Written by Paul J. Bucknell on July, 17, 2019
Joshua 10:1-43 – The Day the Sun Stood Firm in the Sky –
Why Record Joshua 10 if it Increases the Number of Skeptics?
Many people have not thoroughly read the Bible. Sometimes, though, because they have heard of one particular passage and perhaps a
critical comment undermining it, they have disregarded the value and authority of the scriptures. This same issue comes up again and again among skeptics. “You mean you believe in the Bible!” “That’s impossible.”
One might wonder why the Lord put this passage in the Bible at all. Would not the world be that much closer to the Lord and open to the scriptures if extreme-sounding passages were not in the Bible? But this is man’s reasoning and inadequate.
For instance, we could easily go and make the Bible much more acceptable to the public if we took out all the miracles. Thomas Jefferson, the chief writer of the US constitution, did this with the Jefferson Bible. He believed that the Bible taught the highest ethics available but carefully eliminated the religious and miraculous components. People don’t understand that morals derives from the Lord Himself.
Secularists don’t like these miracles and have little room for them in their worldview. God is not happy with such endeavors. One of the last verses of the Bible in Revelation says,
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19).
I have come to respect every part of the Bible even if I do not understand it. Instead of acting pridefully with skepticism, I try to treasure every word even as Jesus Christ did.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19, NASB).
Jesus was convinced of the value of all the Word of God. He even says every letter and stroke is important. Plead ignorance to God’s purpose of writing different parts of the Bible or confess that you are not sure of its relevance to your life but dare not arrogantly accept the criticism that is thrown at the Word of God.
We can pray for people and proclaim God’s Word, but there will always be critics. For decades people mocked Noah and the building of the ark. None of it made sense—building a huge boat on land without trailers and 18 wheelers to move it. Noah was faithful and the skeptics of his day could not thwart him from building the ark as God commanded.
So what incident recorded in the Bible has been flung about in our skeptical society probably more than any other? I can only come away from this with a holy awe of God’s choice to include it. As far as I am concerned, this makes the incident that much more important. God was willing to allow His precious Word to be mocked through the ages just so that we could have this message. I hope we all pay close attention to it. We will find the passage that we are discussing in Joshua 10.
Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel (Joshua 10:12-14, NASB).
Skeptics are known for their doubt. By knowing a few things, they suppose they know a lot.
The skepticism serves as a source problem for many critics. While the scriptures have shown themselves to be very accurate through the ages, charges of inaccuracy have been regularly brought against the Bible.
The Judas Gospel
The press hailed the new translation of a 300 AD Gnostic text as a challenge to what the four gospel writers wrote. They suggest that the book’s viewpoint might be more accurate than the four gospels. The Gospel of Judas presents Judas Iscariot as a good guy. The press is unprincipled in their articles for they do not allow the readers to evaluate that the reliability of the Gospel writers and are unwilling to account that there are four Gospels against one. The Gospels were consistent stories and served as eye-witnesses to the events at the time. This is in total contrast to the other unknown writer who lived hundreds of years after Jesus’ time and was heavily influenced by a cult known as Gnosticism. They are not interested in its accuracy and therefore resort to such tactics. Meanwhile, the Bible has shown itself over these millenniums to withstand the charges against it.
One such charge mentioned that the finding of the walls of Jericho to suggest the Bible’s unreliability. The early 1900s archaeologist’s report said that the scene had no resemblance to what was said in the scriptures. But if you studied the details of the report of what she saw, then one would conclude quite different. She and other teams actually found the fallen walls just as the scripture stated. No one would expect walls to fall outward forming a path into the city but this is the way the wall fell. But they dishonestly did not report it.
Documentary Theory Hypothesis
Earlier in the 1900s, one skepticism that catapulted the documentary theory (JEPD) into prominence and acceptance was that there was no writing back in Moses’ time. With this assumption, we could easily see how they would come up with theories explaining who later wrote the first five books of the Bible and the editing process they went through. Now, of course, that assumption that there was no writing back around 1500 BC has been proven false and Moses, with his high education in the Egyptian court, now found to be quite able to write the Pentateuch. But that doubtful sentiment combined with their critical approach of examining the scriptures was integrated in the skeptics’ minds which persisted in their beliefs—even when their foundational assumption was found to be in error. This only points out that the skeptics are not looking for truth but for ways to keep the truth of God from them!
The last questioned miracle that I mention is the charge that Jesus did not rise from the dead. We could ask the skeptic, “How do you know that it did not happen?” There have been several critics who tried to prove Christianity was wrong by showing that the resurrection was not a historical event. I have one such book. This lawyer was careful in his research but when he looked at the facts as presented in the four Gospels, he found that the claim and presentation perfectly matched. He became a believer.
But let us return and find what great teaching the Lord holds here in Joshua 10. This passage played such an important part in our knowledge that the Lord did not mind giving ammunition to the critics.
Before going on, though, perhaps we should take a moment to describe various interpretations of this extended day.
Interpretations of Joshua 10:12-14
What really happened on that day?
We do not want to state more than the Bible says. If the Bible text does not state that the sun stood in the sky, then we have no business to believe it. On the other hand, if it does so state the event, then we should believe it. Although we welcome what the scriptures say, we should not be afraid to see what it does say. Unfortunately, some come to the scriptures with a mindset that miracles cannot happen.
In other words, they don’t believe such and such a thing could happen so they try to use other interpretations denying what the scriptures state. Unfortunately, a person’s bias will shape one’s interpretations. This is mighty dangerous. Basically, a person comes to God’s Word with doubt and looks for ‘excuses’ to live the way they do so that they would not be challenged by God’s piercing truths. But if we come to study a passage in faith, we can study with real clarity. We are open to miracles, but we do not make them up. We can better see if the passage really necessitates a miracle or not. This passage is very much like that. Let’s look at some ways people understand this passage.
Whether in the Hebrew Bible or the English, portions of Joshua 10:12-13 are written in poetic form rather than prose (narrative). One can observe this in some versions by the special indentation used to identify the short poem. Most of the books like Joshua are narrative in style so that when there is a poem, it is easily identifiable.
Some suggest that because it is poetry, then it cannot be counted on to clearly describe the event. Poetry does have a certain license in using descriptive language. We need to be careful in interpreting these verses. They propose in this case that the poetical form hints at a special time where an impossible amount of work was done during what seemed a long day.
Does this mean that it is just a memorable way of remembering the wonderful victory that day? I don’t think so. Take a careful look at the later part of verse 13 and 14. They were not in poetic form but returned back to the more common narrative form. Furthermore, these narrative verses clearly restate what was so special that day. The poetic portion of verses 12-13 are indeed more poetic than the other parts, but this does not mean they did not state the truth about the sun remaining longer in the sky. In fact, having both the poem and the narrative restatement acts as a powerful confirmation that this is the interpretation that we should have of the text. Another confirmation is that an outside resource also recounts what the author here knows.
We might not know what it means by the sun stopped in the middle of the sky but at least we can accept this as being what it says.
Confused by time
Others think that the people back then were very confused about the sun. They were so busy in battle that they totally forgot to closely observe the sun. After all, they did not sleep at night. That bit about being an extra long day only meant it seemed like a very long day. Those who do not use clocks, however, are very attentive to the sun and its patterns. We might not be used to using the sun and its shadows as a clock, but they sure did.
A cool day
There are others that speculate what is here described has more to do with what kind of day Joshua was asking for so that he could effectively defeat his enemies. They believe that Joshua was asking for a cloudy day so that they could win a more decisive victory. They would see a special answer to prayer in the great storms of that day where more enemy soldiers were killed by hailstones than by the army (verse 11). But a cloudy overcast is not what was sought. In any case, it seems that Joshua said his prayer after the hailstorm.
A hidden sun
Another version, a bit similar to the one above, attempts to use other meanings of the Hebrew word for ‘stand still’ to mean dim or cease. In other words, the sun was made ‘dim’ by the storm clouds. Indeed this Hebrew word is sometimes used in this way. But the question is, “Does it mean ‘dim’ in this case?” This word is used for the sun and the moon in verse 12. But in verse 13 it is hard to continue on with this viewpoint. There are three major problems with this interpretation.
(1) The parallel word for sun is the moon. Verse 13 uses a word that simply means to stand or stay where appointed;
2) Verse 13 uses the word ‘not hasten’ to describe the event which does not at all make sense with the meaning ‘dim’; and
3) It also does not match the sun being in the middle of the sky (10:13).
Although it is fine to try various word usages, this interpretation proves incompatible with the context.
Extended day hours
Others have written the opposite. The sun and moon stopped still in the sky so that Joshua and his armies would have more daylight to carry about a more decisive victory. Of course, the problem with this is the objection that the sun cannot stand still. The sun can’t stay still. The whole sun-planet is part of a huge massive rotation.
But do we know for sure that the Creator is not able to do what He wants with the universe? Can we insist that there is no way to do this? How do we know that there is no way to do this? Is our confidence derived from knowledge or ignorance? How much of the sun do we understand?
Even though I love science and mathematics, this does not create any problems with me. Why? Because it is reasonable. Think of it this way. If the Creator had put the two lights in the sky in the first place, could He not manipulate them the way He wants? The key question is if we accept God as He has defined Himself in the scripture as being the Mighty Creator. The only other apparent option is to discount God’s Creatorship and involvement in the world. This goes too far for me. God and His word have shown Himself very reliable on other matters so I will accept the miracle for what it says. After all, I hardly understand anything about the sun and the moon. Am I to profess more knowledge than God about these things? This is very unreasonable!
Here are five major points that clearly stand out in the passage.
Major Points of Joshua 10:12-14
There are several points that clearly stand out in the passage.
Any interpretation that leaves out these emphases is inconsistent with what is being taught. Those present recognized something miraculous took place that day. It left a tremendous impression upon them. Unless we can accept this, then we can learn nothing from the Word of God.
- Something miraculous took place that day that enabled them to secure a wonderful victory.
- That miracle came about because of Joshua’s prayer.
- That miracle had to do with the sun and moon, something with which only God could affect.
- The victory had to do with an extended time to fight the enemy before they scattered back to their cities.
- God fought for Israel.
The main point is that God not only gave them a great victory, but the victory came about in such a manner that it made a great impression on the Israelites and the enemies about them. Remember verse 14, “And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.” God delighted that Joshua had faith to ask Him of such a requests.
We must have faith to rightly approach this passage just like Genesis 1:1-6. We cannot prove these things happen nor recreate the events. Just recently we gathered a little dust from a meteor and find ourselves so excited. People regularly exchange old theories for new ones. Those captured dust particles are no exception. Being light years away from understanding many galactic events and phenomena, we should not be so arrogant to think that we know everything. It is not unreasonable that the Creator would do such a thing. It ism however, absurd to think that man could do such a thing. It might be inconsistent with what we usually observe but the Maker of all thing certainly could have inserted subroutines within the laws of the universe.
The Message of Joshua 10:12-14
And this is what is so exciting about this passage—God intervened in the world’s affairs because He was willing to be involved in man’s puny affairs. The Book of Joshua clearly defies every aspect of secularism which states God is not involved in the affairs of man. Christians have generally allowed the spirit of secularism to seep into their lives so that there is little remaining faith. It is time we allow the Spirit of God to sweep our souls clean from this virus that only spits up doubt and mediocrity.
Battles are recorded for us so that we see how God can help us through the difficulties we face. We have sufficient faith to trust Him for some things like eating. We should not allow fear to hold us back from thinking what will happen if I put those pieces of meat and vegetables down my throat. We have grown in our faith, step by step.
Jericho and even the crossing of the Jordan were there to strengthen the faith of God’s people to trust the Lord to intervene in this world to bring about spectacular victories. Some people suggest that God only does special miracles at key times in history such as when God’s people go into the land or when the Lord was starting the church. They say that miracles are only for such times.
That perspective has problems. It is true that we should not regularly expect what we call miracles all the time, for, in that case, there would be no such things as miracles! But more important is the fact that God will, when necessary, use incredible changes from what we are used to so that He can accomplish His good and gracious will. The chief reason for these miracles is to cause our hearts to live in awe of Him. He wants to make Himself great in our eyes. He wants our view of Him to correlate with what is true about Him.
Let me ask a question. “Why did the Lord cause the sun to stand still in the sky?” I would like to propose that God delighted to lead Joshua and His people due to their obedience and that when we step in obedience to God, special things might occur in our lives. The problem is not whether we need miracles or that God will not provide them. The westernized church has not seen many miracles because it has stopped believing in God. They no longer believe He is relevant. It is sad, but anytime the church starts living apart from its head, it will soon stumble. Cut off a person’s head and he will not last long. Christians in other cultures are not so secularized. They still see miracle after miracle. They imitate what we see Joshua doing—making bold requests to secure God’s will. Professing believers face two underlying problems with our faith in this secular society.
1) Self-sufficiency: We are proud of what we can do on our own.
a) We think we can do well on our own.
b) We have lesser goals than God would have for us (those that are reachable)
c) We suffer from all sorts of problems that otherwise could be solved.
2) We half-heartedly carry out God’s will.
a) We are focused on our lives rather than on God’s will.
b) We only seek God when we are desperate about our own lives.
c) We don’t care about His will as a whole (missions, etc.).
The reason of our mediocrity is our worldliness. We don’t believe that we need God. How are we different from the world? Why can’t we mobilize ourselves to see beyond our nose?
This passage along with its difficulties show us the wonderful work of God, special works that He wants repeated. Life doesn’t have to be boring, let me assure you. God wants to be involved in our lives. It is true, our experiences will be very different from Joshua’s. That is fine, but have you ever sought what great things the Lord wants to do through your lives?
Let’s now look at two ways Joshua sought the Lord. We see a marvelous disrespect for the secularistic spirit so popular today. 1) Joshua Followed the Lord in Obedience (10:1-11); 2) Joshua Sought More From the Lord (10:12-43).
A. Joshua Followed the Lord in Obedience (Jos 10:1-11)
The Southern Campaign started off when their new-found friends, the Gibeonites, were attacked by the enemy. It is here Joshua faithfully obeyed the Lord. We read about this in Joshua 10:1-11.
Now it came about when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had captured Ai, and had utterly destroyed it (just as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king), and that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were within their land, that he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty. Therefore Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent word to Hoham king of Hebron and to Piram king of Jarmuth and to Japhia king of Lachish and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, and let us attack Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua and with the sons of Israel.” So the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered together and went up, they with all their armies, and camped by Gibeon and fought against it. Then the men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, saying, “Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites that live in the hill country have assembled against us.” So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him and all the valiant warriors (Joshua 10:1-7, NASB).
Obedience required much hard work, faithfulness, faith, risk, and possible danger. There were two things that would later move Joshua to lead an army attack. First, we see the men of Gibeon sought Joshua’s help, “Come up to us quickly and save us and help us.”
Second, perhaps because of the vast armies assembled across the land, God spoke words to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you” (10:8). This was a wonderful promise while facing tough decisions.
We should note that it was when Joshua had already made the tough decision to help them that God spoke. He suddenly leads his army from Gilgal to Gibeon to rescue the Gibeonites who had sneakily attached themselves to the Israelites. Joshua did not only keep his word but proved ultimately loyal to the Gibeonites when they were subsequently attacked for siding with Israel. Joshua didn’t wait. His convictions were clear. We might deliberate on whether we should keep our word or whether our responsibility goes as far as to defend them. Joshua could easily have thought that allowing the enemy to destroy them was God’s way of judging the Gibeonites, but Joshua was not fooled by such tempting thoughts. Joshua’s brave attack was morally upright and indeed made the Gibeonites truly thankful that they now were part of the Israelite’s camp.
Did you notice verse 8 and 9? Closely following Joshua 10:8 were words from verse 9, “So Joshua came upon them suddenly by marching all night from Gilgal.” Once Joshua’s faith was strengthened, he led his army for a surprise attack. The march from Gilgal to Gibeon would take at least 4 hours (around 20 miles depending on Gilgal’s location). Since they marched through the night, they arrived early in the morning in Gibeon to free them from their newly found enemies.
10 And the Lord confounded them before Israel, and He slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and pursued them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword. (Joshua 10:1-11, NASB)
(1) God gave Joshua a fantastic victory.
The LORD confounded them before Israel (10).
I hope you noticed with me that it was the Lord that was doing the fighting here. We might want to say Israel did the fighting. After all, they marched all night. Were they so tired from marching that they didn’t join the battle? I don’t think so. We definitely should get the picture that the Lord was fighting for the Israelites (not exclusively). One might think this was enough, but things gets more interesting yet.
- The Lord slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon.
- Pursued them by way of the ascent of Beth-horon
- Struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah.
Joshua had already won the victory by the time most of us would have decided to do anything.
(2) The Lord threw large stones from heaven on them.
The Lord is said to throw large stones. Just little stones would seem to have done the job. Just imagine stones coming at them with the speed of gravity down upon them from the sky.
- The Lord threw large stones from heaven on them.
- As far as Azekah
- More people who died from the hailstones than those by the sword.
Joshua proved himself a capable leader. He was ready for obedience. He didn’t let little ‘what ifs’ stand in the way nor did Joshua procrastinate. He made immediate decisions which was crucial to help the Gibeonites who would probably have been destroyed that same day had not Joshua come to the rescue.
Joshua had already won the victory by the time most of us would have decided to do anything. We might have a restless night over a decision. Perhaps we know down deep what we ought to do, but don’t want to do it. Maybe we will need to pay the extra money, spend extra time or just not want to bother. Joshua, in the middle of the night, led his soldiers in a late-night march. Decisiveness is important. Those who have been influenced by relativism often go back and forth over decisions, weighing the pluses and minuses for the reason of protecting one’s interests. Those who live in the fear of God make quick decisions when there are moral values at stake.
Joshua’s obedience was characterized by razor-sharp decisions in favor of what was right. He knew what was right and wrong. He lived by those decisions. In one sense, they were not decisions at all. God had already made those decisions. As a leader, he led others in the right path. It is important to remember that before great things happen, we must already be in the obedient stage. If you do not consistently practice living a righteous life, how can you expect God to trust you with greater things?
Certainly, we could speak more about this simple right response. So many problems would clear up right away if we only did what God wanted. We didn’t argue but just did it. (Perhaps it would help to remember that when you do not obey, that you are being rebellious.)
As it is, we want to focus more on this second part. It begins in verse 12 where Joshua has already routed the enemy around Gibeon and the enemy was fleeing for their lives.
B. Joshua Sought More from the Lord (Joshua 10:12-43)
Joshua was standing in obedience when this most important event happened in verse 12. The battle had already started. He had already hit the ball, so-to-speak and was running. He was not waiting for another pitch. He only needed one good ball. Sometimes in baseball, we ask, “Why didn’t you swing? It was a great ball.” Joshua did hit and was pursuing obedience. Great experiences with God do not come in one’s disobedience but in obedience. Every time I go on a mission’s trip, I sense there is great tension trying to hold me back on going, but once decided and the first steps are taken, the antagonism decreases.
We will not be discussing each and every battle here. Our major concern is to see why this passage is here at all. The Southern Campaign was extremely critical to the conquest of Palestine. We are not overlooking or undervaluing this. Anytime we take a significant step forward in our lives, whether it has to do with our personal moral life or our advance in expanding God’s kingdom in the world, we are facing our arch-enemy. Surely you do not think that this conquest was merely a political/military invasion similar to the wars throughout the millenniums, do you? Clearly, it was not. God was expanding His influence. This had little to do with Israel except that that people was the vehicle through whom God chose to do His work.
Each city that God’s forces occupied would become places God’s will and purposes were being done. They would live upright lives to the glory of God. Otherwise, as God had repeatedly stated, He Himself would cast Israel from the land. This conquest was not because of Israel’s will but God’s. This is the reason Israel or any nation for that matter exists today. Their existence becomes an assurance that if they seek Him, then they would find Him and implement His way into their lives. To the degree they follow Him, they would be blessed.
We see two battle scenes described in verses from 16-43. The first had to do with liberating the Gibeonites (1-11). The second was a follow-up from their first victory (16-43). They purposed to eliminate the forces and threats before the men would return to their fortified cities. Verse 15 can be looked at in two ways.
Verse 15 can be a statement of fact. After one thrust in battle, the Israelites returned to the main Gilgal camp. After they refreshed themselves, they moved out again. This is possible and perhaps the right interpretation. With an extended day, they could return to the camp and start anew. By looking at the map, one can see all the battles listed: Gibeon, Beth-Horon, Ajalon valley, Azekah, and Makkedah. The most prominent humiliation was th death of the enemy kings.
One other commentator suggested that because verse 10:15 was later repeated in the last verse, that it was more than likely that verse 15 also belonged to the original quote taken from the Book of Jashar. In other words, this description of returning to the camp at Gilgal did happen but later. This understanding of what happened seem to make much sense for then they would not need to return to the camp and could directly eliminate the enemy. This is what the map above shows us.
Isn’t this Joshua’s concern in 10:19? “But do not stay there yourselves; pursue your enemies and attack them in the rear. Do not allow them to enter their cities, for the LORD your God has delivered them into your hand.” It was critical that they kept pursuing their enemies. With a long day they could move about the land in an amazing way. They had an army that was given extra physical stamina to withstand the drag on them.
This is the extent of the battle, but we must remember that this was not due to simple obedience. The main point of this lesson is that God works along with us in our simple and earnest obedience—We will be blessed. This is the typical Christian life, but there are some noble souls that do not just ask and seek for themselves, but they knock hard and persevere for the sake of God’s kingdom.
For the rest of the message we will focus back on this special portion of scripture, Joshua 10:11-14. We will look at three aspects of stepping beyond mediocrity. But we should be clear. This was not just for Joshua. This is like an advertisement. “This could be you!” The scriptures are baiting us, hoping that one of us, if not all of us, would stand up and make a key difference in this world. God has work to do. He wants us to join Him in it. Will you be like Joshua?
The three key aspects of Joshua’s life are: 1) Burdened with God’s vision, 2) Willing to display his faith and 3) Carrying out God’s work in His strength.
1) Burdened with God’s vision (10:12)
Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
O sun, stand still at Gibeon,
And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. (12)
At some point in the battle, Joshua recognized that God had given Him a tremendous victory. All these kings and their armies were on the run. Was it before or after the hailstorm that Joshua cried out to the Lord? It seems that Joshua was at Beth-Horon when the hailstorm occurred. The sun was over Gibeon in the east and the moon was over the valley of Aijalon in the west. This apparently was before the sun was too high in the sky. Remember they marched through the night and caught the enemy unaware early in the morning. They had already routed the enemy and pursued them between the mountain passes. At some point, it dawned on Joshua that this defeat was simply overwhelming. Five great kings that dominated the south of Canaan were all defeated in one blow. The average or mediocre person would simply take what he had won and enjoy the victory. There was nothing wrong with this. It was within God’s will. After all, they had already marched all night and must have been exhausted.
Joshua had the victory. He could have rested along with his weary soldiers telling them what a great job they did, but he didn’t.
The Amorites were spread out over certain parts of Canaan. Five of their kings came forward to fight the Israelites. But in addition to this big war party were other kings and, of course, their armies: king of Jerusalem, king of Hebron, king of Jarmuth, king of Lachish and king of Eglon. We are not sure how many soldiers there were all together, but for sure it was a great number.
Perhaps we should make a note here of the Lord’s methodology. Sometimes we just read about the battle of Jericho and do not think of its impact on future battles. What we find from chapter 9, 10 and 11 is that the kings come out of their fortified cities and mountains (Jerusalem was a mountain) to fight on the plains. These kings played right into God’s hand. First of all, they gave up their great defensive positions along with their walls and favorite hideouts. Their soldiers poured out of the city walls to fight Joshua in a strange place. So the advantage of their defenses was abandoned.
Secondly, we find that God was bringing out the enemy in groups. It is hard to be tested by being on the side with the odds stacked against you, but God kept each battle a challenge so that they could fight by faith. When the Israelites won one of these big battles, their territory dramatically increased. God was not only making sure that the Israelites wouldn’t make compromises so early in the game but that they would see God’s might in it all.
Thirdly, by leaving the cities to fight elsewhere the enemy left their cities wide open to attack. It was this principle by which Joshua could easily defeat these walled cities and gain their possessions.
Joshua already had a wonderful victory, but he was not content. He was wrestling with something. That something was the loss of an overwhelming victory. He realized that the sun would be going down soon, and he would not be able to profit from the great victory once it got dark. The soldiers would return to their walled cities, and they would still have a lot of work to do. There are times when we are living in the glow of victory. It is somewhat dangerous because it might not be the real victory that God wants for us. It is only a partial victory. Joshua feared this. He saw that they could take all the men and cities if he only had more light.
So high up in the mountains he cried out to the Lord. If his goal was pure victory or obedience, then he would have stayed put and done what could have been done that day. But in fact, he realized that he had a greater desire springing up within him. He didn’t want a simple victory but one in which God would show Himself great and mighty. He wanted all of God’s enemies wiped out. He would need more time that day to do this. He saw no other way to do this than cry out to the Lord for help. He desired God’s ways and wanted God’s full will to be done. Psalm 37:4 says,
Delight yourself in the LORD; and
He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4).
The Lord shows us that when we treasure what He treasures, there is no limit to what can be done. God can open up doors that cannot be closed. We must be careful to desire what God wants and trust Him to accomplish it.
The large point of this special story is that in many cases all we want is a victory. We want a story to tell others about. Once we have that victory, we settle down into the ease of its memories. Joshua was different—victory was not enough. He did what God wanted of Him. God liked what Joshua did so much that the two great lights that God made and placed in the sky stopped to watch and see. This is what God waits for—men and women who want to fulfill God’s purposes.
God liked what Joshua did so much that the two great lights that God placed in the sky stopped to watch and see.
If Joshua wanted only obedience and victory, he would have stopped with that great battle where God waged war against man. It must have been fantastic to see the enemy driven away by the large miraculous hailstones, but Joshua was not content. He wanted what was on God’s heart. He wanted to see the wonderful removal of sin from the land and a full judgment upon the enemy. This was God’s purpose. And so as Joshua saw that a complete success depended on the length of the day and in boldness cried out the famous words in front of all of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, and O moon in the valley of Aijalon.”
Many a time we will work hard to accomplish our purposes. As long as our purpose is fulfilled, we are willing to work hard in the church. For instance, some might serve hard in the church because they like to lead and direct others to solutions. It is good. Victories will be seen, and churches will grow. Disciples will be made. But we all tend to rest in our works rather than live in faith. We are, I believe, much more desirous of fitting into our plans, the plan of the church, rather than see God’s kingdom come.
We, like many good churches, get God’s work done. We make sacrifices and so to speak ‘get our hands dirty.’ We, in fact, see much done. But our dreams stop short of seeking all that is on God’s heart.
Joshua leaves us a special challenge. We need to get to know God so that we dream His dreams and in faith steps out to seize those miraculous victories on earth. Many a man looks at the budget to see what can be done. Others examine their man resources. They do not see what God really has in mind for they only look at the figures. They are content with a few victories and really do not know how much God desires to be completely victorious.
May we be that people who are ready not only to obey but to think and pray great things about what God wants done and commit ourselves to doing it.
2) Willing to display his faith (10:12)
Joshua secondly was willing to display his faith. He had to live out his faith. There is always the time when faith requires you to make a daring choice. The stronger the faith, the less the world appreciates what you believe. For Joshua, his great cry for more of God’s work so powerfully worked on his being that he cried out to God. We do not know where Joshua cried out to God but only that the biblical text says it was “in the sight of Israel.” Right where the Israelites could see him, Joshua asked for the impossible. What was it that he asked?
“O sun, stand still at Gibeon, and O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” He wanted light so he asked the commander of the lights in the sky to make that arrangement for him. Now if I was him, I would have made such a request in a small corner of my private room but not Joshua! Desire is not enough. We can know God’s will and desire it, but we need to cry out to God so that He will accomplish it. Crying out is the ‘knocking.’ It is the desperate dependent cry to God to accomplish what man cannot do. Listen to the words from Hebrews about the place of faith.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. ... And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:1-6, NASB).
Great men and women of God are known for their faith. Faith brings a couple to commit themselves to go off to some faraway country and bring the gospel to the people. The Lord can work with the naturally clever or with those having too many hang-ups. The Lord works through our problems or pride or dejection so He can get His work done.
One couple I know was rejected to be missionary candidates. He was a bit older than other candidates, and his language learning abilities were weak. They worked in America for a good long time with the Cambodians and had a number of children, including one with downs syndrome. But the next thing I heard was that they were actually on the way to Cambodia. The husband’s language skills must have gotten worse over time and, their children were a bit older then, but they believed God had something for them. He did.
Faith is the cutting edge between a mediocre and victorious life. Faith helps us live from our inner convictions despite the obstacles facing us. Faith is the desire to please God rather than man. Faith breaks the routine, the typical, the ‘What we can do?’ and goes for the finish line that God draws in the sand.
What is your faith like? Do you live by faith or by money? Do you live by the inner conviction from God or by what people might think of you?
Joshua, a man of faith, out on the rock in front of everyone stated the most ridiculous thing. But what is so amazing, God actually did what he asked.
Baker’s Bible Atlas describes the scene,
“Attacked the enemy and then pursued them through the mountain passes guarded by the two Beth-horons in the Valley of Ajalon. After relieving the Gibeonites, he chased the enemy from Upper Beth-horon (1730 feet above sea level) to Lower Beth-horon, 1 3/4 miles down the valley, where a providential hailstorm contributed to the disastrous defeat of Israel’s foes” (Baker’s Bible Atlas, p. 89).
Do you realize that there is no enemy that cannot be overcome? We might think a certain philosophy or craze or violent spirit among a people are too great to fight. We just try to hide in the corner and hope it doesn’t come near. This is exactly opposite of what the Lord said to do. He told us that we are the light of the world and are to take the bushel basket off our heads! May the Lord forgive us for our little faith. But even more, may you now be that man or woman of faith through which the name of God is glorified.
If we wanted a hundred people to come to know the Lord, we could do it. If we wished God to bring a great revival to this area that transformed the Cathedral of Learning into a prayer house where groups would pray for all the different nations, it would be done. O, but do we cry out to the Lord? Do we dare to believe Jesus, that if you had the faith of a mustard seed, you could move a mountain?
O God revive us!
3) Carrying out God’s work in His strength
The third aspect about Joshua in this awesome event was the strength that God gave to him and all the Israelites. They did not just watch the sun in the sky. They busily fought. There was a reason for the miracle. It wasn’t some hapless magician spinning off a trick. It was the Almighty God making temporary adjustments to the world because one man dared cry out to God so that God’s full purposes could be done.
The scriptures are clear, “And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:14). Praise God. There will not be another day like that, but it was specially prepared before the beginning of the world so that it would be done.
Once we have cried out to God, we then need to exert our faith by carrying out God’s work. We see that they did not stop with one or two cities. They basically took out the cities that mustered their energies against them. Because the enemies did not have time to regroup, each city stood very exposed to Joshua and the enemies. When they went to each of these cities they carried out God’s will by decimating each place. Judgment was ripe. God appointed them to carry such force against the people as His assistants in judgment.
Remember, this was not the final judgment. Due to sin, all of us will die here on earth. The question is not if but when. This was the appointed earthly judgment for those in Canaan. They had 400 years but did not repent. If you think this destruction is bad, just wait. A far greater judgment is coming across the earth where God’s fury will be unleashed. You can almost sense this wave of wrath coming from the pages of the Book of Revelation. God tells us ahead of time so that we might be warned and flee from the wrath of God.
At this time God uses His people to bring salvation. He calls us to make disciples. By making disciples we take the truth of God and liberate people from the bondage to their sins. Some of our sins were in ignorance but at other times quite willful. God’s truth is so powerful and has called us to make disciples of people all around the world.
It might take a step of faith for you to disciple someone. Others need to persevere in living uprightly. He has trained you but do you give up easily? Or perhaps you are distracted with games and fun. We have priority issues at stake. We need to carefully carry out His will.
“We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4, NASB).
We have witnessed a miracle or a series of miracles here. God is all along telling us that there still are great things to be done. But we are still playing with little matches when we could have sticks of dynamite. We could be moving mountains, but we are happy with attending church.
Is this not similar to what we have heard Jesus again and again say? If we ask anything in His Name, He will give it to us.
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him (1 John 5:13-15, NASB).
Summary & Review
Our poverty is not that we cannot do great things for the Lord but that we do not want to do them. We are content with the comfortable. We dream little of God’s ways and therefore ignore his best. May God give us great dreams of a worldwide revival.
God’s work is tremendous! May God grace us to have more of His work done in our lives. May we have more of Joshua’s valiant spirit and faith in our lives that we could have someone say, “And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:14, NASB).
- They wanted something greater, more people saved.
- They believed God would hear their prayers so they took time to pray.
- They worked hard before and afterward following up people.
A few summary questions:
How are you handling secularism’s’ attack?
• Do you believe God is involved in the world?
• Are you proud of your trust in God?
A) Joshua followed the Lord (Joshua 10:1-11)
• Are you obeying the Lord in everything?
• Are you quick to obey the Lord?
B) Joshua sought more (Joshua 10:12-43)
• What makes you comfortable and content?
• When is last time you cried out to Lord?