READ: Joshua 10-11
BACKGROUND: This passage follows the nation of Israel as they complete the conquest of Canaan, otherwise known as The Promised Land. The violence of the conquest is jarring at times, especially with the repeated message that the nation of Israel left no survivors whatsoever as they conquered. It’s important to remember, though, that this wasn’t senseless or needless violence. This was a bunch of people in Canaan who were wicked beyond measure (bestiality, infant sacrifice, & more), and God destroyed them – like he did with all the Earth in the flood – to protect all of humanity from total theological error that would cut them off completely from him. For a further discussion see this article.
10:6 – “Come and save us” is kind of a cool appeal by the Gibeonites because Joshua’s name means “The LORD saves.”
9 – Gilgal was 20 miles East of Gibeon, and uphill. It was quite a march. Attacking them “by surprise” likely means that Joshua attacked in very early morning.
12 – What a ridiculous prayer.
13 – What an incredible answer! 🙂 God stopped the sun so that the battle could continue and Israel could finish the defeat.
11:4 – “As numerous as the sand on the seashore” isn’t a literal observation that there were millions of troops. It’s simply a figure of speech indicating there was a vast number.
6 – Hamstringing horses means cutting the tendon above their hock (ankle) so that they could not walk again. But why? Why hamstring the horses and burn the chariots? Because God wanted it to be clear every single time that it was HIM who won the battles and not the fighting strength of Israel. They didn’t need horses or chariots to win…and if they had horses and chariots they would be tempted into thinking that’s why they won. God is removing that possibility.
18 – “A long time”? About 7 years in total from the beginning of the conquest until they took Hebron.
THINK: Growing up, Christmas presents for me looked WAY different than Christmas presents for my wife, Jenny. Jenny – being an anal retentive, linear thinking, highly organized math nerd, always wanted her ducks in row, always wanted to plan ahead, so she would make her mom detailed lists of precisely what she wanted for Christmas, what stores to find it at, what it cost, etc. And her mom would get her exactly those things. So, on Christmas, opening up gifts was simply an exercise in checking each thing off the list. She knew exactly what she was getting – with a few fun surprises thrown in. My mom, on the other hand, never really worked like that. She was big into surprising us. I made lists too – not nearly as detailed – but lists nonetheless. Some years I’d get a few things on my list, some years a lot, some years none. But I was always surprised – sometimes not pleasantly. “Oh, mom, that’s such a cool snowman sweater. Thanks! I’m pretty sure I know what I’m wearing for my yearbook photo!” 🙂 But one thing that I always put on my list – every year – and my brother did to was a game console. My mom thought video games rot your brain (she probably wasn’t too far off) so we never had a Nintendo or anything growing up, but every Christmas we asked. Really, though, we asked without expecting. My brother and I would put it on our list – just to have it on there – but we absolutely did not expect to get it. Finally, when I was in high school, I just quit asking because I didn’t think there was any point. It was a waste of ink and paper. My brother didn’t quit though, and one Christmas he opened up a box and there it was, the cutting edge gaming system of the day: Dreamcast. We were shocked. He’d asked for it, but not one fiber of his being expected that my parents would get him what he asked for even though he knew they were nice parents and they loved him.
How often do we do that with God? How often do we pray for things without having any faith that God can, or will, answer our prayers? How often do we just go through the motions of faith and prayer without believing that God can do big things in our world? How often do we just give up? How often do our prayer lives mirror my attitude toward Christmas lists? We don’t think anything will probably happen so we don’t even bother. If we’re honest, if I’m honest, the answer to those questions is: A lot. It happens often.But it doesn’t have to! The Bible paints a bigger, better picture of what prayer can accomplish. This doesn’t mean that God is going to answer every prayer that we pray exactly how we want him to, but God does want to do incredible things in our world, and he wants us to pray big, huge, audacious, outrageous, specific prayers, and he wants to answer them.
Joshua prayed a preposterously impossible prayer, and God answered! Joshua prayed for something that he had no hope of accomplishing on his own, and God came through for him. Here he was, he’d won the battle over the people who were seeking to destroy him, they retreated, and he pursued them to finish them off, but he realized that if night fell then the pursuit would stop. They’d escape and they would, without doubt, regroup and attempt to attack him again. And Joshua knew that God had promised that nobody who stood against him and tried to destroy him and destroy Israel would stand. So, he got the crazy idea that God – who created the world and has all the power in the world – might be able to do something he couldn’t, something beyond his wildest dreams, to help Israel achieve the victory. And he prayed – out loud in front of the whole army – “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
Joshua prays this impossible prayer with a huge faith in God. He calls upon God’s promise and God answers him. God does what only God can do. And he does it even though Joshua got the prayer wrong. What do I mean by that? Well, due to the advancements of modern science I can be fairly confident that the sun stays relatively still all the time. It’s the earth that moves in orbit around the sun. If Joshua wanted to get it totally right, he’d have said “Earth stand still.” But he didn’t do that. From his limited vantage point it seemed like the sun moved, and all he knew was that he wanted it to stay high in the sky so that he could achieve victory. And guess what: God answered his prayer. And I think that’s super encouraging for all of us. We don’t have to have all the right words in the right order to unlock God’s power, and we don’t even have to fully understand what he’s gonna do or how he’s gonna do it. We just have to be willing to identify the problems in our lives and in our world that we cannot fix on our own, bring them to God, and expect him to do great things. We have to be willing to pray big, huge, bold, audacious prayers!
ASK: Do I really trust that God listens to me and answers prayer? What are some big, huge, specific, audacious prayers that I need to be praying for my world?