“I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.”
Rahab is a remarkable biblical character, later referenced as a hero of faith in the book of Hebrews 11:31. And this is the moment where she earns that title. In that situation, it seems most natural to fear the Israelites themselves, especially the armed spies that had dropped into the city, but Rahab is quite bold with the men, demanding assurances of safety from them. She doesn’t fear the Israelites…but she does fear the Israelites’ God. And this contrasts so starkly with the fear of the Israelites, who despaired at the sight of the giants of Canaan, completely forgetting the God that had led them to this land. Rahab fears correctly, not men, but God.
But the real beauty of this passage is that fear of God is qualitatively different from fear of man. Fear of man has few redeeming characteristics, maybe self-preservation. But fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and provides perspective on our life and our world. It is a fear that naturally evolves into the deeper, richer waters of holiness and love. And it is a fear that drives out all other fears, as we read in Psalm 27:
The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.
1. What or Whom are you afraid of in your life?
2. 1 John 4:18 reminds us that “perfect love drives out fear”. What effect does God’s character, his power, faithfulness and love, have on the fears you listed?
3. It’s unpopular to talk about nowadays, but we are commanded to fear God – why do you think fear of God is beneficial for us?