Romans 8:28 “All things work for good to them that love God and to them who are called according to His purposes.”
Most of you have heard this verse many times.
Some of you may even find it hard to accept what is taught in this verse.
This will be especially true when you are encountering some difficulties or hardship.
Where is God when I am in trouble?
Where is God when I lose a loved one?
Why is it that sometimes even in the path of obedience, things don’t seem to go right for me?
When we are in a discouraging situation, are we able to exercise faith in God?
Romans 8:28 requires us to look forward in faith.
At the same time, it also exhorts us to look back on the things that have happened in our lives.
We should look back and see how God has used incidents to shape and to mold us.
And see how He has worked out everything according to His purposes and for His glory.
Today, I want to leave you with just 1 major lesson.
I want you to see this principle of Rom 8:28 manifested very clearly in Joshua 10.
If you recall, in Joshua 9, the Gibeonites deceived Joshua and the Israelites.
The Gibeonites lived right in the heart of Canaan.
They were probably the next to be attacked.
So, they pretended to live very far away.
And they tricked Joshua and the Israelites into signing a treaty with them.
When Israel realized it, they were very upset.
They wanted to attack the Gibeonites in their anger.
But Joshua reminded them of the oath they had sworn.
He kept the oath that they made.
This is an action that honoured God.
“You may have tricked me, but I shall do what honours my God.”
“It may appear to be a loss for me now if I do what honours my God.”
“But who knows what good He may bring out of this entire situation?”
If you are faced with a similar situation, can you look forward in faith like Joshua?
Or would you just start murmuring, cursing and swearing about that situation?
It was certainly not an easy thing for Joshua to do.
At that point in time, without visibility to the future, it is hard for him to believe Rom 8:28.
Worse still, Joshua would be very unpopular if he did not allow the Israelites to take revenge on the Gibeonites.
However, only by keeping the treaty then can his conscience be clear.
We thank God that in the face of this pressure, Joshua stood firm on what he knew was the right thing to do.
Now, this was certainly not easy.
I had mentioned before that the Gibeonites served as woodcutters & water-drawers for Israel forever.
This meant that Joshua would be remembered of this mistake for the rest of his life.
Let me tell you an additional burden Joshua had to bear.
The treaty does not just prevent Israel from attacking the Gibeonites.
It also binds Israel with an obligation to defend them when they are in trouble.
It is like being part of the United Nations.
We expect other member nations to come to our rescue when we are in trouble.
At the same time, we are also obligated to send whatever help we can give to other nations in need.
That is why Singapore sent peace-keeping forces to East Timor, Afganistan and Iraq.
That is our little contribution to the United Nations.
Now, the other nations in Canaan knew about the obligations of Israel to the Gibeonites.
They knew it would be difficult to fight against Israel.
So, perhaps the easier way would be to attack the weaker link.
And so, they started attacking the Gibeonites who are now “allies” of the Israelites.
And naturally, we see the Gibeonites turning to Israel for help in that situation.
How would you respond if you were Israel?
“See, Joshua, I told you that we should have destroyed them when they tricked us.”
“Now they become a burden to us.”
“Now, I even have to help them.”
“What kind of deal is this?”
Is this the kind of response you would have if you were in Israel’s situation?
It is like after a thief robbed you, he fell down and got injured.
Now you even have to even send him to the hospital and pay for his hospital bill.
Joshua, are you sure you want to send your sons to fight this war?
Is it worth it? Are we over-doing it about keeping the treaty we have signed?
But there were no such questions in Joshua’s mind at all.
He did not go into a self-pitying mode.
He just mobilized his troops and marched off by night to rescue the Gibeonites.
He did not even talk about who is right and who is wrong.
Joshua just did what he knew was the right thing to do.
And this shows that he did not honour the treaty with the Gibeonites only with lip service.
He was totally convinced that he needed to keep the treaty that has been signed.
He was even ready to risk his life and that of his people to help the Gibeonites.
If you were in Israel at that time, you may be asking this question:
“Where is God in all these? What good can He be working out for His people?”
“He had permitted that Israel be tricked by the Gibeonites.”
“Now, He is even allowing our lives to be risked to help them.”
If you lived in the time of Joshua 9, these would be very real questions in your mind.
Romans 8:28 requires us to look forward in faith.
God knows what He is doing by bringing this situation into our lives.
He has demonstrated in our lives so far that He knows exactly what He is doing for His glory.
We just need to look forward in faith and obedience.
Friends, if you are in a similar situation today, I urge you to have faith in God.
He has demonstrated throughout history and in our lives that He is totally sovereign.
And in Him, we must put our trust.
Notice that as Joshua obeyed and kept his oath unquestionably, God gave him the encouragement he needed.
Joshua 10:8 “And Jehovah said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thy hands; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.”
Here’s the lesson for all of us.
As we attempt to hold on to the promise of Rom 8:28, we may encounter a lot of challenges along the way.
We ought to keep trusting and doing what we know is right.
God knows when to give us the encouragements we need.
He will encourage us just as He has done so at the right time for Joshua.
Spurred on by this encouragement, verse 9 tells us that Joshua marched his troops all night.
This is not something easy to do.
Those who have gone through national service know what it takes to do a dawn attack.
You march all night to your objective and by the time you start attacking you are already so tired.
But for Israel, they just kept their pace because God fought for them.
Verse 11 tells us God dropped hailstones on the enemies.
This is more effective than any artillery or air-raid.
Right now, Israel is seeing the hand of God very active in their lives.
They can sense that God is close to them.
But if they were murmuring, it would be difficult to see the hand of God at work.
If they were murmuring, their fatigue would be the overwhelming state of mind.
In the same way, we can sense the presence of God if we are obedient and walking close to Him.
We will be able to discern the blessings and help He is giving us in our lives.
So, Joshua marched all night, fought and won his first battle.
Although Israel must have been very tired by then, Joshua marched on to maintain the attack momentum.
He has already learned in chapter 9 that in all things he must pray and keep close to the Lord.
So now, he prayed that the sun would keep still.
What was that for?
He needed more daylight hours to complete (in military terms) his “mopping up” operations against his enemies.
He did not want to give them any chance of re-grouping for any counter-attack.
You see, his troops did not have any night vision devices like our armies today.
So, he needed more daylight hours.
It sounded like an impossible prayer.
Would God listen to the prayer of a man and intervene in the system of nature He has put in place?
Is He able to do that?
Would He want to do that?
The answer is “yes, He is able to.”
And, yes, He would do it according to His will and for His glory.
Let me read to you 1 John 5:14-15
(14) And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: (15) and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.
Here in Joshua 10, God intervened with the laws of nature.
The very laws of nature which He created and is sustaining everyday.
And with this, Joshua managed to completely destroy all his enemies.
Yes, Israel was tricked by the Gibeonites.
Yes, they even had to fight for these people who had tricked them.
But God meant it for their good because this was His way for the total destruction of the other nations.
And God gets all the glory for clearly He was the one who gave Israel the victory.
He was the one who dropped hailstones onto their enemies.
Verse 11 “…..there were more who died with the hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”
And verse 42 provides us with the summary of the entire incident “And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because Jehovah, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.”
What a victory, what a story!
In this dramatic act, God demonstrated that He had absolute control over the laws of nature in this world.
God showed us that He rules and will intervene to destroy His enemies.
God showed that He will bring about honour to those who honour Him.
And God showed that Rom 8:28 is indeed true.
It is not to be looked at in a fatalistic manner.
It is to be understood from the angle of God’s sovereignty and glory.
Dear Christians, let us be encouraged – for this is our God whom we are reading about.
Let us be exhorted to persevere in doing what honours the Lord even it is difficult for us to.
“All things work for good to them that love God and to them who are called according to His purposes.”
Now, to those in our midst who have not professed to be Christians, this is what I want to say to you.
Here is a true record in history that demonstrated the sovereignty of God.
In His sovereignty, He has arranged for you to be here to hear this teaching.
I urge you to submit to His Lordship and believe in Him.
I urge you to quickly obey His call to repent and to believe in His Son Jesus Christ.
For this is the only right response for us towards a Sovereign God.
And there is urgency to do so quickly before it is too late.
Now, just before we close, I want to share something from an article that I have read.
It has to do with this passage of the sun keeping still (verse 13).
There is actually another incident in 2 Kings 20:10 where the laws of nature were interrupted and the sun went backwards.
The article that I read was about a group of NASA scientists.
These NASA scientists had to launch a satellite into space.
For that purpose, they had to calculate the future position of the planets and moons in the solar system.
This is so that their satellite will not collide with any of these objects in space in the future.
To do their calculation, they had to use their computers to first extrapolate backwards the planets’ and moons’ positions in the past.
And as they were doing this, their computers ran into error because they could not account for 1 day in history.
And as the story went, they attributed the error encountered to these incidents in Joshua 10 and 2 Kings 20:10.
And with that, a lot of Christians apparently became very convinced about the truth of the Bible.
And they used this story to stand up to critics and cynics of the Christian faith.
They used this story to defend and debate against non-believers.
They even used this story in their evangelism.
So, instead of telling people about sin and the gospel of Jesus Christ, they told people this story.
And with this story, they tell people to become Christians.
Do you see the danger I am trying to point out here?
Well, first, let me say that I do not know whether this incident of the NASA scientists is real.
With my computer science background, all I can tell you that it is possible to do such computer simulations and experiments.
And it is possible that you may not be able to account for all the days in history.
But our faith must not be based on whether this incident of the NASA scientists is real.
Our believe that they bible is true should not be based on any evidence of miraculous signs, wonders or modern science.
And we do not believe in Jesus just because the NASA scientists can prove that 1 day is unaccounted for in history.
We believe in Jesus because our sin is going to bring us to hell.
And it is only by faith in Jesus that our sins can be washed away.
Yes, we should be encouraged when science provides proof to the truth of the bible.
But remember that we ought to “walk by faith and not by sight” – 2 Cor 5:7.
And remember that “faith is assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of things not seen” – Heb 11:1.
And remember, “the just shall walk by faith”!
I have encountered many people who want evidences of the truth of the bible before they would believe.
I can tell you that even if we can prove to them scientifically or otherwise that the bible is real, they will not believe.
Why? Because the truth of the bible tells us that their spiritual eyes are blinded. There is a veil covering their eyes.
And it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to invigorate them before they can see and understand.
And God, the Holy Spirit works in answer to our prayers.
Just as Joshua prayed for the sun to be still, you need to pray for your unbelieving friends and relatives.
Then their eyes will be opened and they will understand the truth of salvation.
Well, I hope we can be encouraged by the truth of Rom 8:28 as we see it being manifested in the life of Joshua here in Joshua 10.
May God be with all of us. Amen.