The fear of Joshua and the people of Israel is growing in the land of Canaan. Israel has conquered Jericho, conquered Ai, and made a peace treaty with the people of Gibeon. This is causing fear in the land of Canaan, not only because of the victories, but also because the Gibeonites are a mighty army with fortified cities. Further, the people of Israel have come in through the middle of the land and are about to separate the land in two for conquest. In Joshua 9 we read that the kings of Canaan were beginning to assemble to battle against Israel. Now with Gibeon on Israel’s side, the king of Jerusalem calls for the other kings in the area to go and fight. In particular, these kings gather their armies and make war against Gibeon (10:3-5).
The people of Gibeon send a message to Joshua to not abandon them but to save them from the kings of the Amorities (9:6). So Joshua gathers his fighting men to make their way to rescue Gibeon. Now remember in Joshua 9 we learned that the Gibeonites had deceived the leaders of Israel into making a treaty with them that they were forbidden from making by God. So what will happen now? Should Israel go and help or should the Gibeonites be destroyed? Verse 8 is a very important to this event. The Lord says to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” God makes clear that Joshua is to go and fight these Amorite kings and defend the Gibeonites. So Joshua marches his army all night and comes up against these Amorites suddenly (9:9). But look at verse 10. The Lord threw the Amorite armies into a panic and Joshua and his armies utterly defeat these kings. The Amorite armies are in full retreat and Joshua and his men are chasing them. Look at verse 11 as we see the Lord hurling large hailstones from the sky that kills the Amorite armies. So powerful is the attack of the Lord by hail that more of the Amorites died by hail than were killed by the Israelites’ swords.
But something else happened that day that allowed Joshua and his armies to gain the victory by the Lord’s hand. In the sight of Israel, Joshua spoke to the Lord and look at what he said in verse 12. “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” The text tells us that the Lord answered Joshua’s request as the sun stood still and the moon stopped until Israel took vengeance on its enemies. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down. The five kings run for their lives but Joshua and his army are able to find those kings and kill them. Verse 21 records that the whole army returned safely from the battle. No one uttered a word against the Israelites. Think about this: these powerful kings in Canaan attack with all their forces and not a single Israel dies in battle. Joshua uses the capture of the these kings and the amazing victory God achieved to be a teaching moment in verse 25. Joshua tells the people, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.”
This event was to be a defining moment for Israel regarding the conquest of the land. God accomplished complete victory at Jericho, marching around the walls of the city and by faith the walls fell down. God gave victory at Ai where the people learned that God will not give them victory if they rebel against him. Achan’s sin cost the people as some of the army did die when Ai counterattacked. But it was not the power of Ai but the power of God. God was not with the people because of their sins and so they lost. When the sins were dealt with, then the people were victorious against Ai. Then, even after the mistake regarding the Gibeonites, God gave a decisive victory against five Amorite kings. God extends the day, victory is given to Israel, and the whole army of Israel returns to camp safely. The rest of chapter 10 records the armies of Israel successfully conquering southern Canaan. Look at verse 42: “And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.” Chapter 11 records the conquests of northern Canaan. In fact, the kings of northern Canaan band together as one and in verse 4 they came out with all their troops, a number like the sand that is on the seashore with very many horses and chariots. The numbers look bad for Israel but the Lord tells Joshua to not be afraid (11:6). But verse 14 records Israel striking down every person who attacked. “Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. So Joshua took all that land” (11:15-16). Verse 23 records that Joshua took the whole land just as the Lord had spoken to Moses. The land had rest from war. The battles are over. Israel has control over the land. Chapter 12 records the victory of Moses and Joshua. The Lord through these two servants has utterly destroyed all the kings and armies that dared to fight or resist Israel. What I want us to see is that the event of the sun standing still is the final sign to Israel that God would give them victory over all their enemies. They have nothing to fear for God was with them.
There is one message that I want us to consider from our text. I want to draw our attention back to Joshua 10:14 because there is something important to see regarding the miracle of the sun standing still. Look at what is said about this amazing event.
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 10:14 ESV)
There has never been a day like it before or since. But be careful to consider what made this day unlike any other day. Notice that the point being made is not that there has never been a day like this where God stopped the sun in the middle of the sky. That is not the point. Look at it again. There has never been a day like this when the Lord listened to mortal humans. Notice that the point is not the miracle itself. The point is that Joshua requested this amazing miracle and God listened. The big point is not the miracle but what the miracle meant: that the Lord listened to the voice of a human. God listened to Joshua and did an unbelievable act: stopping the sun in the sky.
In Joshua 9 we learned about the need to have the faith to ask God. Rather than making decisions based on what looks right, sounds right, and seems right, we need to ask God. Now Joshua 10 presses this point even further. We need to not only have the faith to ask God, but we need to have the faith to pray audacious prayers. We need to have the faith to be willing to pray for the things that we would consider impossible. We need to think about what this looked like. Joshua, standing before the armies of Israel, announces for the sun and the moon to stand still. Do you think people in the army thought that this was ridiculous or impossible? Who would ask God to stop the sun in the sky? Who would believe that God would stop the sun in its place? Maybe a people who had seen God make fortress walls fall down after walking around them! I try to think about what we might being doing when Joshua said this. We might argue the science with Joshua. Joshua, God can’t stop the sun because it will have all kinds of cosmic problems. If the earth slows its rotation or even stops is rotation it is going to mess everything up! In fact, this still happens today. People read this text and argue how this could not happen because of the science. We do this with God. We tell God what he cannot do. Worse, we do not pray as we can because we think there are things that are impossible with God.
Now we will never say that there are some things are impossible. We will say that God can do anything. But do we really believe it? Jesus said it was true. When Jesus is about to face the cross, Jesus went off by himself and prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you” (Mark 14:35). Was Jesus right? Jesus also said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). There is a moment when a men brought his son to Jesus who had an unclean spirit that caused him to have seizures, foam at the mount, throw him into the fire and the water, and try to destroy him. The father says to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on him and help us” (Mark 9:22). Do you remember what Jesus said? “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). The hindrance was not with Jesus but with the father. What do we think that God cannot do? Moses did not think God could feed Israel meat in the wilderness. God made so much meat appear in the wilderness that was waist deep for miles. What is too great for God? Do we believe that nothing is too great for God?
If we believe that nothing is too great for God, then what are you not praying about? I believe that we do not pray because we do not believe that God will do something. We have problems in our lives that God will not do something about. We think our problems are too difficult for God. We think it is impossible for God to heal a disease or a sickness. We think it is impossible for our family member or friend to become a Christian. We think it is impossible for God to redeem and restore our marriage or family. We think it is impossible for reconciliation to occur between yourself and someone else. How many things are we going to tell God that he cannot do?
Think about the message of Joshua 10-12. What did the first generation say that they could not do? What did they say was impossible? They told Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb that it was impossible for them to conquer Canaan because there are giants in the land and the cities are fortified to the sky. What just happened? God did what the people thought impossible. The only time they lost in the whole conquest of the land was at a little town of Ai because the people broke faith and did not do what God had told them to. The first generation told God that this could not happen. Because they thought that, they were left to wander in the wilderness. Nothing is too great for God. What are we not praying because we do not believe God can do it? What are we not praying because we do not believe God will do it? Do not hold back in your prayer life. Is this not the exact point that James is making?
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:16–18 ESV)
Elijah is not to be put into a different category in our minds and neither is Joshua. Do not indicate by your lack of prayer that you do not believe God can do something. I asked earlier, who would believe that the sun would stop in the sky for Joshua? The same people who believed that the walls would fall when walking around them. Who would believe that God would answer our bold prayers? The same people who believe God raised a dead person to life. Jesus is why we can pray those prayers. Jesus is why we boldly approach God’s throne with our bold requests. Nothing is too difficult for God.