Even as I compose this editorial, I am witnessing the effect of the tremendous miracle recorded in Joshua chapter 10. Along with a few hundred other hapless souls, I am confined in a Boeing 747 flying from London to Seattle. The flight takes about nine and a half hours so, allowing for the eight-hour time difference, our landing time will be less than two hours after the time we left Heathrow. For the entire flight so far, the position of the sun, relative to us, has hardly changed: it is as though it has “stood still”. Had we been flying a bit faster, so that the flight lasted exactly eight hours, the phenomenon would be complete.
Of course, what I am observing today only illustrates the effect of what happened when Joshua fought with the Amorites on that momentous day. Today, the speed and direction of my flight are cancelling out the time-keeping rotation of the globe, and the overall effect is that the sun remains in the same position relative to me. But herein lies the immensity of the miracle. The most probable explanation of how God acted, so that “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day”, is that He caused the solar system to ‘freeze’ for the duration of the battle. If He had simply slowed the speed of Earth’s rotation, or caused it to stop completely, that would be akin to stopping one cog in a huge and complex gear-train. We are told that not only did the sun stand still, but “the moon stayed”, indicating that the whole wonderful machinery of the solar system was paused.
The howls of derision from the lips of scoffers, presented with this suggestion, would be deafening. That is to be expected, but it leads us to consider our own response. It is surprising just how many orthodox commentators seek to explain away the mighty miracle that God wrought that day. The notion that God would, or could, suspend the operation of the solar system in response to a man’s prayer is, for them, apparently too much to swallow. Various explanations are suggested to explain the miracle, but we need to assess our own thinking. First, does the Bible mean what it says? This challenges our view as to the absolute inerrancy of the Scriptures. Such passages as Joshua 10 cause those who seek to discredit the Word of God to claim that the Old Testament is untrustworthy, and riddled with myths and fables. Could your conviction as to the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture be swayed?
Second, how firm is our thinking concerning the greatness of our God? Is He really omnipotent?
Hath it not been told you from the beginning? Have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth … that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: … To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One (Isa 40.21-25).
It seems that the sheer magnitude of the miracle causes the conviction of some to waver but, if this act of divine power could be explained away, it would not be a miracle at all. If we believe that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1.1), then why should we doubt that He can suspend the operation of the heaven and the earth by that same word of power? People speak of the impossibility of suddenly stopping the rotation of the earth, and of the massive tsunamis and other destruction that would result, but why should the One who is “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb 1.3) be incapable of managing the effects of His mighty deeds? There is great danger in the kind of thinking that Israel displayed when they “limited the Holy One of Israel” (Ps 78.41). Either our God is God, or He is not. His causing the sun to stand still should provoke our wonder and worship, rather than the curse of rationalism and unbelief.