This week, I've been studying Joshua 3-4 in preparation for teaching at my church's weekly women's Bible study. Sadly, inclement weather means that prep work is for only my benefit this morning.
Joshua 3-4 tells the story of the Israelites' miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. After they cross the river, God gives them a strange command. They are to take twelve stones from the dry river bed. These stones are to be set up as a memorial - so that they remember God's miraculous action.
I've been thinking about these "stones of remembrance." That pile of rocks on the shore was as much a testimony to God's faithfulness as to their own proclivity to forget.
It seems forgetfulness might be one of humanity's great weaknesses. The history of the nation of Israel tells us this story. It's why repeatedly they're commanded in the Old Testament to remember.
Remembering isn't just about basic event recall (the Israelites wandering in the wilderness could probably still recount the events of the Red Sea crossing). They needed to remember the past and God's gracious intervention on their behalf - so that they had confidence for the present and hope for the future. Remembering gave the past a contemporary significance. Remembering fueled faith and awe and obedience.
And so they have a pile of twelve rocks stacked by the Jordan River.
This wasn't the only rock pile. They continue to appear throughout the Old Testament - a string of physical markers to remind the people of God's work. The great leader Samuel would put up a stone to mark God's victory over their enemies, declaring "Thus far the LORD has helped us." He called it "Ebenezer," or "stone of help."
Israel's story is our story. We share the same inherent weakness - forgetfulness.
In our churches, we celebrate Communion, which is the Church's "pile of stones." In it, we "remember Christ's death until He comes..." It's a marker of remembrance, reliving the past so that it shapes our life today.
What are the moments in your own story you need to remember - moments when God broke through, intervened, worked, appeared?
Rehearse them. Tell their stories. Tell them to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Tell them to your children and grandchildren. Put up a marker, a "pile of stones," to call yourself to remember.
And declare, as generations have in the old hymn, Here I raise my Ebenezer - hither by Thy help I've come...