Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Where were you when you first heard of, or saw the terrorist attacks on the USA? How many times have you heard that question over the years? We all have an answer for the question. The collateral damage, impact and loss of that date is still very real, even today. What triggers the memories of the last seventeen years? Each one of us probably has a different answer to that question. The reality, the pain, the suffering, the loss…the list goes on and on.
Eleven years later - September 11, 2012 - another Islamic militant terrorist group attacks two United States government facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Each of these attacks rocked the very core of America. We as a nation need to remember the fallen, the injured, the hurt and live each day forward in a way that honors them and those touched by these attacks.
How are we reminded of the historical events from the past? Some of the very things that change our way of life, our thinking, our direction or our response to future events. I was reminded of a day on social media a couple of months ago that generated these thoughts. Facebook showed a picture that was posted a year ago of my wife and two of her girlfriends on a little getaway in Paso Robles. Though the pic was good, I could see the pain in my wife’s eyes. I could see how tired she was and the stress she was carrying as a result of daughter, Jourdan’s, crash. It generated so many emotions in my very being that I had (so I thought moved) on from or worked through. Then I looked at my right arm and saw Psalm 16:8. “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” The power of scripture is amazing.
I then thought about this wonderful section of Scripture from Joshua chapters three and four. This story tells us that finally, after centuries of waiting, the Israelites were now about to cross into the land promised to Abraham, their ancestor. Before the actual crossing, final instructions were in order, and the author spends considerable time reviewing these (vv. 1–13).
Chapter 4 celebrates the great miracle of the crossing of the Jordan River and gives instructions for the memorializing of this event by the building of an altar, which was to stand as a perpetual reminder to Israel and the nations of God’s great hand.
“4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
The men were to take the stones for the specific purpose revealed in verses 6 and 7. The purpose of the stones was to be a testimony and a memorial to Israel’s descendants that God has worked a great miracle in stopping up the waters of the Jordan River. The memorial was to be a highly personalized one: literally, the Hebrew at the end of verse 6 reads, “What are these stones to you?” The Israelites’ children would be asking them what these stones symbolized for them personally, and they were to have an answer ready that told of the miracle that God had performed and the ark’s role in it.
It is so important to have “memorial stones” in our lives to recall the great work God does for us each day. Markers that show the love, grace and faithfulness of our Father in Heaven.
The stones at the bottom of the Jordan River probably hadn’t seen a dry day until the people of Israel crossed their path that day. Have you ever taken a stone from the water? Remember how shiny and clean and pretty it looks while it is in the water and wet? Yet after a bit and the stone dries it takes on another appearance, doesn’t it? It reminds me of my heart condition and how easy it is to mask the brokenness and sin in my life. An interesting thought, but not enough time to travel that path today. Back to the monument of remembrance. After the stones were taken from the river bed they became a monument to God’s mighty work that day. This pile of stones had a purpose–to remind all who passed by that the Lord had dried up the Jordan so that his people Israel could cross over into the promised land.
As time went on, Israel had trouble remembering all that God had done for them. Perhaps they were too busy enjoying the milk and honey of the promised land. But the stones at Gilgal were a reminder. Memory was their ministry: to remind everyone of God’s power and of his faithfulness to his promises.
As I get caught up in all the things that need to be done each day I find myself forgetting who God is and what he has done for me. I am either too excited about the blessings or caught up in the overwhelming pain and overlook the grace, peace, and love of God’s sacrifice through Jesus Christ. I need these stones of memory - to remind me of the source of all goodness and joy. To this very day God’s Word reminds us of all God has done, especially through Jesus Christ. It’s a great collection of memory stones pointing us to the Savior as our chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).