Remembering What God Has Done

Joshua 4:1-4:24

New Year!!! It's a time for looking forward, but also for looking back. Memory is an interesting phenomenon - I heard recently that the whole "I went upstairs to get something and now I can't remember what it was" experience is nature's way of making sure we get extra exercise as we get older!

God knows that we often forget what he's done for us. In Deuteronomy 6:12 Moses issued a final warning to Israel just before they entered the promised land, "Beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt . . ."

The meaning of the Hebrew word for memorial (v. 7) is “to remember.” Given man’s propensity to forget it is little wonder then that memorials have frequently played an important role in biblical history. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses built an altar of stones to commemorate God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 12:14) . Now in tonight’s text we see God command his people to erect a memorial.

Notice that according to verse one, “when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan,” that the LORD gave more specific instructions in verses 2-5,

“Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel.”

According to these verses twelve men chosen earlier (3:12) were to go back to where the priest were standing in the middle of the river, holding the ark. Each man was to pick up a large rock or stone from the middle of the Jordan and carry it to the side of the river where Israel would camp in the land of Canaan.

“And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (v. 7)

First, the memorial stones were to be a reminder of their own personal experience. Notice that in verse six this memorial will cause the children to ask; “What do these stones mean to you?” These stones are first of all to be a reminder those who were present of their personal experience, what they saw, heard and felt. “Tell your story, Keep a clear memory of what God did for you. Keep on telling your stories so that you never lose your own sense of awe and wonder of what God has done in your life.”

Whether you realise it our not we all have memorials in our lives, no not a monument of stones, but one built of memories.

There are memories of places, places that trigger memories just as the memorial stones in Gilgal. There are some significant places in your life that elicit memories. The little church where I was saved is such a place for me. It was there that was saved as a teenager. It is a special place for me. It reminds me of things that God had done in my life. You no doubt have such a place in your life.

There are memories of people. These are memories of people who God has used in your life. For me many of them are the people who encouraged me to pursue the ministry.
But how often do we sit down and think about the memories, and thank God for those people He’s used in our lives?

There are memories of experiences, of God’s answering prayer and of God’s marvelous hand of provision. I remember in seminary how God always provided for our needs. We learned some invaluable lessons on faith. These lessons on faith are not something you can be taught, it is something that you must experience to truly understand.

There are also mementos of the past. If you were to come into my study at home and look around you would see miscellaneous objects that are reminders to me of life experiences, mission trips, etc. Each of those objects triggers memories of what happened then, of the things that God did and that I experienced, experiences that have changed my life.

The point is that God knows how we think and that is the reason that he instructs Joshua to build a memorial. So that each time the Israelites saw it they would be reminded that they had not crossed the Jordan on their own ability, their own strength but because of God.
I challenge you to spend sometime thinking through your memorial stones, let them draw you closer to God and remind you of His faithfulness.

Secondly, the Memorial stones were to serve as a basis of sharing faith with their children (vv. 6-7). In two places in this chapter, parents are reminded of their responsibility for the communication of God’s Word and his calling on their children, generation to generation.

First in verse 6-7, “. . . that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

And again in verses 21-23,

“Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over,"

As with other memorials in the Old Testament, the intention of the memorial was to provoke questioning especially from future generations. Christianity is never more than one generation away from extinction. If we are not careful UK could well be the exhibit “A” for this truth. Just think for a moment how far our country has drifted away from its foundation in just one generation.

God’s warning to Israel was not to let the environment of the pagan society that surrounded them dictate their values.

Deuteronomy 6:12-15 “. . . then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth”.

Third, the memorial stones were to be a signpost to a lost world. (v. 24)

“ that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

It has always been God’s plan that the whole world should “know” that He is the only living God. Not only was the crossing of the Jordan a stirring event for Israel, but it was also a terrifying event for all the people living in the land of Canaan.

What memorials are set in place in your life? Ponder them and let the Lord remind you of his goodness and faithfulness to you and those you love.