Fear or faith

In my head I see the black and white images from the 1950’s civil defense film showing children practicing their “duck and cover” drills. In case of a nuclear attack they were told to hide under their wooden desks and cover their heads because that would provide them protection from the blast. In a state of extreme fear, even the most absurd can seem believable.

This was true for the King of Jericho and the men he sent to apprehend Joshua’s spies. Forty-year-old stories of the bomb that obliterated the Egyptian superpower and most recently destroyed the kings east of the Jordan swept over them like a percussion wave of terror. Great fear fell on them, hearts melted, courage failed, just as Moses had promised (Exodus 15:15).

So great was their dread that, when they thought there was something they could do to stave off the threat, they took the word of a prostitute and believed it. Imagine how that must have sounded. Rahab: “Ah, nope, nobody here. Oh, you mean those foreign looking guys, yeah, they left. I have no idea which way they went but if you start running really, really fast you are sure to catch them.” Men: “OK ma’am, thanks so much, we sure are glad that we have people (sturdy wooden desks) like you that we can depend on to protect us during this terrifying time.”

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and the unbelieving heart will grab on to any earthly promise no matter what its source or how ridiculous it may seem. Whether it is the arrogant false confidence that one can satisfy God’s demand for perfect righteousness or the vain certainty that the world’s definition of sin trumps that of the Lord, the unbelieving heart within us is desperate and will place its trust in the flimsy and worthless. The foolish unbelieving heart will perish as would the child seeking shelter from the blast under the desk.

But don’t miss the fact that Rahab's confidence is just as ridiculous. A pagan fornicator condemned to destruction, yet she had somehow been given the promise of mercy. And only by the working of the Spirit did she believe that offensive and scandalous promise.  

Jericho would surely be destroyed. Rahab knew this, and her believing heart would accept no other source of protection and comfort other than the promise of this same gracious and faithful God. Her words are a prayer that includes both confession and petition: The Lord your God, He is God. Swear to me by the Lord’s name. That will be enough. Nothing else is necessary.

You have the high privilege of proclaiming the promise of Christ crucified and risen, the promise that comes from the God of free and faithful love. It is the promise for those who live in fear.  It calms all fears and delivers from death and destruction. This promise is enough.


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