Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Sun Stands Still

This morning's Sunday school lesson, from Joshua 9-10...

Word was getting around. Egypt had been hit with ten nasty and deadly plagues. The Red Sea had parted for the people of Israel, and fire and cloud had led them forward. As they advanced in their slow 40-year journey across the wilderness, they had defeated everyone who attacked them. Heshbon, Bashan and Ashtaroth had fallen. Now Israel had crossed the Jordan River, which had also parted for them! Soon after, Jericho fell, literally. Israel suffered a defeat at Ai because Achan had stolen from Jericho, but once they got that straightened out, Ai was destroyed. Everyone in the surrounding cities was terrified, and they got together to try to put an end to General Joshua and his scary army of Israelites. Everyone but Gibeon. They were scared too, but they were clever and decided to try a more crafty way of not being killed.

The men of Gibeon came up with a plan. They found some dry and moldy bread, put on worn-out clothes, and they made sure everything they brought with them looked old, cracked and worn. They found Joshua and the Israelites nearby and told him their sad story. “We’re from a far-off country, and we’ve heard reports of everything your God has done, and how you’ve been victorious against everyone you’ve fought. We’ve come a long way to make peace with you. We don’t want to be any trouble to you, and we were wondering if you could sign a treaty with us. Look at this moldy bread. It was fresh and steaming when we left home! Look what the long journey has done to our clothes and sandals!”

The Israelites looked at the Gibeonites’ clothes, tasted their bread, and saw that it looked like they were telling the truth. They just forgot one thing…to ask God about it. So Joshua and the Israelites believed the lie and made a treaty with Gibeon. Three days later, the truth came out. These guys were neighbors! Israel wanted to punish those crafty Gibeonites for fooling them, but they had made a promise to protect them. So instead, the leaders of Israel made them cut wood and carry water for them.

King Adoni-Zedek of Jerusalem soon heard that Joshua had destroyed Ai and signed a treaty with Gibeon, an important city that was even bigger than Ai. Gibeon had a lot of good fighters. The combined forces of Israel and Gibeon were even scarier than just Israel. So Adoni-Zedek called four other kings from nearby cities, and together, they marched to attack Gibeon.

The Gibeonites sent word to Joshua: “Help! We’re your servants, and now five kings and their armies are attacking us! Come quick and save us!”

This time, Joshua learned from his earlier mistake. Last time, he hadn’t asked God about the treaty, and they had been tricked because of it. Now, Joshua prayed. God answered, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it. Go and defeat these five armies. Not one of them will be able to stand.”

So Joshua and the Israelites marched all night and took the attacking armies by surprise. God threw their enemies into confusion, and Israel defeated them and chased them away, defeating more and more as they chased them. As the enemies continued to flee, God sent a big hailstorm, and the huge chunks of ice killed more enemies than the Israelites did with their swords.

The day was getting on, and Joshua was worried that it would get dark and some of their enemies might get away. So once again, he prayed:

“O sun, stand still over Gibeon,
O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon!”

The sun was directly overhead, and there it stayed for almost a day. The sun, moon and earth stopped moving, and God gave Joshua and the Israelites extra time to defeat five united armies in one very long day. God had never done that before, and He hasn’t done it since then.

The five kings were so scared that they hid in a cave near the city of Makkedah. When Joshua found out about that, he told the Israelites to block the cave with rocks so the kings couldn’t get out, and then they defeated almost every single enemy soldier. Then he let the kings out, and they didn’t live to tell the tale. The Israelites then defeated Makkedah. So it was that in one very long day, God helped the Israelites to defeat six cities!

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