What do these stones mean?

When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan….” 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.” … He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the LORD’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the LORD your God forever.” (Josh 4:1-24)

Eight years ago i began to create an annual book of photographs highlighting our family’s special memories for the year. Digital desktop technology makes creating a book like that so much easier than printing individual pictures and putting them in an organized album – at least for me. We entitle each year’s book “A Year To Remember…” with the respective year. It has three benefits.

First, it helps us recall the treasured memories, blessings and events that our Lord has given us, and even those challenging times He has walked with us through. Often as we look several years back, it helps us recall when something took place, or who all was at that special event, or be reminded of how much our children have grown. (However, we never use it to remind us how much older we have become!) Second, we use it as a “coffee table” book for friends and guests to browse when they visit us in our home. (We now have friends who look forward to being included in the book each year.) Through the book, we are able to magnify the works of God on our behalf and give Him glory. Third, it is a way that will enable us to pass along special family memories to the next generation of our family, if Jesus tarries.

A critical factor for a memory to make it into the book is that while a memory is being made we must remember to capture it in a picture. i cannot tell you how many times LaVonne and i will look at one another after something is passed or over and exclaim, “we forgot to take a picture!” For all the technology we use to create the book, we haven’t discovered a good technological tool to help us remember to take the picture. And sometimes when we are in the midst of the moment – its busyness, the excitement, the challenge, and the details – we just simply forget. We have found that often, no matter how special the moment is, if we do not capture it in some way, we will forget it – and we don’t want to miss those special moments.

What about a God-sized event and miracle like two million Israelites being led by God across the Jordan River? Isn’t it interesting that it was God Himself who “suggested” that they take twelve stones – one for each tribe – as a remembrance of what they had seen Him do that day. He knew their (our) propensity to forget. How often in the midst of one of life’s challenges today do i lose sight of God’s faithfulness just yesterday? He knew their need (our need) to be reminded.

Without God’s prompting it would have been easy for Joshua to fail to memorialize God’s supernatural work. Think of the distractions that he, the other leaders and the people experienced that day. First, they were marching into enemy territory, and they didn’t know what the enemy might have planned on the west side of the Jordan. Second, they were watching out for the welfare of their families, their livestock and their possessions. As older children, spouses, parents and heads of households, it would have been easy for them to be caught up in the safe passage of their parents, spouses, children, livestock and possessions – of their families, their tribes and as a people. Though that will be a natural concern for us as well, let us momentarily stop here and be reminded that good stewardship and leadership of our families is an important part of our journey. Over the years i have seen too many men (in particular) who have neglected their role as husbands, fathers and sons in the name of their spiritual pilgrimage. (Do not allow those personal roles of leadership and relationship to become an excuse to distract you from the activity of God, His face and His presence; but do not allow some skewed view of your obedience to God to cause you to neglect your God-given responsibility to your family either!) Third, though they were not fording through water, they were navigating the descent and ascent of the riverbed on rocks, and it demanded their attention. (Sometimes the very details of our task can distract from the purpose of our journey.) But even in their busyness, God reminded them that for the sake of their spiritual walk and service to Him, and to glorify His Name, they could not neglect memorializing His work.

As a matter of fact, the crossing of the Jordan wasn’t complete until the stones had been gathered. It was only after they had been gathered that the priests carried the Ark out of the river and the waters resumed flowing.

Even the date of the crossing was a significant spiritual marker. In verse 19 we read “the people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month.” It was exactly five days shy of forty years. God had said that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years, and now He brought them into the Promised Land five days before that forty years ended. In so doing, God ordered it so that they should enter Canaan four days before the annual observance of the Passover, and on the very day when the preparation for it was to begin (Exodus 12:3). In so doing, it was a very tangible illustration of God’s faithfulness as the Alpha (the exodus out of Egypt) and Omega (the entry into the Promised Land).

So what is the lesson for us? What do these stones mean to us? First, literally related to the crossing of the Jordan, we must be mindful that God’s mercies to the Israelites were also mercies to us as His children; and we should never fail to take opportunity to remember the great things He did for those who have gone before us. Second, the same God who led the Israelite children across the Jordan is currently leading you across the Jordan in your life. Be faithful to assemble the stones of reminder of your crossing. The stones the Israelites assembled came from the river bed – the very place where the Ark had been – the center of the river bed; what better remembrance of the miracle than a tangible piece of the miracle itself. Your reminder may be through a written account, through pictures, or through a tangible reminder (a stone from the center of the river bed). As i write this chapter, i am sitting in my den surrounded by journals, special photographs, keepsakes, and yes, even a few pieces of rock – all of which are remembrances of God’s faithfulness in days past and reminders of His continuing faithfulness in days yet to come.

Remember that God is at work in and through your life, the path on which He has set your feet, and the promise that you are now seeing Him fulfill. Whatever that specific path or promise might be for you – remember our God has a mission – and He has chosen to include you in His mission. Allow this remembrance to remind you that He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the LORD’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the LORD your God forever.”


(Excerpt from “Lessons Learned In The Wilderness — Possessing The Promise”. For more information about the book see http://www.wildernesslessons.com/Possessing_The_Promise.html.)