THEME: Trying to Explain the Miraculous
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.
Yesterday we concluded our study by mentioning the first explanation for the miracle of the sun and moon standing still. The second explanation is that the sun and moon appeared to actually stop because the earth itself actually stopped. Now as I say, anybody who believes in an omnipotent God in the final analysis doesn’t really have difficulty with that. “Omnipotent” means “all-powerful.” And if “all-powerful” really means what it says, then to God all things are possible. The Lord Jesus Christ said that. He can stop the sun, the moon, and the stars. He can stop the earth; and He can do it without all of the bad effects that we suppose would have to follow on the basis of our knowledge of physics.
Because of all the scientific laws involved, that explanation would make it a miracle of enormous proportions. Even very conservative scholars, who believe God can certainly do anything, have wondered if that is really what happens. Francis Schaeffer raises a question at that point. He suggests that maybe by some means unknown to us, the hours of daylight were prolonged. From living in Switzerland, Schaeffer knew that in the summer you could be out late in the evening because you still had daylight. But in the winter the darkness would come much earlier. He refers to northern countries, like Norway, where in the middle of the summer, the day is sometimes so long because of the inclination of the earth and the sun’s rays that the sun never sets. He said maybe it’s something like that, rather than that the earth actually stopped.
The third explanation of this is that what we have here is a miracle of refraction where somehow the sun’s rays and the moon’s rays were refracted in such a way that the light continued. And their position in the heavens seemed to be where, in point of fact, they were not. Bernard Ramm cites two articles by R. Short in a book called Modern Discovery and the Bible, and another by J. Lowell Butler called “Mirages Are Light Benders” in a theological journal, suggesting that this is precisely what happened. Now, I don’t know if this is the case, but by one means or another, it would seem that the effect was for the prolongation of the day.
Ramm does include two other interesting bits of information. He says that in different portions of the literature that exists on this particular chapter of Joshua, there are reports that in Egyptian, Chinese, and Hindu records there are references to a day in history which was extended. Or again, there are reports that through astronomical calculations it is known to astronomers that a day is missing. Some of these reports quote an astronomer at Harvard University by the name of Pickering as having traced this missing day back to approximately the time of Joshua. The only difficulty with that is that I have never been able to verify it, and Bernard Ramm reports in his handling of this that although he tried, he has never been able to verify it either.
There’s a final explanation of this, which is interesting and which has appealed to a number of rather influential scholars. That is that Joshua was not asking for the sun to stand still, but he was asking for relief from the sun’s heat. This is because the Hebrew word that is translated as “stand still” usually means “to cease,” “to leave off,” or “to be silent.” If that’s what the word means here in this case, it’s quite possible that what Joshua was asking is that the sun leave off its heat because he was in pursuit of the armies in the heat of the day, and the sun would be sapping the strength of his troops. God’s answer to his prayer would have been the hail storm, which provided relief from the sun while at the same time, it caused a great deal of havoc in the enemy.
From the lesson, what other explanations for the miracle does Dr. Boice mention?
What do you think about each explanation? What are some of the strengths and weaknesses?