Joshua 4:1-24 – Remembrance

When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Pick twelve men from the people, one man per tribe. Command them, ‘Pick up twelve stones from right here in the middle of the Jordan, where the feet of the priests had been firmly planted. Bring them across with you and put them down in the camp where you are staying tonight.’”

Joshua called for the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one man per tribe. Joshua said to them, “Cross over into the middle of the Jordan, up to the Lord your God’s chest. Each of you, lift a stone on his shoulder to match the number of the tribes of the Israelites. This will be a symbol among you. In the future your children may ask, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you will tell them that the water of the Jordan was cut off before the Lord’s covenant chest. When it crossed over the Jordan, the water of the Jordan was cut off. These stones will be an enduring memorial for the Israelites.”

The Israelites did exactly what Joshua ordered. They lifted twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, matching the number of the tribes of the Israelites, exactly as the Lord had said to Joshua. They brought them over to the camp and put them down there. Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests had stood while carrying the covenant chest. They are still there today.

Meanwhile, the priests carrying the chest were standing in the middle of the Jordan. They stood there until every command that the Lord had ordered Joshua to tell the people had been carried out. This was exactly what Moses had commanded Joshua. The people crossed over quickly. As soon as all the people had finished crossing, the Lord’s chest crossed over. The priests then moved to the front of the people. The people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over, organized for war ahead of the Israelites, exactly as Moses had told them. Approximately forty thousand armed for war crossed over in the Lord’s presence to the plains of Jericho, ready for battle. The Lord made Joshua great in the opinion of all Israel on that day. So, they revered him in the same way that they had revered Moses during all his life.

The Lord said to Joshua, “Command the priests carrying the chest containing the testimony to come up out of the Jordan.”

So, Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up from the Jordan.” The priests carrying the Lord’s covenant chest came up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of their feet touched dry ground. At that moment, the water of the Jordan started flowing again. It ran as before, completely over its banks. The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. They camped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.

Joshua set up at Gilgal those twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask their parents, ‘What about these stones?’ Then you will let your children know: ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’ This was because the Lord your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you until you crossed over. This was exactly what the Lord your God did to the Reed Sea. He dried it up before us until we crossed over. This happened so that all the earth’s peoples might know that the Lord’s power is great and that you may always revere the Lord your God.” (CEB)

I like coffee. I like coffee mugs. I like buying a coffee mug from places I visit. Although it drives my wife nuts, the mugs serve as a continual reminder of a certain place or event I have experienced. As we journey with the Israelites in the Old Testament book of Joshua, we experience with them the significant places and events of their taking the Promised Land. God did a miraculous work by causing the Jordan River to congeal so that the Israelites could cross over on dry ground in entering the land.  Once they were across on the other side, God instructed them to take twelve stones, one for each tribe, and pile them up together.

Crossing Over the Jordan River by Yoram Raanan

The purpose of the heap of twelve stones is made clear in the story and had a twofold purpose: to educate future generations inside Israel that God kept the promise to bring them into a land of abundance; and, to educate those outside Israel that God is mighty.

It is important to be tethered to the past and aware of why and how we are here. Yet, there are many families and faith communities in which the children know little about how God worked in previous generations. So, having tangible reminders of God’s past actions serves everyone to remember, and especially enables children to know the past actions of God. Just as people ask me about why I have certain coffee mugs, so having reminders of God’s grace in prominent visible places serves to aid kids and others to ask why those mementos are there.

It is good to have reminders of faith and the faithful people who influenced us around our homes, places of work, and communities so that others may know the redemptive acts of God, that the Lord keeps promises. And it is a whole lot more important than a coffee mug.

Almighty God, we praise and magnify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in faith and patience. May we remember them and their service well. We humbly pray that, at the day of resurrection, we and all who are members of the mystical body of your Son may be set on his right hand, and hear his most joyful voice: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Grant this, O merciful Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen

Joshua 4:1-24

            I like coffee.  I like coffee mugs.  I like buying a coffee mug from places I visit.  Although it drives my wife nuts, the mugs serve as a continual reminder of a certain place or event I have experienced.  As we journey with the Israelites in the Old Testament book of Joshua, we experience with them the significant places and events of their taking the Promised Land.  God did a miraculous work by causing the Jordan River to congeal so that the Israelites could cross over on dry ground in entering the land.  Once they were across to the other side, God instructed them to take twelve stones, one for each tribe, and pile them up together.
 
            The purpose of the heap of twelve stones is made clear in the text and had a twofold purpose:  to educate future generations in the reality that God kept his promise to bring them into a land of abundance; and, to educate those outside Israel that God is mighty.
 
            Oftentimes children do not know about how God has worked in the past through their parents.  Mom and Dad may not have been intentional about communicating how God’s grace has influenced them.  But having tangible reminders of God’s past actions not only serves to help us remember, but enables children to know what God has done in their family.  Just as people ask me about why I have certain coffee mugs, so having reminders of God’s grace in prominent visible places serves to aid kids to ask why those reminders are there.
 
            If we do not have such reminders around our house or places of work, it would good for us to think through how to begin having remembrances of grace so that others may know that God is mighty and that he keeps his promises.
            Lord God, I want to experience your miraculous work in my life.  And I want my children, my friends, and my co-workers to know the grace of God in Christ through what you have done.  May my life serve as a great testimony of your mighty work.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 26:16-27:7

            When the ancient Israelites had been delivered from Egypt through the mighty acts of God and stood on the banks of the Jordan River ready to enter the Promised Land, the LORD gave them a command:  “And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster.”
 
            The major theme of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is remembrance.  God’s covenant people were continually exhorted to remember God and his law.  One of the ways of never forgetting what God had done for them was to erect a pile of large stones and coat them with plaster.  This imposing rock structure would stand for generations to come as a continual reminder that God had delivered his people from bondage and brought them into a land in which they could thrive in serving and enjoying the LORD.
 
            As Christians, we can and should have tangible reminders of significant spiritual events from our lives.  Whenever we have a profound or impactful experience of God, it is a good thing to never forget that experience – especially in future times of discouragement or despair.  Whether at home or work, we need to place reminders of God’s grace around us in order to remain encouraged and faithful.
 
            The Lord’s Supper is one of those tangible reminders of God’s grace to us in Christ.  As the community of redeemed people eat the bread and drink the cup, they are reminded of Christ’s once for all sacrifice for sin on their behalf.  His broken body and shed blood are remembered in a corporate ritual that is purposefully designed to help us never forget the mighty act of God in bringing deliverance from sin and a new life.
            O LORD, help us as your people to remember and not forget the things you have done in our lives.  Especially, enable us to constantly be reminded of your grace to us through the sending of your Son, the Lord Jesus, so that we might live.  May the reminders around us keep us faithful and mindful of Jesus.  Amen.