Who Broke the Space-Time Continuum
Who Broke the Space-Time Continuum? Joshua 10:1-15 Imaginary Friend I came home talking about “James” for months. Today we played in the sandbox… it was so fun! Today we played tag. But the stories began to grow. “Today we went to the police station!” My parents were surprised, was there a field trip they didn’t know about? “Today we went to the fire station, and James drove the fire truck!” I think they called the school. Because either this school was ridiculously irresponsible… or James was some teacher at the school or something. Turns out, there was no James and there never had been. James was my imaginary friend. Willing Suspension of Disbelief At what point does your “willing suspension of disbelief” end? At what point do you say “wait… did that really happen?” This is a “did that really happen?” moment. This is one of those moments, when people read the Bible, where they take issue. They can believe all the stories up to here… but they get to this one and just say “Wait a minute… did that happen?” The Setup The Threat With all the victories Israel has had, we saw last week that the kings of Canaan were uniting against them. But when the city of Gibeon joins in covenant with Israel, a city even greater than Ai, the local kings get particularly spooked. 1 As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2 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 warriors. 3 So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” 5 Then 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 their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it. The Plea from Gibeon So Gibeon calls upon their new friends. “HELP!” 6 And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.” The Plan 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. Again, Israel gets to participate. They march all night to ambush those who are attacking their allies. But it is God who promises the victory. It is God who gets the glory for the victory. And now it is going to tell the story of the battle two times (kind of like when it told the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan). What we get are two perspectives on the same events, happening in parallel (not in serial). The first is kind of play by play, the second is kind of poetic: Exactly what did God do to give the Israelites the victory? Ambush and Hailstones 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10 And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword. The Israelites participated in the victory… but who gets the glory? God. More died because of the hailstones. And this chase described is a long one, perhaps 20 miles they are fleeing. Being bombarded by hailstones with the army of Israel on their heels. God threw them in to a panic and killed most of them with hailstones. It’s already an epic victory. ... and now we rewind and view this from another perspective. 12 At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. Did That Happen? And this is where people get stuck. The sun and moon stopped? Come on! What about gravity? What about momentum? That isn’t how physics works! I remember hearing a preacher on the radio as a kid talking about how “scientists” had studied the position of stars and planets and discovered that there actually was a missing 24-hours and this was explained by this extra day here in Joshua. I think he made that up whole cloth, there is absolutely no record or evidence like that I could find. The laws of physics are just ideas in the mind of God. God could suspend all the laws of gravity and momentum if he so desired. He could just speed up time in the local vicinity of the battle so they experience the day as extra-long, a little pocket universe or something just for them. The Creator of earth, sun and moon has absolutely no limitations on how He wants to juggle them. If the Bible says it happened, then it happened. Leading to the next question, what is the Bible saying happened? And this is a very difficult text and a lot of very smart people disagree on exactly what is happening here. When did it happen? It wasn’t to prolong the day! Sun is in the east (Gibeon) and moon is in the west (Valley of Aijalon). The sun is “stopped” in the morning… certainly not because the light was fading and Joshua needed more daylight for some reason. Who is “he”? Who is the “he” in verse 12? It is ambiguous. It could be Joshua… but it could also be God. It could read that “Joshua spoke to the Lord” (basically asking for help) and in response God spoke to the sun and the moon. What is the Book of Jashar We have no idea. There are no quote marks in Hebrew so we don’t know where the quote starts and stops and even if anything is quoted at all, or if he just refers to the extra Biblical book as another sort of backup source. What is the miracle? Some still hold that Joshua foresaw the need for extended daylight, even in the morning, for the extended 20 mile chase and God provided extended lighting by extending the length of the day. Some translate this as an eclipse, giving them shade in the midst of the day to ease their journey, but it isn’t a great fit with the text… and wouldn’t the shade help their enemies too? It doesn’t answer a lot of questions. My favorite option is the poetic one. That the sun and moon are called to bear witness to the incredible miracle. God speaks to the sun and moon, and they “stand still”, or the word literally means “to be quiet in the face of catastrophe or in preparation for revelation.” God declares total war with the Canaanites, the sky with hailstones, the sun and moon all against them. … whichever option, the author calls our attention to the greatest miracle in the text. And it isn’t the one you are thinking of. The Real Miracle 14 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. God “heeded” Joshua. That actually is a bit of a cop-out word. God “obeyed” Joshua. God heard the words of Joshua, his cry for help, and He responded with immediate action. Now we read many places in Scripture where this occurs, but this was an incredibly public one and one that this later author is calling out in a special way. All the way up to their present day, man, they had never seen anything like it. God responded to the word of Joshua… the word of Yeshua. He saved them and called the sky itself, the sun and moon to fight for them. And it isn’t so amazing that God could do that. Of course He could, He is Creator. It is amazing that he heeded the voice of a man. My Prayer As I shared last week, I am in the midst of a job search. And someone was worried last week, I am not stepping away from the pastorate or from this church. This is my calling and my vocation. I work as a software engineer as my tent-making profession… but it is so important to find the right job that will allow me to serve as your pastor. And so my prayer has been that God would open the right door and shut all the others. Well, this week, late yesterday, God shut a door. And of all the options I am pursuing, this was the one I kind of had my eye on. I had mapped out my commute, and I saw so many benefits. In my mind it was already accomplished. But I prayed “thy will be done.” And I got the call last night that they would not be making an offer. I was disappointed. But here’s what I know. What I absolutely know. If that was the right place for me, God could have literally stopped the sun and moon in place to make it happen. He could have scattered the obstacles at the company and cast hailstones down upon them. There were simply no barriers or limits on his victory. Because I know that this miracle happened: God heard me. He heard my prayer. And he answered it by closing that door so He could lead me to the right next step. That is the miracle: that our God heard me. John 14:12-14 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. God hears you. God heeds you. And every possible response is an option to Him. The only reason he hasn’t stopped the sun and moon in response to your prayer is that he decides it isn’t the best thing yet. Perhaps you have something to learn. Or I do. Or there is some other way that is going to teach you and be to His greater glory. The greatest miracle is that God heeds His people. He pays attention to it. He gives consideration of it. It is never that He can’t. It is never that He won’t simply because he doesn’t like you or doesn’t love you or isn’t listening. If God has infinite options available, and chooses from those options with both infinite wisdom and infinite love for you in particular… then could it be that God is already heeding your prayer with the best possible answer? Maybe that means the hailstorm is in progress and the sun and moon are moving or not moving to give you exactly the right help at exactly the right team. Maybe that means that the absolute best thing for you right now is to wait. To learn patience. To learn the next thing, the next step. You may get confused about what’s real. God never does. Reality responds to Him. And He hears you. You may get confused about what’s best. I do that. God never does. He is already answering the prayer of your soul in His infinite wisdom and infinite love. Invitation to Prayer We are going to have a few minutes of prayer. Maybe choose one thing, one person, one situation that has been on your heart. And bring your request to God. Echo the cry of Joshua “God help me.” It can be that simple. He can handle the how, we need the help! We need breakthrough! … Oh what a great miracle on this day. The LORD has heeded your prayer. Joshua saw his answer to prayer over the rest of that day (however long it was). May you see the answer to your prayer this day, or this week, or this month. But can you do this for me? If you are willing to share, can you share that answer with me?