Scripture: At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel. Joshua 10:12-14 ESV
Observation: Chapter 9 concludes with the Gibeonites returning to their city after striking a covenant of peace with Joshua and his leaders under the pretense they had traveled from a distant land. Here, in chapter 10, we learn the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon have joined forces for fear that other rival nations of the region would defect to Israel and strengthen its numbers. So they march toward Gibeon with the intent to destroy the city and its people and set an example for any other would-be defectors. Thus, according to the covenant, the Gibeonites send word to Joshua not to delay defending them (vv.1-6).
In the next scene (vv.7-15), Joshua immediately responds and marches about twenty miles from Gilgal to Gibeon with his men of valor through the night to facilitate a surprise attack (another military practice of Joshua). Along the way, Yahweh speaks to Joshua and tells him not to fear, for he will give the opposition into Joshua’s hands. And indeed, the Lord does, for he strikes their enemies with fear and panic and pelts them with large hailstones as they retreat. Lastly, per Joshua’s request, Yahweh causes the sun to stand still so that Israel may fight in the light until they have inflicted utter devastation on their enemy (above verses).
Takeaway: Scholars debate this passage that portrays a miracle never again duplicated: the earth’s rotation ceasing momentarily to extend daylight. But some contend that Joshua requested shade to alleviate the sweltering heat of battle, which a solar eclipse may have caused. Others, citing the poetic grammar of verses 12-13, postulate the language is metaphorical, implying that God used elements of his creation (hailstones and darkness/light) that harken to two of the plagues used to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt. Regardless, as with all supernatural events, the method, not the means, constitutes the miracle. His otherwordly timing, irrespective of the resources, is enough to celebrate God delivering Israel’s enemy into their hands as promised.
So how does this story relate to us in our modern civilization that scarcely sees or believes in miraculous events? Our text implies that Joshua exercised faith in commanding the sun and moon to stand still. Jesus certainly understood the importance of faith. Indeed, citing the example of moving a mountain, he urged his disciples to exercise their faith (Matthew 17:20). But did he mean they could move mountains, or did he employ metaphor or hyperbole to emphasize his point? Perhaps. Still, how do we explain in natural terms how Christ raised the dead, fed the multitudes, and walked on water? Regardless, the most outstanding example of our Father performing a miracle to rescue his people is his Son’s death and resurrection. The means? Crucifixion. The method? Supreme power and love. And he still extends his light on the retreating hearts of those running out of time, granting them victory over the sting of death.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for revealing your power and love in the death and resurrection of your Son. Would you please help us to walk by faith as your Son’s ambassadors so that we might extend his light into the darkened corners of our world and witness the miracle of your Son’s Gospel moving from the head to the heart? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling