"We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future, your children will ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' Then you can tell them, 'They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the LORD's covenant went across.' These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever." Joshua 4:6-7
The nation Israel finally stopped walking in the circles of judgment for their unbelief and, by the miraculous intervention of God, they crossed over the Jordan riverbed on dry ground. They were entering into a faith walk to claim the land of promise.
God opened the door for them and He wanted them to remember something. Twelve men, a leader from each tribe, shouldered a substantial stone (think boulder) on his shoulders, taking them to the place they would camp for the night. There, at Gilgal, Joshua followed God's command to pile them into a memorial. When their children would ask, "What are these stones?" they were to tell them it was a reminder that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of God's Covenant went across. It was to be a forever reminder that God intervenes with power in the lives of His people.
These were people like you and me. They had clear instructions regarding right and wrong--what constituted righteous behavior--and the sacrifices demanded in order to receive forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with God.
They would have battles ahead, both physical and spiritual. They took their self-focused, complaining, impetuous natures with them wherever they went.
Between the Red Sea and the Jordan, when circumstances got tough they were prone to remember what they liked about Egypt. They fixated on the past and their former ways of living. The people reaped forty years of monotonous wandering and grief as their unbelieving elders died off. Nothing they gained through those forty years had any lasting value.
Years later God warned their own descendants against looking back at their old lives.
"Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:18-19
There is no contradiction here. We are not to look back and dwell (meditate, mutter) on past hurts or failures, or even past times of rest and plenty, as though we couldn't progress past them. We are to look at the memory of God and what He has done to bring us this far. AND, we are to believe that He will still intervene for our good according to His purposes.
Isaiah reminds us God will do a "new thing." Joshua declares "tomorrow the LORD will do great wonders among you."
May we set up our memorial stones to remind us of the miraculous power of our loving Father. Whatever the circumstances of our lives may be, let us choose to see them as opportunities for God to reveal Himself to us in new ways and strengthen our faith. Let us obey the command of Joshua 1:9 and courageously claim our promised land--because the Almighty Creator of the Universe goes with us.
by Marilyn Allison