Forty women: 18. Rahab

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord recognises that God is God, that he is all-powerful, that he is Almighty. The fear of the Lord causes hearts to melt and knees to tremble, and mouths to dry and men to bow down.

Rahab feared the Lord. Rahab, safe within the walls of the city of Jericho, had heard the stories of this shambolic group in the wilderness whose God had enabled them to defeat the organised armies of Sihon and Og. Stories of this group of runaway slaves, whose God had enabled their break for freedom by drying up the waters of the Red Sea. Stories of the claim they had – even though they were taking their time about it – to come and conquer Canaan. Starting with Jericho.

Rahab had heard the stories, she felt the fear, and she knew that the Israelites’ God was God indeed: “When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11).

Yahweh, the Lord, is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

What do you do when you are confronted with this God and realise you are on the wrong side of him? What do you do when your courage fails and you are afraid?

You change your allegiance. You throw your lot in with his. You disobey your own king, you hide the Israelite spies, and you plead with them for mercy. You don’t want to be a Canaanite any more. You want to be on God’s side.

You plead for mercy. For your life to be spared, and the lives of those you love. You demand a sign that will protect you on the day when your city is destroyed. Instead of losing your life, you will save it.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom for Rahab. It prompts her to switch her allegiance, to defy her king, to seek mercy and protection for herself and her family. And we know it was only the beginning. She lived out the rest of her years on earth as a faithful Israelite, and her memory lived on much longer. Rahab was honoured as one of those women mentioned by name in the ancestry of Christ himself. She is honoured for her faith in the book of Hebrews, and for her righteousness in the book of James.

Because it doesn’t matter, in the end, whether you first turn to God out of love or fear. What matters is that you turn to the Lord, who is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Throw yourself on his mercy and he will not let you fall.

Forty women: 19. Deborah