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Communion Meditations (2019)


Scarlet Cord

Originally scheduled for March 24

Weaving in and out of the Old Testament there is a subtle theme around a simple bit of material: the scarlet cord. It’s found in the Tabernacle, but it’s most familiar use concerns the conquest of Jericho and the spies interacting with the prostitute known as Rahab.

It is likely enough that Rahab is not the innkeeper in this establishment; that would have been a man’s job those days. She was likely enough a prostitute; and it is entirely possible that her father was the innkeeper. In those days a bed at the inn included a girl. The color of the cord at the time was probably thought to be just something convenient; some scholars have speculated that it was scarlet colored because this color would tell people where the prostitutes were — sort of like a red light district in our time. But for Rahab, it became the sign of changing sides.

Perhaps you don’t think that’s important. Let’s consider a little bit more contemporary example. Suppose you were a devout Christian in Nazi Germany. You figured out who this guy Hitler really is and what he’s really doing. And now you want to change sides! This is going to be neither easy nor safe. When it comes to the great decisions of life, this is quite similar. When you become a Christian, you change sides. You leave Satan’s side of rebellion and cross over to the side of obedience. As each of us knows, it’s not easy. Perhaps it was little easier in those days for a prostitute to do it; she likely was considered an outcast in her own society — a woman both despised and commercially patronized. That can breed a deep cynicism.

The spies probably saw the cord simply as a method of escape from the city. But Rahab had to look at it as a sign of her salvation. The symbolism of this cord is very much like the symbolism in communion. In both instances, the symbolism is borrowed from things that are at hand. Rahab had the cord, perhaps as advertising. Christ had the Passover and adapted it to communion. The symbolism is borrowed. It is also a symbolism which is quite simple. It doesn’t take much to understand that the bread is his body and the cup his blood. Like us, she would not see her sins as being a barrier to this salvation. Our sins are forgiven and therefore count no more.

But there is a condition: she had to be faithful. She had to fulfill the terms of her agreement with them so that they could rescue her. We too, must be faithful. It is worse than nonsense to take communion as a trivial exercise.

One last thing: if you hang a cord from a high window it goes straight down. It is not just a way of access but something which tells you where the path is. If you want to get from sin to salvation, you have to follow the scarlet cord of the atonement. Be faithful; be honest; take this communion with its full meaning in your heart.

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