A small, sweet breeze entered the room, gently rustling the green leaves of the plant that sat on the ledge of the open window. A minty fragrance filled the air as I checked once again the knot of the cord that I had fastened to the window.
It still held tight.
Even though the fear that filled my house and the city in which I lived was so thick it seemed to fill the very air that we breathed, I found myself smiling as I glanced out the window at the thin cord that trailed down to the ground below, coloring the sand colored walls with a splash of red. The events that had transpired over the last few days could not have been orchestrated by anyone other than the God of heaven above and the earth below.
Would you mind if I shared those events with you?
The tension in Jericho, my hometown, was evident in everyone’s faces. At the news that the two powerful Amorite kings had been defeated by a nation – a group of people – called the Israelites, fear had taken up residence in our hearts.
And this was not something we were used to, for Jericho was a powerful city surrounded by two walls. Our army was known for its elite fighting force. We were not a city that was easily attacked or easily conquered.
But, neither were the Amorite kings.
Now, the nation that had conquered them was camped between our city and the Jordan River. This was a nation that was led by a God who though unseen, His mighty works were seen. I had heard the account of how forty years before He had freed this nation of slaves from grip of the Egyptians. Not only that, He had parted the sea, creating a dry path with a wall of water on the right and on the left, making a way of escape for His people. Once they had crossed over, the walls of water had returned to their normal position, decimating the Egyptian army that had tried to follow.
Truly, I believed that the God of this nation was the God of heaven above and the earth below.
For many days, we, the people of Jericho, tried to pretend that everything would be ok. The gates of the city remained open and we attempted to maintain the normalcy of life, but fear was a cloak that everyone wore…
Even the soldiers and the guards.
Then, there was a knock at my door – a knock that would change the course of the events of my life forever.
I opened the door to find two men standing on the other side. They were seeking lodging in this city and they had come to my house. Their voices were strangely accented, and I knew that they were not from Jericho or the surrounding areas. As they began to ask questions about the city, I realized who they were.
They were Israelite spies who had come to spy on our land and our city. I didn’t have to wonder any longer what their plans were.
Jericho was in their sights.
Moments passed by, and soon I heard the sound of marching feet. Soldiers were coming, and I was quite certain that it would be at my door they would be stopping at. I urged the spies to follow me up to the roof of my house where I was drying flax. I parted the stalks so they could lay down, and then I covered them up. I had barely placed the flax in place when I heard another knock at my door.
Composing my face, I took two deep breathes before answering the door. As soon as I did, a regiment of the king’s soldiers swept in. As the soldiers spread out to search my house, the commander demanded that I hand over the spies. Somehow I managed to keep my voice normal as I told him that while the men had been there earlier in the day, they had already left because the city gates were going to close. As the soldiers returned from their search, each one silently shook their head, indicating they had not found the men. To get them out of my house, I suggested that if the soldiers pursued the spies, perhaps they would be able to overtake them.
With a flick of his hand and a quick nod of his head, the commander and his troops streamed out of my house and went through the city gate. As soon as they had left the city, the gates closed.
I returned to the rooftop, unburied the spies, and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth below.”
As I paused to take a breath, a bold courage filled my heart. I needed it for the request that I was about to make, for you see, I had a family – a mother and father, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, who also lived in Jericho – a city that I now knew was slated to be destroyed. Our fighting men and our mighty walls were not going to be able to protect us.
There was only one place where we would find protection and deliverance.
That would be under the wings of the God of the Israelites…the God who could make water stand up in a wall and make a dry path for His people through the heart of the sea…the God who fought for them and gave them strength to defeat the enemies who came against them…
Would the God of heaven above and on the earth below help me? Would He hear my request? Would He deliver me? Would He rescue my family?
Taking a deep breath, I continued, “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you will also deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
As I spoke these words, I realized that I had chosen to believe in this God of the Israelites. He was not only the God of heaven above and the earth below.
He was my God.
As the spies stood up, and brushed away the remains of the flax stalks, they said to me, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
As we went down the stairs, a plan came to my mind. The spies would not be able to leave the city through the gates, but since my house was built right into the walls that surrounded Jericho, I would be able to help them escape by letting them down through one of my windows that was in the outer wall.
Taking a coil of red cord, I fastened one end to the base of one of the pillars in the room. Then I opened a window and let the other end fall downwards. In the dusk of evening, I could see that the cord almost reached close enough to the ground that the spies would be able to escape. Turning back to them, I outlined my plan. “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then after this, you may go on your way.”
As the spies took hold of the cord, they told me to gather my family into my house where they would be protected. However, if any of my family left my house, their blood would be on their own head. They told me to tie the scarlet cord in the window, and warned me that if I told anyone about their business, the promise they had made would not stand.
I agreed to the terms of their plan, and let them out the window. As they disappeared into the darkness, I tied the scarlet cord – a symbol of my faith in God that bound me by hope to Him and His faithfulness – in the window. God had heard my request, and He had provided a way of escape. Now I had to find a way to get my family to come to my house and remain there until our deliverance came.
Together we waited as one day slipped into the next. A few days after the spies left, we received word that just as God had parted the Red Sea for the Israelites, He parted the waters of the Jordan River that were at flood stage. That entire nation crossed over on a dry path. Surely, God was making a way for them.
Then, after the passage of a few more days, a strange event took place. A retinue of soldiers and priests blowing trumpets and carrying a small golden box with poles circled the city one time and then returned to the camp they had set up between Jericho and the Jordan River.
This happened again and again for a total of six days. Not one word was spoken from the troop marching around the city. The only sound was from the ram’s horns – I counted seven – which the priests were blowing.
Today is the seventh day, and something has changed.
As I have watched them out my window, I have noticed that instead of only marching once around the walls, the army and priests have marched around Jericho six times.
In fact, they are just about done their seventh time around.
But wait! Now they have stopped!
And the whole army is shouting! I can feel the foundations of my house trembling. Everything is shaking. The air is filled with dust! What is happening?!! I grip the scarlet cord and lift my eyes upwards to the God of heaven above and earth below – the One who is mighty to save and in whom I have placed my faith and my hope. As the trembling intensifies I cry out to Him, “Please save us!”
Now, the quaking has stopped and the dust is settling. I hear a knock at my door. With a quivering heart and unsteady feet I make my way to the door and open it. There before me are two faces I recognize.
The two spies.
They step into my house and my family gathers around us. “Quickly, we have to get you out of the city! Jericho is about to be burned.” Gathering what we can carry, my family and I step outside the door and into the city.
The sight before my eyes seems too unreal to be real.
The whole city is a heap of rubble. As we make our through the devastation, I look back over my shoulder and see that the walls that once stood proud and tall in defiance to anyone who dared to come against this great city now lay in ruins.
All except for one little part in which a scarlet cord is hanging out of the window.
And somehow in the midst of that chaos, I again lift my eyes to the sky and whisper a heartfelt thank-you to the One who was mighty to save…
The God of heaven above and earth below.
He has heard the request of my heart and my petition for my family.
And He alone is the One who saved us.
(Taken from Joshua 2 and 6)