The Sun Stood Still

Bible Book: Joshua  10 : 12-15
Subject: Power of God; Prayer; Miracles; Faith

I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine with me the awfulness and the awkwardness of a world without the sun and without the warmth, the shining glow and the life-giving force of the sun. How desperate it would be if we didn't have what God gave when He spoke into the world, "light," and there was light. As you open your eyes you recognize the goodness of God in giving us light, the ability to see and the opportunity to experience the brightness of the sun. The sun provides us of what we gain from God. It is a growing force, it is a warming force and it is the opportunity for us to make our way in the world without stumbling and falling. It is God's intention for each and every one of us to enjoy the sun. But it has its own time span. How I enjoy daylight saving time. I really do. You know you can get home after work, after you eat, you can mow the grass, you can trim the trees, you can clean the yards; I don't know why I enjoy it!

Years ago my wife's parents had an employee that worked for them and she said something like this, if I can remember it pretty closely, "I'm so glad that they changed the time." My mother-in-law answered, "Well what do you mean?" The employee said, "Well I have one more hour now to work for you." I thought how wonderful that would be if our attitudes were always like that. But you see we don't have a lengthening of the day; we just have a change of the time variables where it's darker in the morning and lighter at night. We're going to study a passage about a powerful miracle of God that reminds us of the importance of brightness and what we would do with the sun if we had more of it and what we can do in the midst of the battles of life when we find ourselves stumbling in the dark.

As we look at Joshua 10:12-15 it's hard to believe what it has to say because it's never happened before and it will probably never happen again. This is the miracle that God gave to Joshua and to all of Israel and a reminder to every single believer in Jesus Christ that the miracle-working God that they served is the same God we serve even today: On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: "O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon." So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel. Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

I. The Plea of Prayer

(v. 12) We begin by looking at the plea of prayer. You see prayer is not just something that we conjure up when we're in times of trouble. We remember that there was an incredible miracle of hailstones where the hailstones came down and only hit the heads of the enemy! It was an incredible thing with hand-to-hand combat and yet people were being taken out with various God-focused hailstones. I'm here to tell you that the hailstone miracle was nothing...nothing... compared to God extending a day so that Joshua could finish the battle and secure a victory over the enemy. His men were tired and they'd been marching all night long. The task was great and they knew that in their weariness, even after the hailstones, that if they didn't have a bit more time the enemy could escape. Those that had not been avenged and those who had not been taken aside, captured or slaughtered would get away and perhaps come together and regain their forces.

A. Joshua Went Public

Joshua needed a special act of the Lord so he made a plea for it. He called out to God for it. Something very important to note about this pela is that Joshua went public. That's important for us to understand because sometimes when we ask God for really big things, like maybe a special relationship, we kind of look around and hope that nobody hears us. We think it would be so embarrassing if God didn't answer our prayer and that special relationship didn't work out. Now I know that sounds a little bit foolish, but the plea that Joshua was making was a matter of life and death and there are some relationships that are like that and a matter of life and death. But you see the scripture tells us that Joshua went public in the presence of Israel. Many of us pray privately thinking that some of our requests may sound so foolish if they're heard by anybody else except God. I think that it was a bold prayer. Wouldn't you agree with me? Whoever would have thought to ask for the sun and the moon to stand still? It never had happened before. Joshua went for broke. Bold prayer? Absolutely! He was decidedly saying, "God I know you can do it." It was not only a bold prayer; it was also a believing prayer. Joshua wouldn't have asked if he didn't believe that God would do it.

Some of us when it's prayer request time just sort of raise our hand. You know how it is - unspoken requests. You know, I can't pray for unspoken requests. So usually if I'm with a friend or someone I know, I go to them afterwards and say, "I know you didn't want to share that with a group, but if you want me to pray for you specifically, please share with me exactly what's going on in your life." Most of the time they're willing to do that. You see I believe Joshua had not only a bold prayer and a believing prayer because he knew that God could do it.

Also, it was a big prayer. I mean it was huge. It wasn't just a date with a girl. It wasn't just new tires for a car. It wasn't just a better job. It wasn't just a bigger house. This was a BIG prayer, "Stop the sun; halt the moon." It had never happened and it couldn't have happened unless Joshua was willing, in the presence of Israel and before the Almighty God, to come out and share this plea.

B. A Marvel or a Miracle

Now here's the question that's been around for a long time. Was it just a marvel or was it truly a miracle? I think you know where I stand but I want to give you several postures from different people throughout this study. You see this is the last miracle recorded in all of the Book of Joshua and we're not even all the way through it. We're not even close to being through, but it's the last one that was recorded in the Book of Joshua, and certainly it is the greatest of all the miracles. This event is questioned by those who deny the reality of miracles and look only to science for truth. I believe that science and Christianity walk hand in hand! I don't see a conflict in either of the two. Some scientists say that there is and some theologians say that there is. I see them beautifully, wonderfully married together and I believe that the God of the earth and the God of the sun and the God of the moon can perform a miracle and can do unto us what we need best for the time and moment. "How is it," some ask, "that God stopped that which was in its natural order which He spoke even from the beginning of time and put into the expanse of the Universe?" How could He stop it? Well let me just share with you that the normal different lengths of the sun's light is different in different parts of the world. Here we are in Augusta, Georgia and half way across the world is Indonesia.

I've had the privilege to minister in Indonesia. I've had the privilege to minister in Russia. I've had the privilege to minister in France and in other places around the world. Some of you have been to Alaska on some type of mission or some type of tour or some type of cruise. Well did you ever go to Alaska and have the sun stay out for only twelve hours then the night for only twelve hours? Have you been there during the time when daylight was for not days or weeks, but for months? Have you been there during that time? Wasn't it fun? Didn't you just enjoy staying up all 24 or 23 1/2 hours? No you didn't! It was awkward; it was different. The point I'm trying to make here is that there are different parts of the world. In Indonesia, for instance, everybody was up and on the street by 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. They were there because it was the coolest part of the day. They were already serving and selling breakfast at that time. It was an incredible thing. I was sitting in my motel room, we'd been ministering up through the night, and I hear the clanging of dishes and the carts running up and down the street. I said to the other missionaries who were with me, "What's going on?" They said, "Hey, it's daylight!" I said, "I can see that, what's wrong with the sun?" They said, "Nothing's wrong with the sun, it's just the way it is at this time in this part of the world." Folks, it changes and the God who allows change to occur naturally can also do it supernaturally not matter where you are and when you were there.

So beyond the fact of it being a miracle, some still continue to marvel. I'm reminded of what the psalmist said in Psalm 74:16, "Day and night belong to God." They really do. He put them into the beginning and He continues to put them into the realm of our understanding. Jeremiah, the prophet, proclaimed, "The Lord is God and nothing is too hard for Him" (Jeremiah 32:17; 27). So the plea of prayer came from the heart of a man who was bold, and who was believing and who wasn't afraid to ask for something big. Are you that way? Are we that way as a church? Has God put us into a posture where we cannot defeat the enemy unless we get a hand from God? Well surely I believe we are and surely I know that some of your individual lives are absolutely purposefully dependent upon God answering your prayer.

II. The Power of Prayer

"stood still" = slow motion (vs. 13) Secondly, I want you to note that not only was there a plea of prayer, there was the power of prayer that was demonstrated. You'll see the evidence of that as you look back to Joshua 10:13. "So the sun stood still and the moon stopped till the nation avenged itself on its enemies." God answered Joshua's prayer! Are you able to say that? Could you say, "God answered my prayer." Or would you willingly or maybe hesitantly say, "I haven't prayed anything recently that I would even know would be evidenced that God answered that prayer. Oh dear friend, God has been longing for His children to speak to Him.

There's an illustration about a man who had come and sat at the back of a church and was never spoken to by anyone. Imagine what it would be like for the Almighty King of Kings and Lord of Lords to have a host of millions of children across the globe who never speak to Him, who just go day by day thinking, "God is going to order my world and when I need Him, I'll speak to Him. But until then, I don't need to talk to Him." All the while the Father is waiting, listening, hoping, trusting that someone is going to say something to Him and as they do His heart begins to quicken with the desire to become even more of a friend that He is for you.

Let me demonstrate what I think the power of prayer proves as we see those words in the scripture, "stood still." I think to stand still, or that the moon and the sun stood still, is demonstrative of my wonderful, wonderful television remote control! Now with my remote I have power. Hey, I protect this thing because if you get your hands on it when you come to my house, you've got the power! Now with my remote I have an on and off switch. I can choose when I want to see it and when I don't want to see it. I can change the channels. I can go backwards and forwards. That's pretty cool! If I don't want you to hear what's going on, I can just push mute, that's no problem. If I want to go back to channel I was at, I just push the channel before. If I want to record what's going on, I can simply push the record button and the VCR will kick in. Now, if I'm watching something on a VCR, on a videotape and I'm looking at it, I have the privilege to push this other button here that says slow mode and that stands for slow motion. Now it doesn't stop the motion, it just slows it down.

God has the power in His mind and in His hand to put this world in slow motion. Now it may be a little bit too simplistic to express it like a remote control, but in a generation of those who are media hounds we can understand that better. God has the control! God proves the power! God uses the power to slow things down. You see it was God's hand that was pushing the buttons for Joshua because Joshua was praying with a bold prayer, with a believing prayer and with a big prayer. And God was wanting and willing to answer it. Now perhaps the biggest question is this, "How did this happen?" You're thinking that's a good question, and if I were God I'd be able to answer that. Well you don't have to be God to answer that question. I'm going to give you five proposals, one by one, and I want you to walk through them very carefully and prayerfully to discern what you believe to be the truth from the Lord.

A. The Earth Stopped Rotating

Some have said, as theologians, that the earth just stopped rotating. You know that the sun and the moon rotate and you understand how they are in perfect sequence with each other and you know that that's what causes seasons and day and night. Now some are saying that the earth stopped rotating. Traditionally it has been assumed that a miracle of colossal magnitude took place and the sun actually stopped in its course across the sky, as well as the moon. Some have said from extra biblical sources, Ecclesiastes is one, was it not through Joshua that the sun stood still and one day became as long as two?

Even Josephus, who is known as a great Jewish historian, likewise claimed that this day was longer than any other ordinary day. Augustan, Jerome, Luther, Calvin, various commentators, all of them have given this proposal, that the earth stopped rotating, it's due merit. In modern times today some Bible students have come to understand the claim to the verification of this is understood because astronomical history has taught us that there is one missing day that is accounted for by the extra day in Joshua, Chapter 10. The steps or degrees that the sun went backwards in Hezekiah's time, II Kings, chapter 20:9-11. In one account it is claimed in that a Professor Pickering of Harvard Observatory traced this missing day back to Joshua's time and the ten degrees to Hezekiah's time were verified by astronomers from Greenwich and from Yale. However, such claims have not altogether been accepted by all people. Let me say to you that that proposal, the earth stopped rotating, is being and has been verified by various scientists, as well as those who are involved with theology.

B. The Sun's Light Lingered

Now there's a second proposal that the sun's light lingered... it just lingered. Many scholars have sought explanations in various natural phenomenon in order to explain this.

C. The Sun's Light Was Blocked

Now there's a third proposal that the sun's light was blocked. Tonight when I asked for the lights to be dimmed, there was a blockage of the source of power and light. It wasn't that the existence of the light ceased, it's just that the source of the light was dim. So it is that some say that the sun's light was blocked, perhaps like a solar eclipse in the view here and that the sun ceased shining due to the cloud cover associated with a hailstorm. Others have said that it was just simply a natural phenomenon.

D. A Special Sign Was Involved

Someone said that a special sign was involved. For those of you who check your horoscope every day, your ears are going to begin to perk up because I'm going to be speaking your language. By the way, I don't think you're going to get God's best from the newspaper’s astrological signage. Another set of approaches sees Joshua's words as a request for an omen involving astrological signs. In other words, in these interpretations there was no extraordinary interpretation or interruption of the movement of the heavenly bodies, only an alignment that could be taken as a good or a bad omen. Joshua's request then, some say, was a favorable time for Israel. Well those are round about ways to look at what could be simply understood as God answering a man's prayer.

E. The Passage is Figurative

But there's a fifth proposal that I really want you to understand that some who are outside of the body of faith are taking hook, line and sinker. They are saying that the entire passage is just figurative and it literally has no physical merit. They are saying that the passive cannot be taken literally. It is only understood in figurative terms, never in cosmic terms. I disagree; I wholeheartedly disagree with that because I believe that the very merit of the way that it was listed for us here proves the power of prayer. My friend was it just an accident? Was it just a looking and hoping that God would do something different than He had ever done before? Was it just man's marvel or was it God's miracle?

III. The Proof of Prayer (vv. 14-15)

A. God

I believe that it was God's miracle and that the power of prayer became what is our third focus, and that is the proof of prayer. Joshua 10:14-15 shows us proof of prayer. Here a man is doing something that very few others have ever done and it's not just asking God to stop the sun and to halt the moon. I mean it's that Joshua was talking to God and telling Him to do something. Who in their right mind tells God what to do? Well, here's the example of what happened. God "obeyed" Joshua's request. God obeyed it! Now I put this terminology into quotation marks because you see God is not inclined to have to obey man at any point - ever! But I want to give you two examples where we see this scripturally. Look at the example of Moses in Numbers 14:11-21. God and Moses are in dialogue with each other. Then here's what happened as God said, "How long Moses will these people refuse to believe in me?" Then the scripture goes on to tell us in Numbers 14:19 that Moses begins to talk with God and to reason with God and he says, "In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people." Then the Bible says expressively in Numbers 14:20, "The Lord replied, 'I have forgiven them, as you asked.'" That's proof that God hears His children and God will answer, based upon His love and His desire. It's not a whim and it's not your power, but it's by His choice because of His mercy and His grace and His great, great love for this world.

There's another example of this in the scripture and it's Elijah in I Kings 17:22. Do you remember the widow of Zarephath and the widow of Zarephath's son? The son became ill and the Bible says that he stopped breathing. Then the scripture goes on to say that she asked this question, "What do you, Elijah, have against me, man of God?" That's the way she posed it. Then Elijah turned to God and asked Him three times, as he stretched himself out over the boy, to bring healing to him. And, "The Lord heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived" (verse 22). God hears the heart, as well as the lips, and He watches the lives of those who trust in Him.

I wonder - are you living proof of an answer that God has given to someone else's prayer? Has your life been spared? Have you been rescued out of an accident that could have taken you out? Have you been brought from a deathbed experience? Have you given the merit and the credit to God? Have you chosen to believe not only that we should plead before God and then give Him the power but, as the scripture says in verse 14b, that there's never been a day like that before or since when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel.

B. The Battle Belongs To the Lord

My friends, the battle belongs to the Lord! Look at the words of this powerful song: In Heavenly armor we'll enter the land, / The Battle Belongs to the Lord,' No Weapon that's fashioned against us will stand, / The Battle Belongs to the Lord. / And we sing glory, honor, Power and strength to the Lord. / We sing Glory, Honor, power and strength to the Lord. Friends, the battle truly belongs to the Lord.

No matter what battle you're going through during this life and time and experience in your school or at work or in your relationships or even in church, I want to remind you that God has not forgotten nor forsaken you. He loves you and He will fight for you. Even if it takes a miracle through a big prayer, through a believing prayer or through a bold prayer, He's waiting on you to make that plea before Him.


I have three questions as a conclusion:

The first question is: Do you believe, really believe, that God can do anything? Do you? If you do, then you'll act on it.

The second thing I want you to ponder is: Have you asked Him to do something? I believe a lot of people believe that God can do anything, but not all of us have asked Him to do something. You say, "Well when I'm in need, I'll let Him know." How about right now? There's not one of us that doesn't have a need that should be raised before the Lord. And if it remains an unspoken request, even to God, how in the world do you expect the answer? Follow the pattern and follow the path that Joshua has given us.

What proof are you of God's power? If someone were to look at your life tonight and ask to see what you have done that you couldn't have done in your own power, would there be proof in your life? Would you have evidenced that Jesus alone is your guide and your God? If not, why not?