Joshua 6:1-16, 20

            Today’s Old Testament lesson is the famous account of the Israelites taking the city of Jericho.  The LORD gave his people the unusual instructions of marching around the city once each day for six days.  On the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times and then give a loud shout and the walls would come down.  The Israelites followed the command to the letter and, as a result, saw a great work of God.
            There are two words in this text that are repeated frequently and stand out:  “seven” and “shout.”  Seven priests with seven trumpets march around the city seven times on the seventh day.  And the people were not just to shout on that seventh day – they were to give a great big ol’ shout together.
            The number seven shows up a lot in the Scriptures.  Maybe it is God’s favorite number.  Whenever we see the number seven it is in reference to something God is up to.  The Psalmist makes a reference to seven in Psalm 119:164 and says, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.”  The ancient Israelites took this verse literally and seriously by instituting a daily offering each and every day of prayer and worship and spaced it out over the course of a twenty-four hour time period.  The early church continued the practice, and even today many liturgical traditions still hold to the “Daily Office” which are seven distinct times in the day (and night) of intentionally connecting with God.
            In our contemporary evangelical climate of once-a-day quiet times (if that!) perhaps we need to re-connect with the number seven.  Maybe we would see God do the miraculous if we committed to prayer to the degree that the ancient Israelites were attentive to it, and to meticulously following God’s instructions.  And maybe if we followed our prayers with a great shout together that was a confident expression of faith in God we would see the LORD do mighty works in our lives and in our churches.
            O God, seven times a day I come to you.  Surround my enemies and bring them down so that Your great promises will be fulfilled in and through my life to the glory of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  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.