Christianity 201

April 6, 2013

Stones of Remembrance

This appeared a few weeks ago at Brilliant Perspectives, the blog of Graham Cooke, this article is written by Allison Bown. To view this at source, with an additional personal application from the author,  click here.

Remembering is essential in encouraging ourselves in the Lord. David did it often. In Psalm 77:10-11,

“And I said, “This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. ”I will remember the works of the LORD. Surely, I will remember Your wonders of old.”

Graham (Cooke) has said that faith is cold blooded on days – an act of our will, not of our emotions – and that’s what I see in David’s words here. (Check out Psalms 42, 63, 78 & 111 for more examples). Meditating on God’s previous faithfulness and goodness strengthens us in the Lord.

Joshua knew this truth too. In Joshua 4, he followed God’s instructions to take 12 stones as they crossed the Jordan to build a memorial on the shore of the Promised Land. God wanted future generations to ask, “What do these stones mean to you?” and their elders were to tell them the stories of God’s deliverance from Egypt and of His faithfulness in the wilderness.

But Joshua took it one step further. He made it personal. In verse 9 it says,

“Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.”

Why? Why did Joshua do it and why did the Holy Spirit include it in the story?

On the day that his apprenticeship ended and his destiny was validated by God in the sight of all Israel – I believe Joshua wanted to remember. What if each stone was a memory of God’s faithfulness? In the wilderness …in the days of living in the tabernacle…growing up under Moses’ mentorship… with his friend Caleb…

Lost in the the vast crowd of Israelites crossing over, was Joshua able to set up his own private “thank you” to the God who had been so constant in his life for over 40 years? I think so.

Graham has often talked about the power of thanksgiving, to still our souls and to expand our hearts to hear and see all that God is doing. Thanksgiving is how we enter into the presence of God. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise” (Ps 11:4). Not through study or effort… but through thanksgiving, which always leads to praise. How could it not?

Remembering the goodness of God has saved my life on many occasions. It has kept me in the “land of the living” (Ps. 27) when nothing else could. It has given me courage to fight and has been the Holy Spirit’s favorite way to bring comfort and make me smile.

I have a journal in which I record my thanks, usually just in a short sentence. On challenging days, I pull it out and read it out loud to God. Just the weight of the accumulated goodness of God has the power to give me a higher perspective of my circumstances. *Around my office are objects that remind me of our journey together. Each has a story of goodness that goes with it, and while many seem to be simple decorations, they are stones of remembrance that encourage me.

I’ve often imagined Joshua stopping by the Jordan in the years that followed, possibly after the not-so-great days. Off in the distance, there may have been a family gathered around the visible memorial stones that commemorated Israel’s beginnings. But I think Joshua preferred to spend his time looking at the smooth waters of the Jordan, remembering the hidden memorial of personal thanks that lay just below the surface and the faithful God who inspired it.

When it was time to go, he was encouraged and strengthened. Stones of Remembrance seem to have that effect, both then and now.

~Allison Bown

December 27, 2015

Physical Reminders of God’s Provision

This morning at church we had an opportunity to share a testimony of God’s provision during the past year. After speaking, participants were asked to take a marker pen and write one or two words that describe what they had shared.

First we need to know the background to this account in Joshua 3:

Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits[a] between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

and in particular the stones of remembrance in the next chapter, Joshua 4:

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.

Of course, not everyone at church this morning could participate in this, but as I thought of what I might say or write, a Biblical phrase came to mind:

“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”

The language is KJV, and I wasn’t sure of the reference. So returning home, I looked it up only to find that it is from a similar story of using a stone as a marker remembering God’s provision or faithfulness or both; this time in I Samuel 7:

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

There’s a pattern here:

  • First Moses has the original experience of seeing the waters of the river part so that the nation could cross on dry land. (This is directly alluded to in verse 7 of chapter 3, above)
  • Then the miracle repeats for Joshua and he establishes the placing of stones of remembrance.
  • Then Samuel repeats the setting up of a memorial stone, one that hymn-singers have kept alive in the verse, “Here I raise my Ebenezer” (in Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.)

In some churches over the past century, stones of remembrance were replaced by plaques in the lobby (or even on individual pews) which instead of honoring God’s help, honored those who had given significant amounts of money toward the building of the church.

Now the modern church doesn’t even have those. There’s good and bad in that. The one who gives should do so in secret, but we often forget that as a faith community in the local church, we have history.

The raising of an Ebinezer sounds rather old-fashioned and quaint today, but we need to find visible, tangible, even tactile ways of remembering God’s help in ages past.


We’ve covered this theme here at least two times previously:

Go Deeper with this article

 

 

 

December 18, 2014

Two Sets of Stones

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Joshua 4:20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, What do these stones mean?

Joshua 4:8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.

stones of remembranceToday’s reading is from the devotional website All About Reflections. Click the link in the title below to read at source and look around the rest of the site.

Jordan River Stones – Stones In My Jordan

by Gloria Small

It is a joy to find it true that, if we open our hearts to Him, the LORD continually teaches us. Passages of scripture that have been read over and over suddenly jump out at you and the lesson there is always perfectly timed. Just that sort of thing happened to me. I have been so blessed and thrilled by the application of this truth to my heart that I wanted to share it. The passage is found in Joshua the fourth chapter.

The context of this chapter is, of course, the passing of the children of Israel over the Jordan into the Promised Land. The LORD had instructed Joshua to tell one man from every tribe to pick up a stone from the midst of the Jordan and to carry it to Gilgal. There Joshua was to set up those stones as a memorial of what the LORD had done for them that day and what He had done at the Red Sea (Joshua 4:20-24). The word for this stone is “eban.” The Holy Spirit brought to my mind the “stone of the help,” Ebanezer, that Samuel had set up when the LORD gave them the victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:9-14).

Yet, there were two sets of stones mentioned in Joshua chapter four! That is something that I had read before but it never really registered. There is also a set of 12 stones that Joshua set up in the “midst of the Jordan” (Joshua 4:9). It is this set of stones that are “there unto this day,” that the LORD has used to bless my heart.

Jordan River Stones – What are these Stones?

When the LORD applied the stones as a lesson to my life and heart it seemed everything I heard or read re-enforced the truth. Isn’t it a wonderful thrill when that happens? The Spirit asked me, “What means these stones?” My soul had to answer, “these are the stones of the help that the LORD has allowed to come into my life.”

As I look back through it now, I can see those stones. They have not been “stones of stumbling.” Rather, the afflictions that I have seen have been building material. God has been building upon the foundation He laid in my life with those stones. Not only that, He is the one who carries the burden! What JOY!

Where are those stones? In the midst of my Jordan! I am still traveling through my Jordan, walking upon the dry ground He has prepared for me. Along the way, I see those “stones of the help” that are constant reminders that “He who has begun a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it” (Philippians 1:6).

These are stones of remembrances of battles He has won, of steps of faith taken in His Name. Those stones will remain there until “the day of Jesus Christ” and they are built upon His foundation that is under me and will be until I reach my final home with Him. How my heart filled to over flowing with love and gratitude when this lesson came flooding over me.

Jordan River Stones – Conforming Me

The process that we constantly go through, as the LORD conforms us to the image of His Son, is not always an easy one. It seems we ever learn from the “rocky places.” It is the oasis of His Word that refreshes us with springs of living water. These times of encouragement from the Spirit of Christ living with in us help us along the way. The Word that is “spiritually discerned” fills us and gives us His strength to “keep on keeping on” as we journey through our own Jordan, knowing this promise that is sure “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The lesson of these stones has brought me peace and joy in the midst of the battle. So if it looks like the waters of your Jordan are about to overwhelm you, look around for those stones.