Joshua 9:3-4 [W]hen the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse.
Gibeon was about nineteen miles from Israel’s camp, and its people feared for their lives. They knew that God commanded Moses to kill everyone who lived in the land (Joshua 9:24, Deuteronomy 7:1-2), so they tricked Israel into making a treaty with them. They put on old clothes, took old bread, and pretended to come from far away.
The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath (Joshua 9:14-15). Soon after, when Israel learned that the Gibeonites lived nearby, they were upset with their leaders for being deceived. The Gibeonites were forced into hard labor, but they were allowed to live because of the oath.
The Gibeonites should be admired for their fear of God, and for the resourceful way they saved their lives. But Israel’s leaders, including Joshua, are to be faulted for not seeking God in this matter. Whenever we have to make an important decision, we should seek God’s will through prayer, his word, and godly advisers (Proverbs 15:22). This is what Joshua failed to do, and he lost credibility because of it.
Joshua 10:5 Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces.
In a collective effort to stop God’s people, five local kings formed a coalition. But Joshua would not be stopped, and after an all night march, he surprised the opposing armies with an early morning attack. And God helped his people by hurling hail from heaven. In fact, the hail killed more of Israel’s enemies than died by the sword.
This reminds us of what will happen before the return of Jesus Christ. From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible (Revelation 16:21), wrote John. The weapons of God’s wrath are more powerful than all the weapons on earth.
But Joshua needed more time, so he said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon. So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies . . . . There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being (Joshua 10:12-14).
Whoever heard Joshua command the sun and the moon to stand still must have wondered what he was thinking. Would a man control the movement of heavenly bodies? Even Joshua may have been surprised by the words that came out of his mouth. This kind of faith can only come from above.
Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, Go, throw yourself into the sea, and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them (Mark 11:23), said Jesus. If God is going to do an extraordinary miracle, he can give his servants faith, then do whatever they ask.
This miracle is so remarkable, however, that even believers might be tempted to doubt it. Would God really stop the rotation of heavenly bodies because one of his servants prayed? It is almost too much to believe.
Actually, the real problem is that our thoughts of God are far too small. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), wrote Moses. Since God can create everything out of nothing, to lengthen a single day is child’s play.
Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you (Jeremiah 32:17), wrote Jeremiah. If we truly believe God created everything out of nothing, none of his miracles will seem too hard to believe.
In fact, we have further assurance from Jesus Christ. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law (Luke 16:17), he said. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ must believe what Jesus taught—and Jesus taught the Bible is true. Whoever does not fully believe the Bible, does not fully believe in Jesus Christ.
Joshua 22:4 [R]eturn to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan.
It took about seven years for Israel to occupy the Promised Land. Now it was time for the soldiers who settled east of the Jordan River to return to their homes. Before they crossed the river, however, they built an altar to the Lord. This was a reminder to their fellow Israelites that they all served the same God. But that is not how it was understood.
Those on the west side of the river thought the altar was a rival to the one at the tabernacle, and an act of rebellion against God. With holy zeal they prepared to go to war against their fellow Israelites. This would have been a disaster, but thankfully, the confusion was dispelled and war was avoided.
Zeal for God is good, but Satan can use it against us, if we are not careful. When a Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus, two of his disciples said, Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them? But Jesus turned and rebuked them (Luke 9:54-55). The disciples were zealous for Christ, but their zeal was not Christian.
Another example of misdirected zeal comes from the eighteenth century, when over a dozen women were hanged near Salem Massachusetts for the crime of witchcraft. Common sense gave way to hysteria as ordinary people tried to do the will of God. But their actions led to wrongful deaths, and harmed the cause of Christ. Zeal without knowledge, and knowledge without zeal, are equally harmful to the church (Romans 10:2). Christians should pray for godly ministers whose zeal is based on knowledge.
Reflection and Review
What did Joshua do wrong when he negotiated with the Gibeonites?
Why should we believe that God stopped the sun for Joshua?
How can our zeal for God be misdirected?