Our memories are fickle things aren’t they? Have you ever thought about what blessings they are? We take for granted the ordinary things: “I left my keys by the door,” “I’ve already locked the door,” etc. Indeed, there are tremendous lessons and experiences housed in the three pounds that dwell between our ears. We’ve all had lessons of joy and triumph, but equally so, we’ve underwent pain and utter tragedy. Significance exists within our memories as well.
God has given us the gift of our memory for the benefit of ourselves and others. He also teaches us through His Word. He teaches us so that we might not fall into the ills that people have well before us. He calls us to remember Him, and what He’s done. He also calls us to go out of our way to setup reminders for ourselves. Why does God do this? Ultimately because He’s a good dad. He called for His people to setup such a reminder of His faithfulness in Joshua 4:1-9.
In the first verse of our passage we are told that Israel had officially embarked into the Promised Land. And as soon as they had God spoke to Joshua, the protégé of Moses and present leader of Israel, saying, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man” (v.2 ESV). The nation of Israel was comprised of twelve tribes named after the sons of Jacob. The twelve tribes represented Israel as a whole. God gave these twelve men simple instructions: “Take twelve stones…bring them over with you…lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.” (v.3 ESV) Notice that these stones were gathered from the midst of the Jordan river where the priests’ feet stood. These stones would be undeniable evidence of God’s miraculous work – cutting off the waters of the Jordan just as He did at the Red Sea with Moses. God Himself provides this visible evidence for the very purpose of reminding future generations of His glory.
What does this reveal about our God? God is far more aware of our weaknesses than we are. We often make promises to God, and no sooner do we default on them. God is not surprised by our weaknesses, but has already provided remedies for them. For our sin is never a surface issue, it is instead buried in the trenches of our hearts poisoning us if Christ be not applied there. The stones were a memorial for all the people of Israel. It was not primarily for the sakes of those crossing the river but to their children and their children’s children and so on. The command of God was not simply to lay those stones down but that they would be a sign for the children who would one day ask what their meaning was. The memorial was unable to speak for itself. The memorial served the purpose of initiating both the mind in the memory, and the tongue in recounting God’s work to future generations.
Joshua did not make this lofty command to the priests alone, or a single tribe, or to the young or the old but to ALL Israel. All the people were expected to perpetuate this command of teaching their young ones the truths of God’s glory. They were called to remember and share. The great fable of modern Christianity is that it is the preacher’s job to teach everyone and that’s it. Paul instead tells us in Ephesians 4 that the preachers are called to equip the saints for the work of ministry. This means that the work of ministry is actually to be accomplished by the saints, that means the everyday ordinary church goers! You have been called by God to teach your young ones about God and His work as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. This is one of your primary responsibilities as a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent. The responsibility to lead in family worship (reading the Bible, praying, singing a hymn) falls primarily on the husband or father. This ordinary model of discipleship has been the norm of Scripture (cf. Exodus 12:26, 27). God has established the Christian home as the means of fostering spiritual curiosity among young ones, and spiritual growth. We are called to remember the words and works of Christ and His Apostles as contained in the New Testament (cf. Heb. 2:1-4). Let us take up this responsibility with joy and delight, and see how God’s hand can bless those that come after us.
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