Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 30 2019 - Joshua 4:1-24 – Memorial stones

God commanded that Joshua choose twelve strong men from among the Israelites, one from each of the twelve tribes, to carry stones from the bed of the Jordan. They were to go to the point where the priests were standing with the ark in the middle of the dry river bed and each was to lift a stone from the area in front of the priests and carry it on his shoulders. The stones were to be carried all the way to Gilgal, the place where Israel was to camp that night.

Once the stones had been recovered, the priests with the ark completed their crossing of the Jordan. As soon as their feet were safely on the other side, the waters of the Jordan again began to flow with all their flood force.

From the twelve stones that had been set down beside the camp of Israel in Gilgal, Joshua constructed a monument. This was to stand as a memorial to what God had done. When future generations – children or adults – asked why these stones were piled up there, they would be told that they were stones from the middle of the Jordan. They stand in this place as a reminder of how God had dried up the Jordan to enable Israel to enter the Promised Land just as he had dried up the water of the Red Sea to enable them to escape from Egypt.

Memorials play an important role in society. In most towns and many villages in this country there are war memorials, standing as a witness to those who were killed in the Great War of 1914-18. They remind each new generation of the sacrifice of the lives of many of a past generation. The memorial prompts us to remember them and what was accomplished through them.

Jesus has given us a memorial of his sacrifice for us. It is not a memorial of stone but of bread and wine. It is not a memorial confined to a particular place, nor is it to be commemorated on a single day in the calendar. Whenever his followers eat bread and drink wine together they are to remember that Jesus died for them and is raised for them and is coming for them. We are to remember what God has done for us in Christ and to teach each new generation the meaning of his sacrifice – the greatest of all God’s saving acts.

Nor were the lessons of this memorial solely for the people of God. Joshua instructed the Israelites, "The Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that 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" (vv.23-24). We are not only to remember what God has done in Christ for our own encouragement, we are to let everyone on earth know what God has done for their salvation.

Father God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his dying love and risen power. Thank you for the promise of his coming to restore all things. Help me never to forget what you have done for us in him. May the praise of my lips and the devotion of my life express my continual thanksgiving for all you have done, and may my life also stir up questions in others, prompting me to speak of your great salvation which is for all the peoples of the earth.

Peter Misselbrook