitism might answer affirmatively, saying, The end justifies the means. But an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ has declared the just damnation of all such who slanderously reported and affirmed that he said, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8). How valiantly, with what holy majesty this holy apostle utterly repudiates such doctrine. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any1onger therein?” (Romans 6:1-2). If Rahab was one that was born of the Spirit, in whose heart was that faith in God which is the fruit of the Spirit, is it not a very paradox that she should, upon the roof of her house, be moved by faith in the Lord to acts of goodness toward these spies, and then descending to the threshold face the officers with cunning falsehoods? Is this something to be winked at and passed over as a trifle? To the child of God no sin is a trifle, but is grievous, damnable. If you are one to whom the Lord has given a new heart, all iniquity will be hateful, and sin not only in words and deeds, but in thy thoughts, will make thee heavy and sad, and thy heart will sigh and mourn over it unto thy God. Those who are born of God have a nature imparted to them akin to the nature of God and as exercised by this nature (2 Peter 1:4), the new man, which is created after the image of him that created him in righteousness and true holiness (Eph 4:24), they hunger and thirst after righteousness. They cannot feast their eyes upon sin. This being so, the question still presents itself, How is it that a child of God can this moment be exercised in love and faith worshiping the Lord, and in a small moment be exercised in matters the most sinful? Can such a state of affairs exist and one in very truth be born of the Spirit, a child of God? And if it be so how do such opposites have subsistence in them? These are momentous inquiries. This is that which is so mysterious, that often causes so much misgiving of heart to those who fear the Lord: that one moment exercised graciously toward God with humble contriteness of hart, or in grateful praises, and then all is suspended, and to our bitter dismay find there is in us a hart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. O, the grief of mind that is ours, how discouraged, how we have to blush when once more our thoughts, our faces are turned toward our holy and gracious God. The mystery of these conflicting emotions and sometimes contradictory behavior felt and exhibited in the people of God is that they are the subjects of two natures described in the Scriptures as the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), the old and the new man (Eph. 4:22-24), and perhaps no clearer statement of these diverse principles can be found than that given in Romans 7:14-25. All our emotions of contrition of heart, of faith and love and praise in which we worship the Lord, are put forth in us by the operations of God’s gracious power. The arising and intrusion of iniquity is from our corrupt Adamic nature, which ever is the heart-saddened, burdensome load of the children of God while they are in this world. The bitter consciousness of indwelling sin forbids us to glory in ourselves before God. O, the mercifulness of the Lord; he pities us in our low estate, and by his gracious teachings we are melted before him in repentance, and we are drawn to cleave alone to the sacrifice and righteousness of Jesus Christ as our only hope of acceptance before the throne of God. It is a most humiliating thing in the lives of the saints that their most blessed and sacred moments may suddenly be defiled by sinful thoughts, and unless kept by the power of God in the sanctuary of his gracious felt presence, so powerful and  ensnaring is the depravity of our fleshly heart we shall as suddenly fall into outward iniquities. How much it becomes us then to cry continually for mercy to be kept from the paths of sin. “Hold thou me up and I shall be safe.”

The men of Jericho are gone from the door of Rahab’s house in hot pursuit of the spies elsewhere, and Rahab instantly ascends to the roof of her house. “Before the spies were laid down, she came unto them upon the roof.” Did she then, or in after days, chuckle over the deception she practiced upon her fellow citizens? Ah, memories of sinfulness are not cherished by the pure in heart. What gratification can the remembrance of transgressions afford a believer in Jesus? They are ashamed of all iniquity (Rom. 6:21). The grace of God in them forbids that they should glory in their shame.

“Rahab said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side of Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you; for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”

What changes take place in this woman, all within a little space of time. Moved with faith in God she received the spies with peace, and sought to hide them from their foes; then with lies she barricades the entrance of her house and turns away the men of Jericho; now upon the roof this Gentile woman is discoursing most learnedly (as one surely taught of the Lord) concerning God, her faith in him, and breathes forth her longings that Israel, the people of God, would deal friendly with her and her father’s house. It was Peter, and Peter’s same natural tongue that said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are such that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69), and who with oaths and cursing denied Jesus, saying “I know not the man” (Matt. 26:74), and afterward said, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:7). “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10). Ponder these things in thy heart.

Tidings of the onward march of the tribes of Israel, and of God’s interposition in their behalf preceded their entrance into Canaan. If the waters of the Red Sea could not impede their way, if Jehovah dried up the sea for them, and they marched through the deep dry shod, if Israel is triumphant over both the kings of the Amorites, who then can withstand this invincible host? Terror fell upon the inhabitants of the land; their courage fled away and all hearts did melt. No one felt these things more deeply than Rahab, and only she of all the city of Jericho was exercised graciously toward the Lord amidst these distressing forebodings. This monument of God’s grace is so affected by his gracious power that she attributes the invincible progress of the chosen nation to the Lord, and she believes that their God who has hitherto wrought so effectually in their behalf will yet go on to display his grace unto his beloved people in fulfilling the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “I know that the Lord hath given you the land.” Israel got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them, but the Lord’s right hand, the light of his countenance and his kingly favor put them in possession of their inheritance. All this is believed in the heart of Rahab, and in her recital of God’s grace and power in behalf of Israel she crowns it all with the acknowledgment that “the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath”. In Rahab’s view, all the Canaanitish gods are famished out of the land; she has cast their images to the moles and to the bats, and the Lord alone is exalted. How divine is that work in a sinner that brings him to that reverend and affectionate recognition of the living and true God. Then, though a sinner, worthy only of his wrath, he is moved to fall down and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Rahab says, “Our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man”. This spiritually is realized by the vessels of mercy who are called unto the knowledge of themselves before the Almighty. All our courage sinks within us when we are apprehended by the Lord to face the curse of the law. Our sins and just condemnation are brought home to us, and we tremble in apprehension of the execution of his coming judgment. “Because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.” The risen and ascended Savior is that man who is ordained to judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom (Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:1).

Now, when the harlot Rahab had confessed to the spies her belief in God, her terror, the loss of all her courage, her meltings of heart in apprehension of coming judgments, her belief in the power and graciousness of the Lord unto Israel, and crowned the whole with declaring that he only was God, then she pours forth her entreaties that kindness might be shewn unto her and to her father’s house: “Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: and that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.” Thus she craved their friendship and deliverance from death. So quickened sinners make supplication unto the Lord for salvation, that they may not perish in their sins, and the Holy Ghost moves them to crave the friendship of the everlasting God. This is a miracle of God’s grace, that a sinner, a creature who in his nature is unholy, enmity against God, should be found thirsting for God, the living God. His compassionate mercy is so sought after. O, to be freed from sin, to be holy, that I might live forever with the Lord. God becomes so lovely and so loved that our heart exclaims, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.”

“Give me a true token.” How descriptive is this language of that life of entreaty in which those who are born again live before God. Give me a true token of the forgiveness of my sins, cries the mourning soul. Give me a true token that thou art my Savior, of my acceptance in thy sight, O God. Give me a true token of thy covenant, everlasting love. Give me a true token that I am one of thy chosen, that I am a child of God. Thus with fervency the child of God pours forth his supplications, and sometimes like Gideon (Judges 6), we feel we must have token upon token to satisfy us. O, to find a quiet resting-place in the sure mercies of our God. Give a true token, one that will not fail me, that will be honored and accepted in that day before the throne of God. Give me the earnest of the Spirit in my heart of that inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for those who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed at the last time. Let the beloved Savior kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is better than wine; let him speak to my heart of his dying love. O, that on me might be put the best robe of the righteousness of the Son of God; that on my hand might be put the ring of the Father’s everlasting love; the ring that should be the true token that I am still and forever his child; the ring of espousal, of eternal wedlock to the fairest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely.

Rahab’s entreaty was heard, the spies made a covenant of life and kindness with her, saying, “Our life for yours.” Your life shall be more precious than our own; we will give our lives a sacrifice “instead of you to die.” “Our life for yours if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the Lord hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.” It is a gracious mystery that a sinner should be so wrought upon that he is moved, with a weeping heart over his sins, to sue for tokens of the Lord’s tender mercy, and it is very wonderful indeed, and surpassingly gracious that the Almighty inclines his ear and hears our cry. O, he hears the sighing of the needy, he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. He forgetteth not the cry of the humble. What encouragement is this for needy souls to wait upon the Lord. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” So innumerable are our weaknesses, temptations and necessities, and for myself I confess that as the days and the years pass by they become no less, and I should be utterly discouraged and faint indeed were it not that in prayer to the Lord I am enabled to cast all my care upon him who careth for me. But to do this I need the gracious operations of the Comforter to bring my heart to the persuasion that the lord forgetteth not the cry of the humble, and thus I am divinely constrained to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Rahab believes the spies; their covenant promises are inspiring and satisfying, and she manifests her grateful acquiescence by facilitating their escape from Jericho. “Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned; and afterward may ye go your way. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by; and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and they brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.

(To be concluded in the next number.)

ELDER FREDERICK W. KEENE
NORTH BERWICK, MAINE

Signs of the Times
Volume 71, No. 16
August 15, 1903