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January 10, 2016

Sermon Joshua 10:12-14  . . . “It’s a Miracle:  When the Sun Stood Still”

“It’s a Miracle:  When the Sun Stood Still”

Joshua 10:12-14

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

It was early in December 1944, and General George S. Patton, commander of the United States’ Third Army, stood with his troops at Germany’s doorstep.  He’d pushed his men across France toward Germany through the summer and early fall, but as he drove through the northeast corner of France toward the Saar River, progress stalled.  Fuel and supplies were running low and, worst of all, the weather wouldn’t cooperate.  Driving rains had mired his troops and grounded the fighter planes and bombers needed for air support.

So on the morning of December 8, 1944, he placed a call to Chaplain James Hugh O’Neill, Chief Chaplain of the Third Army.  He said, “Do you have a good prayer for weather?  We must do something about those rains if we’re to win the war.”

So Chaplain O’Neill went looking for a prayer.  When he couldn’t find one, he wrote one of his own.  

This is what he said:  “Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend.  Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

Then just as soon as he wrote that prayer, he donned his heavy trench coast, crossed the quadrangle of the old French military barracks, and reported to Patton.  When Patton read it, he said, “Have 250,000 copies printed and see to it that every man in the Third Army gets one.”

And he said, “Up to now, in the Third Army, God has been very good to us.  We have never retreated; we’ve suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics.  And it’s all because of prayer.  If we pray, it will be like plugging in on a current whose source is in heaven.  Prayer completes that circuit.  Prayer is power.”

And sure enough, as Patton and his men prayed that prayer, the weather miraculously cleared and the men won the battle.  

Will Davis, in his book, Big Prayer, writes, “Here’s a dangerous question:  what are you praying for today that will require a miraculous answer from God?  What are you asking for that only God can do?  If you seem to be stuck in a prayer rut, if your ‘asks’ are limited to the token, ‘God bless Joe,’ and ‘God be with Sherri,’ kinds of requests, then it’s time for you to start taking some risks in prayer.  It’s time for you to start asking big.”

So it was in the book of Joshua chapter 10.  Listen to what he prayed:  “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”

Sun and moon stand still!?  Are you kidding?  What kind of prayer is this?  To pray this prayer would be nothing less than to ask God to tell the universe to stop in its tracks and to make time stand still.

But what happened when he prayed?  Listen to what the Bible said:  “And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.”

So how did all this begin?  The book of Joshua chapter 10 opens as the people of Gibeon are under attack.  Five Amorite kings were about to attack them, so the Gibeonites begged Joshua to help.  So Joshua immediately marshaled his troops and ordered an all-night march and a surprise attack on the enemy.

But it wasn’t easy.  Not only would it be a double-time march, at night, for a distance of some twenty-five miles, it would be up hill most of the way, with no chance to rest.  Still they hoofed it up the steep ravine toward Ai, then south to Gibeon, where they attacked the unsuspecting Canaanite army.  Even more, the Bible says God threw the enemy forces into confusion so the armies of the five kings fled.  Then He rained down hailstones on their enemies.  The storm was so massive, the Bible says more died from the hailstones than by the swords of Israel.

But the battle was dragging on and Joshua knew he needed more time.  So what could he do?  He needed to strike down that Amorite army as quickly and completely as possible, not tomorrow, not next Thursday.  Today.  He was desperate.

So he prayed a prayer, a remarkable, unbelievable, unprecedented prayer, a prayer like no one else ever prayed:  “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”

Then what happened?  At Joshua’s request and at God’s command, the sun and the moon stood still for an entire day.  And, as the Bible says, “There has never been a day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man.”

To make the sun and the moon stand still is a bit much to ask, don’t you think?  What could possibly have made Joshua think God would answer a prayer like that?

The reason was simple.  Joshua believed in a big God.

Think back, for a moment, to who Joshua was and where he had come from.  As the people of Israel left Egypt and made their way to the Promised Land, he was Moses’ second-in-command.  And he saw God at work time after time.

He crossed the Red Sea, on dry land.  He ate manna and quail for forty years, and drank water from a rock.

Then, when Moses died, God used him to lead His people into the Promised Land.  He crossed the Jordan River on dry land, then he conquered the city of Jericho as walls came tumbling down.

Of course, Joshua believed in a big God.  He knew He could do anything.  That’s why he so boldly prayed, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”

But how did God do it?  How did He make the sun and the moon stand still?  

We don’t have a clue.  In fact, as far as we’re concerned, He would have to break every law of time and physics just to get it done.

But why couldn’t He?  After all, think of the words of Psalm 74:  “O God, the day is Yours, and Yours also the night; You established the sun and moon.  It was You Who set all the boundaries of the earth.”  Or Jeremiah chapter 32:  “Behold, I am the Lord…Is anything too hard for me?”

As one author put it:  “If a man has enough sense to make a clock, he certainly has enough sense to stop it.”  Or, as another put it:  “Either God can do anything, or He is not truly God.”

Is it any surprise He would do something like this?  It shouldn’t be.  God can do anything.  He gave Samson strength to defeat the Philistines and sent fire to consume Elijah’s sacrifice.  He made a donkey talk and multiplied a widow’s grain and oil.  Daniel spent a night in a lions’ den and Jonah survived three days in a fish’s stomach.

And when Jesus lived and worked among us, the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame could walk and lepers were cleansed.

As the angel Gabriel once said to a girl named Mary:  “Nothing is impossible with God.”

And so I ask you today:  How big is your God?  Do you believe He can do anything, that He can do what He says He’ll do?  Or are you content to believe in a strong, but not too strong, powerful, but not too powerful, big, but not too big, really rather small kind of God?  How big is your God?

Just like Joshua, each of us has some sun-stand-still kind of prayers that we need to pray.  What is it that you need Him to do?

Do you believe He’s strong enough to heal your griefs and provide for your needs, and wise enough to know what they are?  Can He save your marriage?  Can He help you do your job?  How big is your God?

John “the Bull” Bramlett, born in July of 1941, was a football linebacker who, over time, played for four teams—the Broncos, the Dolphins, the Patriots and the Falcons.

In high school and college, he won many honors and awards, and was even named “All-State” and “All-American.”  As soon as he finished college, he played baseball, signing on with the St. Louis Cardinals.

But that’s when things went a little south.  Apparently, he got into trouble a lot, so the Cardinals let him go.  So he got picked up by the Broncos, who let him go.  In 1970, when he played for the Patriots, he was named MVP.

But it didn’t take long, and things didn’t go so well there either.  In fact, he became known not only as “the meanest man in football,” he was known as “the meanest man in professional sports.”  He had no respect for authority.  He was reckless, wild and abusive at home and on the field.

Until one night in 1973, two men came to visit him and told him the story of Jesus.  They said He loved him and died for him.

And what they said that night must have really made a difference, for all of a sudden, this lying, cursing, cheating, drinking, meanest man of professional sports suddenly got up, went to another room and got his wife’s Bible.  Then he turned to the words of John 3:16.

And when he read the words, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” and got to the “whosoever believeth in Him” part, it deeply touched his heart.  And he said, “Hey, I’m a whosoever!”  Then he got down on his knees and believed in Jesus.  He said, “For the first time in my life, I had peace.”

Later, whenever anyone asked for his autograph, he always included, after his name, the words of Romans 1:16:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

How big is your God?  Can He heal hurts?  Can He open hearts?  Can He change lives?  

Joshua’s God, our God, once made the sun and the moon stand still.  And if He can do that, He can do anything.

As a children’s song once put it so well:  “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty.  There’s nothing my God cannot do.”

 

 

Dear Father, our needs are great, but You are greater.  Make us confident to pray our sun-stand-still prayers, whatever they might be and, by Your grace, hear us.  This we ask for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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