Shela Lecha
For the week of June 8, 2002 / 28 Sivan 5762
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 13:1 - 15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24

Healthy Fear

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 (Joshua 2:9).

Sometimes it is good to be afraid. It is the emotion of fear that reminds us to keep out of danger.When driving on the highway, we should be afraid to travel on the side of approaching traffic. This kind of healthy fear, doesn't mean that we are constantly filled with terror when we drive. Our fear of being in an accident quietly and effectively keeps us safe.

This week's Haftarah illustrates another kind of healthly fear - fear of God. The residents of the city of Jericho heard about the exploits of the God of Israel. So when the people of Israel encamped by Jericho, they were afraid.

This fear prompted Rahab to provide shelter to two of the Israelites who came to spy out the city. Her understanding of God prompted her to help them rather than hinder them. She knew that the only way to ensure her well-being and that of her family was to cooperate with what God was doing.

Interestingly the other residents of Jericho were afraid too, but most of them still would have resisted him. I guess they were not afraid enough.

As for Rahab her fear of God enableded her to trust God. Her fear led her to faith. Her fear of God helped her not to fear the situation.

Some people have trouble understanding how faith in God can go together with fearing him, but as it says in the book of Proverbs:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).

Fearing God is foundational in learning wisdom. This is not the same as living in dread of God, as if he were a great big meanie in the sky out to destroy unsuspecting humans without warning. God takes no pleasure in our suffering, he only wants our greatest good.

At the same time God is not to be trifled with. The world is his creation, and humans were made to reflect and represent him. If we insist on doing as we please, ignoring him and his ways, then we will find ourselves driving on the wrong side of the highway so to speak.

But we don't need to live in dread of God. In fact, like Rahab, if we have a healthly fear of him, we will find ourselves able to rest in his love and protection.

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