Memorial Stones: Joshua 4:1-9, 19-24
Memorials such as we celebrate on Memorial Day have always been important not only to societies but to God. For example, when Israel crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land for the first time, God commanded Joshua to pile up a mound of stones at the place. They were memorial stones of God’s great grace, power, and most of all His faithfulness.
Because of a tendency to forget, we need memorials. Read Deuteronomy 6:12. The stones gathered from the Jordan river were intended to help the Israelites remember, as was the Passover celebration.
The reality is that all of us have short memories and the older we get the shorter they seem to be. Some things probably should be quickly forgotten but some things, especially as they relate to God and His blessings on us, should not be forgotten and should be recalled often. Memorials help us do just that. God centered memorials have a variety of uses in addition to helping us recall blessings and celebrate special events.
Memorials enable us to pass on the importance of certain events to our children. God specifically declared that the memorial He told the Israelites to set up as they crossed the Jordan was intended to teach your children. Read Joshua 4:6-7 and then Joshua 4:21-24.
Not only were God’s memorials important tools to teach each generation important aspects of their faith, but they were also an important tool to reach others with the message. Read Joshua 2:24. Israel was intended to be a testimony of God’s grace and power to the nations around them. Memorials were designed to help with that. Twice in Joshua we read of the impact of how a testimony to God’s power had on others. In Joshua 2 we have the record of Rahab hiding the Israelite spies. Read Joshua 2:10-11 on how a testimony can impact someone. That pile of rocks that the people of Israel put up stood out from the rest of the rocks in the area. When someone inquired about them the Israelites were to tell the story of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan river. Anyone hearing that story was bound to declare, “Wow, what a powerful God you worship.”
One of the primary responsibilities of a believer is to be a living memorial to a lost and dying world. Read what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16.
As living memorials, we are to evoke questions from others about our life, which of course means that we are to live it in such a way as to cause those who see us to want what we have.
While the text in Joshua does not spell out all of the details, common sense makes a couple of things obvious. First, the Israelites gathered large stones from the riverbed. Stacked pebbles don’t evoke either wonder or questions. We are called upon to live so boldly for Jesus that our faith and God’s faithful response to it stands out in a world that desperately needs to see a miracle of transformation.
Second, that pile of stones had to be in a place where others would see it. If no one passed by where it was, no one would ask about its meaning. If a church exists just in a building no one will ask about our Lord. Unless the church leaves the building to live as a testimony or memorial out there in the community, no one will know or care what you believe or what our Lord can do for us.
Third, to be a genuine memorial it must endure for a period of time. I am sure that every Israelite saw that memorial on the day they crossed over into the Promised Land and drew strength from the reminder of God’s power as they prepared to attack Jericho and then conquer the land. But God wanted more than that. Read Joshua 4:7. A genuine testimony is one that has a lasting impact. It is a consistent Christian life that stands out as a memorial to God’s saving and transforming power and causes people to marvel at the difference He has made in a life.
The Bible reminds us of the testimony of those who have gone before us and encourages us to bear a similar, lasting testimony to those who follow after us. Read Hebrews 12:1. A goal for every Christian should be to leave behind a testimony that will be a challenge and inspiration to those who follow.
God, knowing the importance of memorials as reminders of His faithfulness, established some for the church. A significant one is the Communion Service. At the heart of the Communion service is the phrase, “do this in remembrance of me.” Communion is a memorial service and like all legitimate memorials it not only reminds us of God’s love and provision for redemption, but it stands as a testimony to others. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 11:26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Every time we partake of communion, we broadcast to those who are with us what God did for us and what that provision means to us. In the case of communion, it may be in the building so not necessarily a testimony to the community. But it can also be a teaching time for our children as we explain the meaning of it to them. It can also be a testimony to the community. Every one of us will have someone ask on Monday, “So how was your weekend?” How about, in addition to “I mowed the lawn,” we say, “I was in church on Sunday, and we had communion. That was such a special time for me.”
Want to know what God’s most important memorials are? He has two. The first is His church. Read in I Peter 2:9 how Peter described the church.Note that Peter wrote that the people, not the building, are a holy nation intended to declare God’s praises to the world around us. When we cease to be a positive testimony in the community, we cease to be a church, perhaps remaining as a building but not as a church of Jesus.
Of course, since the church is made up of individuals, each of us is a memorial. Read I Peter 2:5. The Israelites collected stones from the Jordan to set up as a memorial, but Peter declares we are living stones designed to be a memorial to our precious relationship with God. What kind of memorial are we?
On a Memorial Day can you think of anything uglier than someone going to a cemetery where soldiers who gave everything that we might be free are buried and knocking over tombstones and painting disparaging graffiti on them? We would all be outraged. Imagine how God must feel when a Christian, who are supposed to be a memorial to His saving love, tramples on that love or hides it so no one can see it.
On Memorial Day we say thanks to the men and women who gave everything for our freedom and to their families for the loss they suffered. Hopefully, we remember them more often than once a year. In addition, remember every day as Christians we should be a memorial to God’s transforming power. Let us be faithful in that testimony.