Our annual Memorial Day celebration is a time when as a nation we remember those men and women who gave so much that we might have and keep our freedom. That we need memorials is evident and certainly a day to honor our military men and women is important. With the emphasis to always live in the present it is too easy to forget history. God understood that so He established memorials designed to help His people remember what He has done for them. The Communion Service is one of those memorials.
One of the most significant memorials God gave to Israel is recorded for us in Joshua 4. Joshua 3 records the crossing of the Jordan river into the Land of Promise. For 40 years the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness because of their initial refusal to trust God to give them the land. At last they were in the land God had promised to them through Abraham. Read Joshua 4:1-7.
In that Scripture we discover several lessons that are important to us as a nation seeking to remember our heritage and the price of our freedoms. It also speaks to us as Christians who want to remember the real freedom we have in Jesus and the cost of that freedom to Jesus who took our place on the Cross.
First, a memorial is designed to help us remember. That seems obvious and it is, but perhaps equally obvious is the tendency we all have to forget. It’s easy to get so busy that we don’t take time to remember and so as a nation, and as God’s people, we are encouraged to have symbols that serve as reminders.
For the Israelites, one of those reminders was a pile of stones taken from the middle of the Jordan river and set up at the edge of the river which God enabled them to miraculously cross. You may recall that at the time of the year when they crossed that river it was in flood stage, magnifying the miracle it took to walk across on dry land. The stones were to be a reminder of God’s greatness and goodness.
Note that according to Joshua 4:7 the reminder God was giving them was to be forever. As Christians we need to pause regularly and re-consider the provision of Jesus on the Cross for our spiritual freedom, a freedom from the penalty of death that is now available to all who trust in Jesus and invite Him to be their Savior. One of the reasons we come together on the 1st day of each week is to remember the resurrection and the truth that He is alive. We have other symbols such as crosses that we see everywhere. One symbol we don’t think about often enough is church buildings. Wouldn’t it be exciting if every time we passed a church instead of asking why we have so many, we said a silent prayer of thanks to God for all He has done for us?
Memorials are also opportunities to teach. On Memorial Day parents should take the opportunity to tell again of the sacrifice men and women made so we can be free. Few challenges are more important to us than that of passing on our heritage. That is one of the purposes of our American Memorial Day. We want the present and future generations to remember the sacrifices of our servicemen and women and to honor those sacrifices by living appropriately with the freedom those sacrifices have provided.
In verses 6 and 7 of Joshua 4 the people are told that when their children see that unique pile of stones they will want to know what they are there for and Joshua was told that the people were to tell them they are reminders of God enabling them to enter into the Promised Land. Read Joshua 4:21-24 where we have a repeat of the purpose of the memorial stones.
God wants us to be sure that we pass on to our children and grandchildren the Christian heritage that is ours because of the provisions of Jesus on the Cross. Our national heritage is never more than a generation away from extinction if we forget what is important to us a nation. Even more critical, if we allow our children to lose sight of what God has done for them the message of the Cross will be lost to future generations.
Memorials are also designed to be places of re-commitment. In I Samuel 11 we have the record of Saul being selected as Israel’s first king. It was an exciting time for Israel but also a time fraught with dangers for it was too easy for Israel to look to their new king as a source of protection and blessing. Samuel knew that danger, Read I Samuel 11:14. Gilgal was the place where they had set up the stones as a reminder of what God had done for them. Samuel urged the people of Israel to return to Gilgal and re-commit themselves to being the people of God. One of the purposes of Memorial Day is a re-commitment as individuals to maintaining the America that our brave servicemen and women gave so much to secure.
As Christians we need times to re-commit ourselves to what we believe, to how we know we should live and to praising God for who He is and all He has done for us. We need to return to the memorials that have been set before us so as we renew the kingdom, renew the covenant, and renew our commitment to being the people of God.
Note one additional truth from Joshua 4. Read Joshua 4:24 where we are told that this memorial was not only for the people of God, but it is a testimony to the world. When we think of Memorial Day it is a reminder to the world of what the United States stands for and that while we are divided on many issues we are united in our determination to maintain the freedoms that cost so much to secure. It shows the world that there are still things we will fight for and if need be die for.
One of the primary responsibilities of ours as believers is to be reminders to the world of just how great and good God really is. There are many New Testament passages that bring this to light. Read Matthew 5:14-16.
The Apostle Paul expressed a similar picture when he wrote to the Christians in Philippi. Read Philippians 2:14-16. We are to be testimonies of God’s goodness and transforming power in a sinful world. We are to continually shine so that those around us are reminded of what God, and God alone, can do in and through a life.
I pray that on Memorial Day everyone will pause to remember our servicemen and women, those who have served in the past and those serving today. I pray that we will all pause long enough to remember the families of those who have lost loved ones in any of the many wars we have been involved in.
I pray that we will also remember the many memorials that God has given us to remind us of His blessings upon us as His children. I pray that we will get in the habit of thanking Him for all He has done. I pray that we will re-commit ourselves to being the people He redeemed us to be. I pray we will recommit ourselves to ensuring that we teach the truths that mean so much to us to our children and grandchildren. And I pray that we will remember that a legitimate memorial is a testimony to others and will seek to shine brighter as God’s memorials to His work of grace in our lives.