The book of Joshua outlines the capture of strongholds in Canaan. From the miracle of the destruction of the walls of Jericho to the hailstones descending on the Amorites in Joshua 10, the record indicates the fact that the “Lord fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:14). From the first 11 chapters we read about how the Lord fought the battles for Israel, from chapter 12 to 20 we read about the land inheritances each tribe received.
Chapter 21 is a reminder to us that the Lord not only kept His promise to the Israelites, but that He keeps His promises to us as well. From the text we read the following:
And the Lord gave unto Israel all the aland which he bsware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the Lord gave them arest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there bstood not a man of all their cenemies before them; the Lord ddelivered all their enemies into their hand. There afailed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had bspoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45)
Sometimes the Lord keeps promises and we do not even notice. The author of Joshua noted how the hailstones defeated the five Amorite kings insomuch that “they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.” (Joshua 10:11) I shared a couple of historical examples in class where the Lord’s work was furthered due to a seemingly insignificant change in weather or circumstance.
1588: Queen Elizabeth’s Fireships defeat the Spanish Armada
In the 16th century, the mighty Spanish Armada was the mightiest naval presence on the planet. It seemed as if nothing could stop Spain from conquering the New World as well as continental Europe in 1588. Phillip II of Spain was intent on invading England and replacing Queen Elizabeth with a monarch with Catholic ties.
In a ferocious battle on August 8, 1588, Elizabeth’s smaller ships managed both to inflict severe damage on the massive Spanish ships and to drive the entire enemy fleet northward, away into the North Sea. If the Spaniards had not been tormented by unfavorable violent gales in the North Sea, the smaller English vessels would not have been able to outmaneuver and destroy them. The victory at sea not only saved England from invasion, but it crushed the overseas Spanish-Portuguese monopoly and opened the way for colonial expansion for England, France and Holland. Some historians have argued that had Spain invaded London and taken the country, that North America would have been dominated by Spanish influence (The Repulse of the English Fireships: The Spanish Armada Triumphs, August 8, 1588, in What If? Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001. pp. 139-154).
Total Spanish domination of North America would, in turn, have dire consequences for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Circumstances would not have been favorable for the Restoration, in my opinion, because the Restoration had to be planted in free soil favorable to the ideals of the reformation. Everything had to be in place prior to the birth of Joseph Smith so that the gospel could grow and spread across North America and into lands where the reformation had opened the minds and hearts of the people to reading the scriptures.
1776: The Battle of Long Island
Another example of a seemingly small change in the weather affecting history involved the war for independence fought in and around New York City in 1776. The winds became unfavorable for the British as General William Howe, assembled the greatest expeditionary force ever to be sent from England. The goal of Howe’s forces was to eliminate the Washington’s army at New York harbor.
At the height of the Battle of Long Island, the British, with some 500 ships and 32,000 well-trained soldiers, were pushed back by strong northerly winds and an ebbing tide. This seemingly insignificant change in the wind prevented the British from sealing off the only escape route across the East River to New York that Washington and the surrounded Americans had. If the wind had let the British ships seize control of the East River, many historians believe the Revolution would have ended. See also: http://www.britishbattles.com/long-island.htm
The prophet Nephi saw this war between the Americans and the British as pivotal in restoring the gospel. He wrote:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was awith them. And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them. And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together aagainst them to battle. And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were adelivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations. (1 Nephi 13:16-19)
Seeing the hand of the Lord in our lives as we remember the past opens our minds and hearts to witnessing His hand in our lives as we are living- in the moment. Being open to His guidance helps us to recognize His influence and be an influence in the lives of those around us.