Stones of Remembrance

Joshua 4:5 “Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder…to serve as a sign among you.”

Observation: Multiplied millions of Israelites have entered the Promised Land by crossing the Jordan River, at flood stage, on dry ground. The river passage had dried instantly the moment the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant advanced into it. Then God instructed Joshua to select a representative of each of the twelve tribes to take up a stone from the dry riverbed “right where the priests stood” so a memorial could be built.

Application: God’s purpose in this exercise was clear: “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’” (Verse 23) “He did this so all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” (Verse 24)

It is possible that within the purposes of such memorial there is another, more subtle purpose as well. Through the Israelite’s focus on God’s deliverance, their remembrance of daily endured pain would dim. Forty years of nomadic wandering, years of drudgery and dirt and death, all these would become but a faint recollection, overwhelmed by the story of God’s plan fulfilled.

Had the Hebrews kept diaries they surely would have been filled with comments on the daily grind, sprinkled with occasional celebrations of the miraculous. Yet what we read in the recounting of Israel’s journey from God’s perspective heavily focuses on the miraculous: water gushing from rock, manna and quail in abundance, waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan parted by God’s command, shoes never worn out. Perhaps I need more stones of remembrance in my own life, markers to memorialize astonishing things that God has done.

The problem with diaries, whether written or remembered, is that they can be counterproductive to a full focus on God’s wonderful deliverance. His markers are not of the pain and loss of the past…those markers are mine. Instead, He would say, “Look my child, at where I have brought you. Now you are Mine; we can go forward together.” The claim that time heals all wounds isn’t necessarily true; I can always look back with remorse on not having been quicker to obey, or more wise, or, or, or…. But as I erect stones of remembrance to focus on deliverance in and through past hard places, I can say, with the hymnist, “…the things of the earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Prayer: Lord, You have done marvelous things in my life. Cause me not to look back with remorse, but to focus instead upon Your glory and grace in my life. You, O Lord, are so very good. Thank You.

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