Early on in my Christian life I was blessed to study in Joshua 4 how God led His people into the Promised Land (finally!). God gets a "do-over" with this generation, since the faithless generation before them died while they were wandering...and wandering. When this new generation reaches the Jordan River, they discover it’s at flood stage, so God must part the water to allow the nation to cross over on dry ground. That’s something these children hadn’t seen during the first go-round at the Red Sea.
Here’s what history records in Joshua 4:1-3:
Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, "Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, 'Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests' feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.'"
Why, you ask? The answer comes in Joshua 4:6-7:
Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, "What do these stones mean to you?" then you shall say to them,"Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off." So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.
I don’t like navel gazing. You know - the pastime of pure self-examination. Asking what happened to me in the past and how that baggage will hang around me forever is just not a productive activity for me, so when I first began to consider the Lord’s command to take up those stones, I was as stubborn as Balaam’s donkey! I thought He was telling them (and me) to remember all the fruitless years of wandering in the desert made necessary by someone else’s sin.
No way was I interested in remembering my personal desert wandering. In fact, my favorite verse in the Bible is Philippians 3:13-14:
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on”
But as the Lord began to deal with me, I saw more here than I had at first.
This account in Joshua is such a cool story and you should read the whole thing, but one important concept to get here is this: the priests were standing in the middle of the river bed holding the Ark of the Covenant - the mercy seat from where atonement was made every year for the sins of the people. The Ark and its Mercy Seat are also pictures of Christ's saving work, and the people took stones from under the Ark and built them up on the bank of the river to be stones of remembrance.
The gist of this to me was that I should look back on my life and see what I could take from "under Christ" as a remembrance of His faithfulness to me. Think about it: the priests were standing firm on dry ground with water piled up around them as the people hurried across! That’s a picture of how God acts on behalf of His people, and it's His faithfulness He wants remembered. How He cutoff the waters of the Jordan is worth remembering!
My faith has been - and I suspect will always be - one that demands a demonstration. Don’t just tell me what I’m supposed to do; show me what that looks like in my reality. If I can’t use something to get through my day, it doesn’t mean anything more to me than trivia. Now I like trivia, but I can’t find the meaning of life in it.
So, to help this story mean something useful in my life, I sat down and began to recall all the ways God acted faithfully to me and to my family. I discovered that I had quite a list. I wondered how I could create stones of remembrance and share these things with my then 7-year-old son without eliciting eye-rolling boredom. It occurred to me I should do just what God said to do (imagine that!).
So, one rainy afternoon I took a bucket and collected stones from a river bed not far from my house. I wrote an example of God’s faithfulness to my family on each stone, and then I piled them all in a big glass jar and placed it next to my kitchen sink. Guess what happened? My son arrived home from school that afternoon and asked, “What are those rocks for, mom?”
Now I ask you, how faithful is our God?
Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer – the stone of help – for he said, "Up to this point, the LORD has helped us!" - 1 Samuel 7:12