“Paint the Town Red”
April 16, 217
By, Ed Young
The colors of Easter are familiar – pink, yellow, lavender. But there’s one color that truly captures the message and meaning of this time of year. It’s the color red. In this Easter message, Pastor Ed Young helps us realize the power behind the color red by tracing it through the Bible and ultimately to the cross. And when we realize just how strong the red rope of redemption is, we discover what we need to truly paint the town red!
INTRO: I have a question for you on this Easter weekend. What can a prostitute teach us about Easter? Now, before you cover the ears of your kids and head for the exits, I want you to think about that question. What does a prostitute have to do with Easter?
Before I answer that question, I want to talk to you a little bit about the colors of Easter. I think the colors are unique. They’re absolutely beautiful. Pink. Lavender. Yellow. The colors of Easter are definitely beautiful. But the real color of Easter is the color red.
Red is mentioned in the Scriptures more than any other color. Red represents our immoral behavior, our sin that everyone commits. But it also represents the blood that Jesus spilled to redeem us from sin. So red is the color of Easter and I’ve called today’s message, “Paint the town red.”
There’s a woman mentioned in the Bible who was a prostitute, a call girl, an escort. She was a shady lady from the town of Jericho.
It’s been said that nature forms us, sin deforms us, education informs us, but only Jesus can transform us.
Rahab, this harlot who was living like hell, was in a desperate situation. Obviously this Heidi Fleiss of Scripture had made a lot of money in the oldest profession. But, she was a pagan living in spiritual darkness. She was destined for destruction. Her consequence because of being a Canaanite was literally to be wiped out by the army of God. Because the army of God led by General Joshua was to take out her city, Jericho. Yet, even though her sentence looked sinister, God does something that’s ridiculously redemptive. Even though she was in a desperate situation; even though she had been sentenced, God did something in his providence that demanded a decision from her.
General Joshua thought it would be a really brilliant idea to send some spies to do a secret reconnaissance mission on the city of Jericho before they took it out. We’ve been reading so much about the intelligence communities and with Wikileaks and all of the mayhem and drama in the CIA and NSA. It’s so interesting that Joshua sent some spies to check out the land.
Well, the first place they stopped was Rahab’s house, because her house was built into the city wall. And it’s not merely a coincidence or by happenstance; it’s not just by or through serendipity that these men of faith stopped by this house. In this house, we know, was Rahab – a sinful woman, a depraved woman who deserved the judgment of God.
But there’s something different about her that separated her from all of the other residents in the city of Jericho. She had a heart that was hungry for the Lord. If you would have looked at her, you would have gone, “What? This ho, this hooker? You mean she’s hungry for God?” See, we have to realize that God loves the most spectacular sinner amongst us.
There was a woman loved of God whose heart wanted to know God. In spite of her depravity, she desired God. She desired the mercy and the compassion of God. And she’s confronted by the providence of God, the strange working of God, the protective care of God, the timely preparations for future eventualities. That’s what Bible scholars call the “providence of God.”
We might say it’s by happenstance, luck, coincidence, or it’s serendipitous. But as God was working in Rahab’s life, likewise he was working in the lives of these spies, these men of God who came to Rahab’s house.
We have to understand the providence of God, how God works in bringing people to himself. First of all, the Holy Spirit begins to work in the heart of one person who, like Rahab, is hungry for God. And the Holy Spirit brings forth circumstances, situations, and conversations that some would call happenstance, chance, luck to work upon that person’s life until that person is softened, until that person is prepared and hungry enough to want to know the bread of life.
So he’s doing that in a person’s life who is a sinner. And then at the same time through his providence he’s working in the heart and the soul and the mind of other people like these two men of faith. God brings them together, which again seems like a chance meeting. It’s just “happenstance.” But it’s God who arranges, who masterminds the whole thing. And it’s the providence of God that confronts the person who needs the Lord.
God has been preparing, by his providence, only by the mystery of the works of God; he’s been preparing the hearts and lives of so many people who will come to Fellowship during all of our Easter services. He’s been working behind the scenes, covertly, in the lives of prostitutes, the privileged, the poor, and the professional to bring you to this point.
Likewise, he’s been arranging in our lives, in my life through his providence, through his sovereignty, the burden that has been placed on me to tell you the good news on Easter of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And that very news is news you can use today! It’s a beautiful collision in the providence of God, the way he works and the way he moves in our world.
You’re not here by happenstance, luck, chance; it’s not serendipitous. You’ve been drawn here by the Spirit of God.
So again, notice her deserved sentence. And then notice the divine providence.
Well, back to the story. The king of Jericho heard that these spies were in the city. I’m not sure if it was due to wiretapping. I’m not sure who was unmasked. But he found out. The king confronted Rahab about it. And Rahab was like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
So she sent the king’s henchmen outside the city gates to search for the spies while she hid them in her house. And through a brief conversation with these men of God, she told them that she had heard of the wonderful things that the Lord had done through Israel.
What caused her to have this conviction to know that God had given to the Israelites this Promised Land? What caused her to know that Jericho was jacked up? What caused her to know that God was such a great God?
In Joshua 2:11b it says, “…for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
How does she know that? She knew that through observing the miracles that God had done in the hearts and the lives of the Israelites. Her sentence, God’s providence. But the evidence was convicting her. How God had parted the Red Sea. How he took out the two kings of the Amorites. There’s something miraculous about life change in someone’s life that brings us under conviction just through observation.
You know there’s so much evidence that demands a verdict when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You can read about it, study it. We have different books available at our resource centers at every single location. But we, those of us who have been redeemed, we are supposed to be a part of the evidence as well. God ought to be regularly doing something in our lives that cannot be explained. What is it in your life that can’t be explained? What is it in the life of Fellowship that can’t be explained?
ILLUS: I first got in contact with this when I was a sophomore at Florida State University. I was walking across our beautiful campus on one spring morning. And one of my teammates, who was far away from God, looked at me and said, “Ed, there’s something different about you. I’ve been watching your life. Whatever you have, I want what you have.”
I saw, for the first time in my life up close and personal, that I, because of God, can become evidence. And that evidence led to this college kid being ambushed by God’s grace.
It’s so interesting to see how God arranges, through his providence, these beautiful collisions. Phillip was in Samaria. And in Acts 8 God moved Phillip in a nanosecond to a desert road and put him in the path of an Ethiopian eunuch who was a heavy hitter in his day. And this God moment transpired into a God miracle. It was not a coincidence, but a God incident.
The same is true when Cornelius in Acts 10, an officer, a Gentile had a hunger to know God. And at the same time God was working on Simon Peter as he was praying to go to Cornelius’ house and share Jesus with him. The providence of God.
Then Jesus, going to a Samaritan well to get some water, meeting the woman at Cycar, who was sort of like Rahab. And there, she found the water of life.
So what am I saying on this Easter? I’m saying the same Lord that brought these spies to the house of Rahab; the same Lord that brought Phillip to the Ethiopian eunuch; the same Lord that brought Peter to Cornelius; the same Lord that brought Jesus to the woman at the well is working right here at Klyde Warren Park. He’ll be working tomorrow at our different locations. He’ll be working Sunday at our different services. Through conversations, situations, and invitations to bring you into a beautiful collision.
Why do you think these two spies, these two men of God were in a position to give such wonderful advice to Rahab? Because they were available. “If you’re preparing someone’s heart tomorrow and you want to use me in this situation, God, I’m available.” What someone might think is coincidence is really providence.
So the providence that confronted her was that God had some people he could use. The evidence that convicted her was that these people had been transformed. But notice the confidence that converted her.
She was saved by faith. Hebrews 11 says faith transformed her life. So Rahab took a red rope, a scarlet rope. And we know that she was well off because anytime anyone had something of color, an item that had been dyed, that was something that was highly sought after. So after she sent the king’s henchmen on a wild goose chase, she made a pact with the men of faith. She said, “Here’s this red rope. You can use it to climb out of the window of my house to escape.” And then these guys said, “I’ll tell you what. Because you want you and your family spared, if you hang this red rope out of your window, when our army comes in to destroy the city, we’ll pass over your house and give you and your family protection.”
The rope literally saved the men and it saved Rahab and her family.
This red rope stands for the blood of Jesus. It’s an Old Testament picture of the blood. These Jews who told her this were fresh off the experience of the Passover. When the Lord had said to them, “Apply the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of your house and when I see the blood I will pass over you.” So this scarlet rope was to be to Rahab what the scarlet blood was to them.
This is an Old Testament picture of redemption by the blood. Because the Bible says without the shedding of blood there is no remission.
So what was it that transformed Rahab? The blood of Jesus. You say, “Wait a minute. Jesus hadn’t died yet. He hadn’t risen yet.” The Bible says in the heart and mind of God that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world. And Rahab the harlot was saved by looking forward to the blood of Christ just as we’re saved by looing back to the blood of Jesus.
God only has one plan of salvation and it’s the red rope of redemption, the blood of Jesus, the blood of the lamb.
But not only did this blood deliver her, it transformed her. It wasn’t just judgment that she escaped. She became a pure and virtuous woman. She married a prince of Israel. She ended up being the great, great grandmother of King David. And ultimately, she is in the lineage of Jesus.
Rahab didn’t understand it all when she made this decision. And I didn’t understand it all when I gave my heart to Jesus. But my heart was hungry. Not only did Rahab confess her faith secretly; she confessed it outwardly. She put that red rope out of her window. That’s a house under the blood.
“Paint the town red” is to go out and enjoy one’s self flamboyantly, to live it out. I believe after today’s message, a lot of us will want to flamboyantly live it up the way we were wired to do so.
Rahab dropped out of her window the red rope, which allowed the men of God, the spies, to escape. Moreover, when the Israelite army came to destroy Jericho, because she had the red rope displayed, the army passed over destroying her house. You’ve got to realize this pass over mentality, this redemption, God’s redemptive work had just been on display, because the Israelites took unblemished lambs and put their blood on the doorposts. When they did so the judgment of God passed over their homes.
This is definitely a picture of redemption. It’s a picture, an illustration of what Jesus did on the cross. We can track the rope of redemption, trace it and follow it throughout the Bible. Because the rope is woven into our world. It’s coiled into our conscience. The story of Rahab is a trailer, a preview if you will, for things to come. You’re watching Netflix or go to the movies and you see a preview or trailer of what’s going to happen. And the trailer gives us little tidbits, it wets our appetite for the feature presentation, which obviously is what we’re celebrating this weekend, Easter.
It’s interesting. We have this atonement awareness in our minds. This “somebody’s got to pay” mentality. In novels, movies, theater, law enforcement, the military, life in general. When someone commits a crime; when someone hurts someone, we say, “Somebody’s got to pay.”
Animals don’t have this. When our dogs break out of our yard, the other dogs in the neighborhood don’t go, “Oh! They’re out. I’m going to call the cops. They’ve broken the law!”
Human beings are the only ones that have this “Someone’s got to pay” attitude. We have this justice chip going on. Study every culture and tribe and people group. They’ve all devised some sort of system to pay for wrongdoings. Some will throw you in prison. Some will devise some sort of other way to pay for your wrongdoings. Sometimes you have to pay a fine. Others you pay the ultimate penalty – death.
It’s interesting. On one hand God is loving. He’s forgiving. On the other hand he is holy and righteous and a God of judgment. Thus, because God is a loving God and because he’s a holy God, sin must have a payment. And the payment for sin is death.
You see and you can trace the red rope of redemption all the way back into the first man and first woman’s conscience. They were in a perfect environment. They had a freedom of choice. They chose to do their own thing, to rebel against God. They realized they’d messed up. They realized, the Bible says, their nakedness and vulnerability after they sinned. So they tried to cover themselves. But that didn’t really work. So God killed an animal, skinned the animal right in front of them. He shed its blood and made coverings for them.
Genesis 3:7, 21, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves… 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
You know everybody was waiting to see what God was going to do because of their sinfulness. God arranges for an alternative route, another path, another way. Adam and Eve had never seen the unnatural movements of a dying animal. They’d never heard the shrills. They’d never seen the blood soaked in the soil of the garden. God killed the animal, skinned it, and covered them. God was introducing the essence of our faith, the guts of the gospel. Substitutionary atonement.
The word “atone” means “to cover.” It means an innocent third party must shed his blood to cover the sins of the guilty party, therefore allowing the guilty party to go free. God could have said, “You pay for your own sins in a place called hell.” But he didn’t. He said, “I’m going to provide another way – atonement.”
Now you move to the book of Exodus as we continue to trace the red rope. The Israelites were in Egyptian slavery. The Egyptians were sinning all over the place. God’s people were sinning all over the place. It was a big, massive sinful mess. So God said, “It’s atonement time. Somebody’s got to pay.” So he told Moses, “Tell your people to go out. And I want every household to kill an unblemished lamb, take the blood, and put it on the doorposts. Because on a certain night I’m sending a death angel around. And if the death angel sees the blood applied to the doorpost of your home, he’ll pass over the house. I he doesn’t see the blood applied and people diss my directive, death angel will take the life of the firstborn male child of every family.”
So a lot of people obeyed God’s directive. A lot of people didn’t. Those who didn’t suffered death. Those who did were passed over.
If you look at the book of Leviticus, it talks about the day of atonement and all about the sacrificial system. Because in every town and village, when the sacrificial system was in effect, tens of thousands of animals were dying. The shed blood of these animals could not take away sin, but they would cover it. The blood of animals could cover it, but it could not make someone righteous.
Well, the high priest on the day of atonement would go to the holy of holies and he would kill a goat. The goat would symbolize the forgiveness of the nation’s sins. Then he would take another goat, give it to this crossfit looking guy, and he would run out into the wilderness. At the 12 mile marker he would stop and let the scapegoat go. And this scapegoat represented that the guilt from the sins was lost.
Then you go to Isaiah. This Old Testament guy was talking about some things that were way out. He was insinuating that God was going to send a human being to atone for the sins of the world, once and for all. And that this human being was going to be so righteous, holy, amazing that his sacrifice would reach all the way back to the beginning of time, the present, and head to the future. It was going to be all-encompassing, so far-reaching. Isaiah says it in Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
So enter Jesus. John the Baptist had this unique wardrobe and he said in John 1:29, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Atonement until this time had to do with covering. But now it means to take away. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
On the cross God treated Jesus like he was you and me so that he could turn around and treat you and me like we are Jesus.
A lot of people are running around who are followers of Christ saying, “My sins are forgiven.” But there’s more to it than that. As a believer, you don’t really know who you are in Christ because there’s another half that most people don’t talk about and that we forget. If sinfulness was all God needed for Christ to die on the cross for our sins, then Christ could have died when he was two. He didn’t. Yes, he was sinless. But there’s something else.
We have to understand that Jesus perfectly obeyed the will of the father. He was 100% righteous. When it comes to righteousness we would say he crushed it, he killed it. So as believers, when we receive Christ, we’ve got the forgiveness of Jesus and the righteousness wired into our account. When you face God, do you want to stand on your record of obedience or Christ’s record of obedience?
I’m so glad that God has thrown us a rope. The hope is in the rope, the red rope of redemption.
See the reason we have the resurrection is because the resurrection is the evidence, it’s the declaration of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. It’s because of his sinlessness and also his righteousness.
When you die, have you made the proper arrangements for your sins? Are you planning on paying for your own sins? Are you planning on standing on your own obedience, your own track record? Or on Christ’s?
Rahab was destined for destruction. The judgment of God was hanging heavily over her head. Here was a woman in darkness and depravity, living a life of immorality. Yet, she was changed. She was transformed. She went from a prostitute to marrying a prince of Israel. She was so dramatically changed that she’s brought into the very bloodline of our savior and is the ancestor to the Lord Jesus Christ.
You’ll even read her name when you look at the hall of faith in Hebrews 11. She moved from the Hall of Shame to the Hall of Fame! And she was transformed by tying a red rope from the window of her house. A red rope!
The people that told her to do that had a similar experience. They’d just come out of the land of Egypt and the Lord had told them to take the blood of a lamb and put it on the doorposts so when the angel of judgment came through he would pass over the houses that had applied the blood. These men said, “Rahab, you tie this red rope from your window, because when the instruments of God’s justice come through Jericho, we’ll pass over your house and you’ll be safe.”
I believe that red rope to her was what the red blood of the lamb was to God’s people. And the blood of the lamb pointed to the lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world. For the Bible tells us in Corinthians that Christ is our Passover lamb and he’s sacrificed for us.
The Bible is read, but it’s also red. It’s all about his blood redemption. The red rope of redemption is throughout the Bible.
Some people don’t really like talking about the blood because to them it’s gory. It’s not a gory story. It’s a glory story!
We have to understand that God has put the red rope of redemption across the path of every person. We have to understand the prophecy of the red rope of redemption. The Old Testament is simply a tasting of what’s going to come. Redemption, the blood sacrifice, was planned before God ever made this world.
Calvary – the death, burial, and resurrection – was not incidental nor accidental; it was a fundamental facet of God’s plan before he made the world.
Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Can we understand that totally? No. We can’t know the unknowable. As you look at Genesis 3, the rope is coiled around that. In fact, if you want to understand the Bible, you need to have a really good understanding of Genesis 3. Because we see that God made coats of skin for Adam and Eve to clothe them. You have to understand, for God to make a garment, an animal skin to cover them, he had to first kill the animal. Adam and Eve had never seen death before. He had to shed its blood to cover their nakedness. When they had messed up, they were stricken with guilt. They had a case of the guilties. They tried to cover their sins, but that didn’t work. Because, I’m sure they thought it looked good. But what looked good to one another was not able to withstand the brilliant blaze of the thrice holy God.
When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t die as a martyr. His blood was really not spilled. It was poured out at Calvary.
John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
When Jesus was on the cross he told Simon Peter he could call twelve legions of angels if he wanted to. You know how many angels would make up twelve legions? 72,000. We have to understand, Jesus came to die. He planned to die. He lived to die. He was born to die.
Colossians 1:20, “…and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
I can tell you with total and complete confidence, the devil does not want you to hear the message of the blood of Jesus. He hates it. He hopes you don’t understand the power of the blood because there’s power to overcome Satan. Everybody this Easter is coming in contact with the blood of Jesus. We either walk out of this place over the blood or under the blood.
Grace erased her former life. Hebrews 9:19-22, “When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
The blood is precious because it’s perfect and pure. The resurrection is evidence of the righteousness of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice.
The woman is the red light Rahab.
Maybe God has sent some messengers, some spies into your life who represent what he’s done and what he’s going to do.
When she lowered her rope out of the window, she only had a certain window of opportunity, a timeframe.
The rope made a way out for the spies and made a way in for Rahab and her family.
God took a prostitute, a call girl, and connected her with the prince of Israel, Salmon. They had a baby, Boaz, who married Ruth. They had a son, Obed, the father of Jesse, the dad of King David. And the lineage continues from Jacob, who had a son named Joseph, whose wife was Mary, and their son was Jesus.
Your past doesn’t determine your future.
Grab the rope of hope. Don’t miss this window.
Redemption is the action of saving or being saved from sin. It’s the action of gaining possession of something in exchange for payment.
The red rope of redemption has been put in your path. It’s the providence of God. What’s providence? Timely preparations for future eventualities. That’s the protective care of God.
This rope of redemption forces a decision.