Building Memorials To Remember God

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Building Memorials To Remember God

Joshua 4:1-24
A Study of the Book of Joshua Sermon # 4

            Maybe you heard about a guy named John who had a really horrible memory. One day John ran into a friend whom he had not seen in a long time. He greeted him and said, “Bill, do you remember what a bad memory I had?” Bill answered, “Yes, I certainly do.” “Well, it’s not bad any more. I went to a seminar that taught us how to remember things. It was a great seminar, and now I have a wonderful memory.”

Bill answered, “That’s great! What was the name of the seminar?” “Well,” John said, “wait a minute, my wife went with me. I’ll ask her.” He turned and saw his wife nearby. Then he turned back to Bill and said, “What’s the name of that flower with a long stem and thorns and a red bloom?” “Do you mean a rose?” Bill answered, “Yeah, thanks,” John said, “Hey, Rose, what’s the name of that seminar we attended?”

God realizes that we often forget what he has done for us. In Deuteronomy. 6:12 Moses issued a final warning to Israel just before they entered the promise land, “be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

The meaning of the Hebrew word for memorial (v. 7) is “to remember.” Given man’s propensity to forget it is little wonder then that memorials have frequently played an important role in biblical history. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses built an altar of stones to commemorate God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 12:14) . Now in today’s text we see God command his people to erect a memorial.

Notice that according to v.1 “When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan,” that the LORD gave more specific instructions in vs. 2-5 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites,”

According to these verses twelve men chosen earlier (3:12) were to go back to where the priest were standing in the middle of the river, holding the ark. Each man was to pick up a large rock or stone from the middle of the Jordan and carry it to the side of the river where Israel would camp in the land of Canaan. Notice with me three reasons that is given for this action.


v. 7 “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

A. First, the memorial stones were to be a reminder of their own personal experience. Notice that in verse six this memorial will cause the children to ask; “What do these stones mean to you?” These stones are first of all to be a reminder those who were present of their personal experience, what they saw, heard and felt. “Tell your story, Keep a clear memory of what God did for you. Keep on telling your stories so that you never lose your own sense of awe and wonder of what God has done in your life.”

I want you to consider with me: “What kind of memorials do you have in your life?” Whether you realize it our not we all have memorials in our lives, no not a monument of stones, but one built of memories.

There are memories of places, places that trigger memories just as the memorial stones in Gilgal. There are some significant places in your life that elicit memories. The little church where I was saved is such a place for me. It was there that was saved as a 21 year old. It was there a year later that I was called to preach. It was there that I was able to lead my lovely bride to Christ. It is a special place for me. It reminds me of things that God had done in my life. You no doubt have such a place in your life.

There are memories of people. These are memories of people who God has used in your life. For me many of them are the people who encouraged me to pursue the ministry.
But how often do we sit down and think about the memories, and thank God for those people He’s used in our lives?

Let me share an illustration about W. A Criswell, he was Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas TX for over 50 years. He passed away in January 2004. Criswell records an event in his life that I think illustrates this point. “When Criswell was 10 years old, the church his family attended held a revival with pastor, Johnny Hicks. Hicks stayed in the Criswell home where he came to know W.A.. During a service that week he walked to the front of the church auditorium where Pastor Hicks met him and led him to Christ….

Years later Criswell was talking with a pastor friend and told of his childhood commitment during the Johnny Hicks revival meeting. He told how Hicks stayed in his home and enjoyed his mother’s cooking, and how Criswell went forward and was met by the evangelist at the altar. Criswell’s friend said, “a few years ago I visited Johnny Hicks in the Hospital. He was dying. And he said, ‘I haven’t done anything for Jesus’ Isn’t that something? That dear old man was thinking he had failed, when he had led the pastor who impacted the world to Christ.”

There are memories of experiences, of God’s answering prayer and of God’s marvelous hand of provision. I remember in my first church and when we began this church how God always provided for our needs. We learned some invaluable lessons on faith. These lessons on faith are not things you’re taught, They’re something you must experience to truly understand.

There are also mementos of the past. If you were to come into my office and look around you would see miscellaneous objects that are reminders to me of life experiences, mission trips, etc. Each of those objects triggers memories of what happened then, of the things that God did and that I experienced, experiences that have changed my life. I look at the shoes on my wall made out of old tires and I remember that the shoes were a gift from a pastor in Kenya who probably spent a week’s wages on them who said they were to symbolize that my welcome would never wear out in Kenya. When I see them, I can almost hear and smell the sensations of being in Africa. I think of the service with hundreds in attendance and not one of the people owned a car. I see the expressions on their faces as they worshipped and sang, even when I could not understand one word. I remember the excitement and joy as people came to Christ.

The point is that God knows how we think and that is the reason that he instructs Joshua to build a memorial. So that each time the Israelites saw it they would be reminded that they had not crossed the Jordan on their own ability, their own strength but because of God. I challenge you to spend sometime thinking through your memorial stones, let them draw you closer to God and remind you of His faithfulness.

B. Secondly, the Memorial stones were to be a basis of sharing faith with their children. In two places in this chapter, parents are reminded of their responsibility for the communication of God’s Word and his calling on their children, generation to generation. First in vs. 6-7, “… 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.” And again in verses 21-23, “He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘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 just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.”

As with other memorials in the Old Testament, the intention of the memorial was to provoke questioning especially from future generations. Christianity is never more than one generation away from extinction. If we are not careful America could well be the exhibit “A” for this truth. Just think for a moment how far our country has drifted away from its foundation in just one generation. 1962 - Prayer in schools is declared illegal 1963 - Bible reading in Schools 1980 – declared illegal to post the Ten Commandments in the schools and now they’re working on     “One nation under God” out of our pledge of allegiance. God’s warning to Israel was not to let the environment of the secular society that surrounded them dictate their values.

Deuteronomy 6:12-15 “be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.”

C. Third, the memorial stones were to be a signpost to a lost world. v. 24 “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.” It has always been God’s plan that the whole world should “know” that He is the only living God. Not only was the crossing of the Jordan a stirring event for Israel, but it was also a terrifying event for all the people living in the land of Canaan. Not only a time of remembering what God had done but…


v. 8 “So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.”

Joshua not only issued the order for the men to go back but he personally joined them as they made their journey back to the center of the riverbed. v.9 is debated among biblical scholars, it says, “Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.” Joshua, while the men were carrying their stones back to the shore, personally picked up twelve stones and built a memorial in the center of the riverbed, as a personal act of worship. For Joshua this was a private act. It was also representative of a pivotal point in his walk with God.

Once the twelve men had carried twelve stones to the shore of Canaan, and after Joshua had built his altar in the middle of the river, he commanded the priest to finished crossing the river with the Ark of the Covenant. Vs.15-18, “Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Command the priests carrying the ark of the Testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.”  And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.”

The moment that the feet of the priest touched the other side, the wall of water that had piled up for miles back up the river came crashing back into place. Not only was it a time of renewing personal commitment but …


vs. 19-20 “On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.”

It is significant that this happened on the tenth day of the first month, because that is exactly forty years to the day, since Israel marched out of Egypt. Leaving the edge of the river, the Israelites went to a place called Gilgal to make their camp. Gilgal was “on the eastern border of Jericho Gilgal means “the reproach has been rolled away.” Forty years of spiritual defeat and failure have been rolled away. It was the dawn of a great new beginning in a new land. The days of selfish refusal to respond to God under Moses were gone, complaining was ended, hopeless wandering in the wilderness was behind them. They were now a people with a powerful new sense of purpose, determined to take new territory with God. Likewise for us as believers today we should be able to look back and see those monumental occasions which standout as times when God changed our directions and gave us hope and a new sense of purpose; a time when we by an act of faith decided to abandon ourselves to God and step out to take new territory for Him.

The monument that was built with those twelve stones was a visible reminder of the faithfulness of God. It was also a silent monument to the special day on which the people of God boldly placed their feet in the surging, rushing current of the Jordan, confident that God would see them to safety on the other side.

Several years ago, a young successful executive named Josh was driving on a Chicago street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12-cylinder Jaguar, which was only 2 months old. He was watching carefully for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something; a brick sailed out and - WHUMP! – it smashed into the Jag’s shiny back side door. He slammed on his brakes and pushed his gears into reverse, tires spinning the Jaguar backed to the spot where the brick had been thrown. Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted, “Who are you? And what the heck are you doing?” He said, “That’s my new Jag, and the brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?”

“Please, mister, please…I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do! I threw the brick because no one would stop.” Tears were running down the boy’s face as he pointed “It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy pled, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.’ Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything else was okay. He then walked with them to be sure that the younger brother was able to get them back home all right.

It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shining 12-cylinder Jaguar; a long and slow walk. Josh never did fix that door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention again.  If you’re here without Jesus Christ as your Savior, don’t wait for someone to throw a brick to get your attention. We invite you to accept Him as your Lord and Savior. He is here, for you to do that now...

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