THEME: Preparing for the Attack
This week’s lessons remind us of the unlimited power and ability of God to work for the good of all those who trust in him.
There’s a verse in the tenth chapter of Joshua that has been used to a great effect by Leland Wong, an evangelist out in California. It’s Joshua 10:13, which says, “The sun stood still.” At the top of his letterhead, Leland Wong has printed three verses. The first is this one from Joshua 10. The second is II Kings 6:6, which says, “The iron did float.” And the last is Psalm 48:14: “This God is our God.” I’ve often used those verses to stress that we believe in a powerful God, the great God of the Bible who is able to do miracles. But did the iron really float? Did the sun really stand still?
Miracles of this scope demand so many changes in the forces of nature as we know them that it is not surprising that they have been viewed as a problem, not only to liberal scholars who begin with a distrust of the ability of God, but even by conservative scholars who wonder whether something simpler than this might be an explanation of the account. I have found that so many people have been troubled by so many of these problems that I’ve even taken a special section of a chapter in a book of mine to deal with them. The book is Standing on the Rock, and the chapter is entitled, “Dealing with Bible Difficulties.” There I look at these miracles, and when we come to this particular miracle in Joshua 10, I understand the difficulties that are involved. If you’re driving along in a car at 60 miles an hour and you suddenly step on the brake, you fall forward. If you run into a truck, the same thing happens, only more dramatically. We know what would happen if the normal laws of physics prevail should God suddenly decide to stop the earth. Everything on it would fall over flat. And we can’t imagine that God would stop the sun and the moon in their passage in the heavens without similar kinds of effects taking place in the universe.
And yet at the same time, we are well aware that God is the omnipotent God. He can do what He will do, since He made the laws in the first place. He certainly is powerful enough to change them or override them if that’s what He chooses to do. But at the same time, we come to something like this, and we’re naturally just a bit puzzled by it.
Now, it’s an interesting story all in itself, and the geography of this particular battle is fascinating. As we saw in chapter 9, the Gibeonites had come to Joshua and the leaders of Israel, pretending to have come from a distant land. They did this because they sought out a treaty with Israel. And the Jewish leaders, failing to consult God, made the mistake of entering into a treaty with them. It was only shortly after that, three days later, in fact, that they discovered that they were actually very near at hand. They were from the town of Gibeon, which wasn’t far north of the city of Jerusalem—not far from where the Jewish troops were at the time. But they had made their treaty, and had taken an oath in the name of God. And so they stood by it, and thus the Gibeonites entered into a league with Israel and came under their protection.
We’re told in the next chapter that the other people of these hill fortresses, these cities of the hills, heard what had happened; and they were greatly distressed by it. We’re told that Adoni-zedek, the king of Jerusalem, heard that Joshua had taken Ai and that the Gibeonites had entered into this kind of treaty. So he rallied all of the other kings and peoples of these hill city fortresses and said, “Let’s go up against Gibeon because what we have here is treason. They’ve gone over to the side of the enemy. And unless we squelch this kind of treason, we’re never going to be able to stand in a united way against these invading forces.” And so he rallied all these armies together and they moved against Gibeon. Incidentally, it’s interesting to us that this is the first mention of the city of Jerusalem in all the Bible. That, of course, didn’t mean anything to Joshua. Joshua merely realized that if all of these troops were getting together and combining forces, for the first time now he was going to be up against a confederacy and would have to meet these armies of the Canaanites head on.
When people object to the miracles recorded in the Bible, often they are claiming to do so on either scientific or historical grounds. But behind these reasons, what do such objections really show about their beliefs? What assumptions do they already hold about the Bible that are faulty?
Is there anything in the story to suggest whether or not Joshua anticipated such a united attack, and what his thoughts about it might have been?
In terms of the Gibeonites and Israel’s action toward them, what does the story teach us about God?
Read the three chapters where the verses appear that were on Leland Wong’s letterhead. What promises and reminders do they provide for you in whatever difficulties you may be facing this week?