Memorial stones.

I love the part in Joshua 4 where Joshua tells Israel to set up 12 memorial stones, so that,

In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’  you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.”

Then Joshua set up in Gilgal the 12 stones they had taken from the Jordan, and he said to the Israelites, “In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.”

I mean, this incredible supernatural event just happened: the fast-flowing waters of the Jordan suddenly stopped and piled up in a giant pile that reached all the way over to the next city, so that the ark of the covenant (and all the Israelites) could cross over on dry land downsteam.

So they made a memorial, plucked from the middle of the now-dry riverbed, and a mirrored memorial in the middle of the Jordan itself.  Something to remind themselves, and to provide an opportunity to testify to their children, and indeed the whole earth, of God’s mighty work and providential care.

There are a lot of ways in which this seems odd to me.  Unlike the Israelites, we are not a people of holy days or symbolism or relics.  We have Christ, we have changed hearts; we are not a people of sinners and a remnant, we are a people who know God.  We are in the New Covenant and the symbolic has become realized (Hebrews 8), the copy and shadow is now manifest.

And yet: God was the one who instructed this memorial of Joshua’s, and it pleased Him to have His name glorified and to have an occasion for them to tell their children.  I think how often we pass over things that ought to remind us of God’s past goodness to us, and not remark on them.  When maybe, what we ought to be doing, is taking every opportunity to remember and remind others—wow, do you remember when God provided this car for us?  I love our yard—do you remember when we were so amazed that God led us to this “perfect” house, and how very great of a blessing it has been to us?  Wedding anniversary—an opportunity to praise God for His sovereignty and grace in our marriage.  Birthdays—do you remember when God gave us this baby?  The hardships that were involved, and yet by His grace we overcame?  The things we have learned from interacting with this child?

Something to think about.  We can’t take “too many” opportunities to recount His faithfulness!

Getting Scripture Right

Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, Master, I know you. You’re a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’

“But his master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy slave! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.

[Matthew 25:24-27, hcsb]

l have been reading through Deuteronomy this week, with a bit of a better understanding of Judaism now, and the wild differences in the way we interpret some of these passages (e.g. Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 22:5-12) and the way Judaism does… the differences in the way we understand Scripture itself compared to how Judaism (or even Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, etc.) understand it—it is no small thing.  The assumption that Scripture is clear compared to the assumption that Scripture requires specific interpretation from an appointed body makes a resounding difference.

And I think about this passage in Matthew, and: fear God.  Wow.  The man who received one talent had the totally wrong idea of what his master wanted.  He feared, but in the wrong way.  His fear immobilized him and underlined that his fear was for his own skin, not for pleasing his master.  And he didn’t understand his master at all.  He may have known things about him, but he didn’t know him.  He had the wrong interpretation.

One thing I have come to understand a little bit more over the past year is that people misinterpret Scripture.  I have misinterpreted Scripture; I was thinking just this morning about the way I used to understand John 3:16 compared to the way I understand it now.  Scripture is clear—the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture is clear enough in its statements about itself—and yet our pride and our sin and false teachings certainly lead us into misinterpreting it.

There is a great urgency to ask the Spirit to enlighten us, lead us, keep us from error.  And to pay attention, to not be like the servant with one talent who hid it in the ground, but to learn our Master’s ways and seek His benefit rather than satiating our self-centered misunderstandings of Him.