The Day the Sun Stood Still

On the day the LORD gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the LORD in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. (Joshua 10:12-13 NLT) “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon….” That prayer did not begin in the heart of Joshua. That prayer was birthed in the heart of God! “The sun standing still” was not a part of the battle strategy that Joshua and the leaders had devised. Even though it was highly effective, Joshua and the leaders never included that particular strategy in any of their future battle plans. They never used that prayer in some type of last-ditch effort when the tide of battle was not going in their direction – kind of like a “Hail, Mary” pass in the final seconds of a football game. God divinely inspired that prayer for that specific moment in time. He not only chose the request, He chose the time at which it would be uttered. And though it was birthed from His heart, He required that it be expressed through the voice of a man (Joshua) before He answered it. That prayer was not expressed to change the heart of God and beseech Him to do something He did not want to do. That prayer was communicated from God’s heart to Joshua’s heart, so that Joshua and the people could join with Him in His activity.

God could have very easily caused the sun to stand still without Joshua voicing the prayer. He could have easily told Joshua that this was what He was going to do, and then the Israelites could watch and see His mighty work. Like the day they crossed the Jordan River. God did not tell Joshua to stand at the edge of the water and pray in front of the people for Him to stop the flow of the river. Rather He told him to have the priests step into the river. And as they took that step of faith, God supernaturally intervened.

This time the step of faith was to pray a prayer that was outlandish. As a matter of fact, it was 93 million miles outlandish! And Joshua prayed it boldly in front of all the people. He didn’t retreat to his private prayer closet so he could voice this as a prayer that was just between him and God. He didn’t share this with just a small group with the caveat – LORD, if it is Your will…. This was one of those prayers that if God doesn’t answer, one of two things is true. On the one hand, Joshua is absolutely mad and he has lost his mind asking God to cause the sun to stand still. Talk about presuming on God! Of course, God didn’t answer that prayer – or He did answer, and the answer was “no” because it’s not His will. OR on the other hand, God is not able to cause the sun to stand still. Those are the only possible reasons for God not to answer that prayer. So if God does not cause the sun to stand still, someone comes off looking bad – either Joshua or God.

In order to pray that prayer, Joshua not only had to have the confidence that the prayer was according to God’s will, he had to be confident that God had the absolute power to be able to fulfill it. And God chose to do just that.

… The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the LORD answered such a prayer. Surely the LORD fought for Israel that day! (Josh 10:13-14)

i believe however, that God’s reasons for having Joshua express that prayer in the way He did, and His answer to that prayer was for more reasons than just the defeat of the Amorite armies that day.

  1. Through it, He affirmed His servant. By that i don’t mean that Joshua was to be put on a pedestal as a person. Joshua didn’t cause the sun to stand still. It wasn’t his idea; and it sure wasn’t his power. But God had placed Joshua in his position of leadership, and God uniquely anointed and equipped him to lead God’s people. He had an accountability and responsibility before God for the people and for his actions unlike any other. And the LORD used this prayer and His answer to affirm that Joshua was His servant and the people were to follow him.

  2. Through it, He affirmed His people. Repeatedly throughout the exodus, the wilderness journey and the occupation of the Promised Land, God affirmed His promise dating back to Abraham that the Israelites were His people, called by His Name, set aside for His purpose to bring glory to His Name. His Name was known far and wide. The kings of the very armies that the Israelites were chasing on this day, had attacked the Gibeonites out of a motivation of fear of the LORD. His Name and His mighty acts were known, and the Israelites were known to be His people. Our God is still on mission to make His Name known and His plan is to do so through His people. And if we name the name of Christ, we have been adopted into His family – we are His people. And through His mighty works, He desires to affirm us as His people.

  3. Through it, He affirmed His rule over all creation. He causes the sun to stand still. He stops the flow of the Jordan River during flood stage. He causes hail to fall and destroy the retreating Amorite armies. He causes manna to appear daily, and then no longer appear. He causes impregnable walls to miraculously collapse. He causes the blind to see and the lame to walk. He calms the storm and stills the waves. He causes the dead to rise again. He is the Ruler of all things. He is the Creator of all things.

  4. Through it, He affirmed that He – and He alone – is able to turn back the darkness. Just as He was able to keep it at bay for hours, He is able to eradicate it. “Light shines in the darkness for the godly” (Psa 112:4). “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5). “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all” (1 Jn 1:5).

The Israelites advanced to victory that day. And in the days that followed they went on to defeat the southern armies and towns. So Joshua conquered the whole region—the kings and people of the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills, and the mountain slopes. He completely destroyed everyone in the land, leaving no survivors, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. Joshua slaughtered them from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza and from the region around the town of Goshen up to Gibeon. Joshua conquered all these kings and their land in a single campaign, for the LORD, the God of Israel, was fighting for his people. (Josh 10:40-42)

And our God still “fights” for His people. He still is able to cause the sun to stand still. He had Joshua join with Him in a great miracle that brought glory to His Name. He desires each of His children to join with Him in a way that will bring glory to His Name. The miracle might look different, but He’s the same God with the same purpose. And you too – if you are a follower of Christ – are His child. What "sun" does He want to stand still in and through your life today?