When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight." So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." (Joshua 4:1-7, NIV)
I've been traveling lately (quite a bit more than I ever have) and for my flights I need to make sure I check-in electronically twenty-four hours in advance so I am assured one of the "good" seats on the plane. As such, I try to set up a reminder either on my calendar or my phone to tell me that I need to get to my computer and complete the process. It's a device much like many of you employ to ensure you remember something important.
At other times in my life, I have also been one given to "driving stakes" in the ground so I can measure progress and not forget some of the good accomplishments enjoyed or hard lessons I've learned. I also have collected some small mementos of trips or visits that help me easily recall an event and relive some of the experiences associated with it.
All of this is a kind of "memorial stone" for me, albeit in a far less significant way than we find in this passage from Joshua. Our God is a God who often has people build altars, name places something very specific, or otherwise provide a vehicle to memorialize something significant. As such, twelve rocks in a river may not seem like anything that important, but this story tells a different tale – and gives a charge to answer questions yet unasked.
If you recall from the last entry, this was the younger generation of Israelites. They had plenty of memorial markers to help keep what happened to their parents and grandparents fresh in their minds. For one, that generation wasn't around to enter the land with them. But God isn't relying on memory alone in this case. Instead, He is giving a specific instruction about erecting a stone tower on the Jordan riverbed while the flow of water was stopped.
I know some have said this crossing was during the flood season, making it all the more spectacular to see the river hold up and wait for them to cross. And, while the priests are still standing there as the symbol of God's hand stopping the current, each tribe is to send a leader over to a rock pile for a stone. Then they line up, stack the stones, head back for the banks, and the priests move out so the water starts again. But the thing here that strikes me is the future question they are to anticipate … "Hey, Dad, what is that pile of rocks in the river doing there anyway?" The answer should be swift and accurate in testimony to the time when God paved the way into the land and told them to set up the memorial stones.
I'm thinking this is a pattern of behavior that we would do well to follow today. Our generations have become so self-involved that we tend to think of ourselves more and those around us less. When we are wired for relational living (and we are), that tends to run contrary to how we function best. Along that line, it would do us some good to stop, look around us, pick up a couple memorial stones, and set them up in a way that causes others in our lives to ask, "What are those there for?" And that goes double (or even triple) for the generation coming behind us.
Along my Crooked Path, I should consider how many places I have set up memorial stones to commemorate something God has done in my life or a lesson He has taught me. They should be there not only so I can remember, but so I can pass on to other I encounter my perspective of who God really is and just how much He loves me. They can serve as reminders that God still stops rivers for me today so I can move closer to where He wants me to be.
- What makes you set up memorial stones in your life? Do you even consciously set up any?
- Are you doing something in your life that others will see causing them to ask you, "What's that there for?" Are looking to pass on your blessings to the next generation?
- Is God calling you to go pick up some stones and make a pile even now? Are you anticipating that God will stop the flow of a river for you and call you into a closer relationship?