(Joshua 4:1-9) You have one somewhere. Everyone does. It is quite possibly the one thing you would grab on your way out of your burning house if you knew all the family was safe. Before the big screen or the china or real silverware, you would save it. As a matter of fact, if someone was to break into that same house this one item could be sitting in full view of the burglar and the thief would not even look twice and ponder whether to add it to the loot. What is it? You know what it is; it is that priceless heirloom that reminds you of something amazing. It’s a trinket that represents an event that changed your life – a picture or little clay figurine of what might possibly be a dog; the one that your now grown child made in kindergarten. It has no value outside the memory it invokes, whose value can only be measured in your heart.
It is good, no rather it is vital to have things that remind you of something that must never be forgotten. This is the story of Joshua 4. The Israelites are crossing the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. They’re almost home. It has not been a quick or easy journey. Forty years have been spent in the wilderness just outside the boundaries of Canaan. Many of those twenty years have been spent within a day’s walk of their final destination. Now the time’s upon them.
As the people are crossing Joshua gives the leaders of the twelve tribes an odd command. “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder” (v.5). What’s that about? In the midst of crossing a flooding river whose waters are being miraculously held back, the last thing one might think to do is to stop and collect rocks. Commonsense would be tugging at you, suggesting that you move along quickly before the water decides to flow again.
But God had a purpose behind His command. He always does. Listen to the why behind the unusual instruction: “to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (vv.6-7)
You see, the people were about to experience an 800 year-old promise fulfilled. On top of that, God kept His promise in an amazing way. He stopped the flow of the flooding Jordan River. What a day to remember. What a story to pass on to your children’s children’s children. So what does God tell the people to do? He calls on them to set up a monument, a motsavah or standing stones; in this case, a pile of stones, twelve in all. The reason for twelve was so that each tribe would be represented and each would be challenged to remember.
Even more than those present that day remembering, for who could forget a day like that, they were to pass the story in to the next generation. Those crossing that day were to be ready to answer the questions their children might ask. Imagine this, you are walking along the Jordan River road when you happen upon a pile of large stones (remember these were carried on the shoulders of the men) that seem oddly out of place. Your child asks about them. You tell the story of the day when God, in His power brought you home. More than the event, you tell you little one about God. You tell of His mighty acts of deliverance, His promises kept, His love demonstrated. They stand in awe and your heart is warmed and renewed as you remember.
So the men pick up their rocks and at the end of the day they build a memorial on the west side of the Jordan, opposite the wilderness where they had wandered for forty years. Can you imagine the emotion as each man places his stone onto the monument? Envision the rush of memories from their past and the spirit-moving hope for their future. This marked the first day in the home God had promised their father Abraham nearly 1000 years earlier. It marked the beginning of a new life for their children; a life where they would thrive, be challenged and most of all have the opportunity to love and serve the Lord. And it told how this was all made possible through the power of the Lord who promised to never leave them no forsake or turn His back on them.
It’s a great story is it not? But what is it teaching God’s people today? How about these two things? First, Christians must never forget how Jesus Christ brought them from wondering in the wilderness to the place of sin to a new home, living with Him. Not just a home in Heaven but His daily presence.
Secondly, God is telling Christians that they must be able and ready to share with their children the amazing acts He has done in their lives. When the child asks why, the parent needs to, with great enthusiasm, answer the question and explain their answer.
How about you? Do you remember the amazing? Like that priceless treasure in your home that reminds you of something you never want to forget, Jesus has done things you must never fail to recall. His miraculous birth, His eternity-changing death, burial and resurrection, the day He made you a new creation, all amazing and all need to be passed on to the next generation.
Are you ready and willing to tell the story with great zeal and vigor? As you do does it remind you again and renew you love and devotion to the Lord? Do you remember the amazing?