Study Notes

Memorial stones.

Julie / January 29, 2015

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!

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