#892. What do these stones mean? - Joshua 4 (6/9/23)
‘He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For 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.’ (Joshua 4:21-24)
Lesson: May we be as thankful for what God has done in the past as we are prayerful for things in the future.
Apparently, I have 21k photos and 13.5k videos on my phone! That’s quite a lot. Many of us take unnumberable photos, but how often do we review and enjoy them? All that to say that we all have many wonderful moments that God has gifted us with that, I at least, fail to remember and celebrate. How often do we look back on our lives? We can be so busy living forward that we forget to celebrate what has gone before.
God taught Israel to have a culture of looking back at God’s past actions. Israel - God’s people - were committed to looking back and remembering what had been done for them as today’s text illustrates. Whether it was a written story or song, a manner of dress, a fast or feast, or a pile of stones, God gave them many ways to be reminded and celebrate the past, and the episode that we are looking at today is an example of this.
They were to collect 12 stones representing all the tribes of Israel. They were to take these from the middle of the Jordan that they had crossed and from the place where the priests with the ark had stood. we are told that this pile (and story) was to serve as a sign:
‘To serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.’ (Joshua 4:6-7)
As the community remembered and celebrated God’s past actions, the children and the next generation would be able to learn that they were a part of this story - they were the 12 stones, freed, united and saved by God!
The most important memorial that we have
For Christians, we take Communion - bread and wine - in order to remember what Jesus has done for us. Paul tells us:
‘For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’ (1 Corinthian 11:26)
We have come out of slavery to sin and death. We are in God’s Kingdom. We have come out by the power of God who has made a way. Like Israel, we are to remember what God has done with hearts of gratitude.
Let’s also celebrate the past more broadly
Along with the deep realities of the gospel, may we also celebrate the small and great past victories that God gives to us. May we celebrate the way God has blessed us as a church. Let’s be grateful for the people, maybe no longer here, through whom God has blessed us. May we be as zealous to thank God for what He has done as we are for what we want Him to do!
May we be as thankful for what God has done in the past as we are prayerful for things in the future. Let’s Celebrate the gospel all the time and particularly as we take Communion together. Maybe have a time of gratitude for recent blessings in your time of prayer. Maybe keep a journal in which you record things that you are thankful for. An important practice is to notice and be thankful for the innumerable good things that we enjoy throughout the day.
Together in September
In September, we are having two Together Evenings, on Wednesday the 6th and Wednesday the 13th from 7p.m. (When there will be a light meal provided).
We will be using this time to come together for worship, teaching and prayer with a view to re-launching community groups afterwards.
Please put these dates in your diary, we would love to see as many people there as possible.