The Israelites had finally made it. After 400 years enslaved in Egypt and 40 years wandering the desert, they were about to enter the Promised Land. As God parted the Jordan River, Joshua led the people over. But before He released His hold on the waters, God commanded that they gather stones from the bottom of the river. So one man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel went back to fetch a stone. The twelve stones were then brought into the camp with them. Were these just souvenirs? Why did God want them to gather a pile of rocks?
Joshua 4:6-7 says the purpose of the stones was “that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 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.”
God wanted them to remember what He did for them that day. He told them to teach these things from one generation to the next so that no one would forget.
We need memorials. We need memory triggers because it’s just too easy to forget. It’s hard enough sometimes for me to remember where I placed my cell phone, a tangible object that has become an extension of myself, let alone to remember the things of God. God calls us through His Word to remember (i.e. meditate on) who He is and what He has done, or else we will forget. And if we forget as Israel did, we will commit adultery against the Lord and worship idols (Psalm 106). If we forget, we will fail to “honor [God] as God or give thanks to him,” which will inevitably lead us down a road of futile thinking and foolish living (Romans 1:21).
Because forgetting is so easy, we need to gather “memorial stones” that will remind us of the God who created us and reconciled us to Himself. We need reminders of the Gospel to recalibrate our hearts and minds to be in tune with the Spirit. What does this look like practically? On one hand, it depends on what is effective for each individual. Yet, I am also a firm believer in journaling and will recommend it to anyone in my path. My journal is my stone memorial.
Recently, I flipped back in my journal to an entry from a year and a half ago. In that entry, I had listed all the things plaguing my mind and causing me distress. Most of the items on the list regarded finances, while others pertained to problems I needed solved and my worry for loved ones. But as I read through the list, I mentally checked each item off, remembering how God provided for every single need and answered every prayer in the last eighteen months. The Lord used that to bring me to a posture of worship as I thanked Him for providing in these specific ways and for proving His faithfulness once again. That entry is another stone added to my memorial.
Whether you keep a journal or literally stack small stones on your bedroom dresser, I urge you as my brothers and sisters in Christ to do whatever necessary to remember all that our God is and has done. When tempted to worry, remember our Father’s promise to provide, recalling times when He has done so in your own life. When tempted to serve yourself over others, remember how Jesus Christ – God in flesh – came not to be served but to serve, humbling Himself even to the point of death on a cross. When in despair over a dry spiritual season, remember God’s promise to complete the work He started in you, and look back on how He has faithfully sanctified you through the years.
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.