Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
Wherever you fall on the political landscape there is something to be said for the events of Joshua 10 when we look at what is happening in Iraq today, and I am not saying that one situation is equal to the other. But though this will not sit well with some people, it’s what God told Joshua to do. So if there is an issue, take it up with Him! The chapter describes how Joshua swept through the land of Canaan and completely destroyed Israel’s enemies (with the notable exception of Gibeon). Since the Old Testament is basically the story of God’s dealing with Israel, we tend to forget that God was also dealing with all the other nations as well—we just don’t know how. And since everything we know about God and His actions is on a “need to know” basis, He knew that we didn’t need to know. And we still don’t. It is sufficient to know that the God who controls the hail and the sun (more on that in a little bit) is also at work in the lives of all men everywhere.
But judgment always comes. And Israel was God’s judgment on nations that refused to respond well to however God was working in them. We don’t like what we read, but we know that when Israel did not deal harshly with her enemies as commanded by God, those enemies would come back later and become problems in every sense of the word—just as ISIS now is a problem. Sometimes you have to finish a job no matter how unpleasant it may seem at the time, a lesson that our generation’s political heavyweights could learn from.
But all that aside, Joshua 10 also reminds us that God not only is at work on the earth among the nations, He is also at work among the elements in the heavens. As Israel rushed to defend their new allies, the Gibeonites, against the combined forces of the region (10:6), the passage says: “…the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the sword of the Israelites” (10:11). Then, when there wasn’t time in a normal day to complete the task, another astonishing thing happens. Joshua asked God to hold back the descent of the sun (he didn’t know that it was the earth that was doing the moving). And the comment in the passage is: “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!” (10:13, 14).
Last night I was thinking on, and praying about, a particular issue. I was prompted to open my Bible at random. That is not usually the way to get guidance, but hey, if God can control hailstones and stop the earth from rotating and still keep people from flying off into space, I guess He can control what page the Bible opens at. I landed on Psalm 90. This is a beautiful passage but a sobering one as well, reminding us that it is God who decides the moment of life and the hour of death. This psalm is attributed to Moses, who understood God’s judgment better than many men. He asks God for mercy and a demonstration of His love (Psalm 90:13-17), but he also asks for something else.
“Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (90:11, 12). I know when I was born, but I didn’t plan that moment in time (apparently neither did my parents). And I certainly don’t know the hour of my death. But in between those two moments, I need to walk wisely, in obedience to the One who is to be feared, the One who holds life, death, and everything between those two, including the earth's elements, in His hands.