Joshua prepared the people to cross the Jordan River and invade Canaan by one faith-filled command:
for tomorrow the LORD
will do wonders among you.
And God would not disappoint! The river was stopped up when the soles of the priests who were carrying the ark rested in the water so that the Israelites could pass on dry ground.
Before entering, they were to prepare through consecration. This was a purification ceremony done before sacrifice, but it was also done before witnessing a mighty act of God. Just like we might prepare ourselves to meet someone famous, the Israelites were to prepare for this manifestation of God by getting rid of any uncleanness in them so they could see this miracle with a pure heart.
They were to let the ark of the covenant lead the way. It was no longer to be the pillar of cloud. The ark was the most sacred treasure of Israel and a symbol of God's presence and power. It symbolized God Himself. See the Exodus 25 post for an explanation of the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25:10-22.
One of the reasons God did this was so that Joshua would be exalted in the sight of Israel so that they would know that He was with Joshua just as He had been with Moses (3:7).
As a sign to future generations, the LORD directed Joshua to take twelve men, one from each tribe, to make a memorial of twelve stones from the bed of the river to be erected at their first encampment at Gilgal. During the process, Joshua also erected twelve stones right IN the riverbed.
The stones had a broader purpose beyond being a sign to future generations of Israel. The memorial was so "that all peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty" (4:24).
As I have said in previous posts, this is the bottom line of the LORD's miracles . . . that other peoples, not just the Israelites, would know the monotheistic God of Israel.
Historical Note: Egypt was nominally in control of Canaan at this time. Amenhotep III (1414-1378) ruled, but was not interested in maintaining an empire. The Tell el-Amarna letters depict him as ignoring the Canaanite pleas for help against the "Hapiru" which were the Israelites. There was no central government in Canaan at the time and each individual city had its own king. Amenhotep III left the individual cities of Canaan to themselves during the conquest by Israel.
I think we are all creatures who are prone toward forgetfulness. Sometimes, I end the day having no remembrance of what I learned from the LORD in my devotional time that morning, having gone on "auto pilot" all day. In fact, I was just thinking of that weakness before I started this post. The "memorial stones" were a good reminder that I want to work on that weakness in my life. How about you?
I did think of times where I have been more intentional about "memorial stones." I have often written key verses on cards or sticky notes. I have many verses that God gave me while dating (and waiting for) my husband, George. They are reminders to me of a time of uncertainty but also of a precious time of hearing the assuring voice of the LORD when circumstances seemed otherwise.
My journals have been my "memorial stones" also. I have documentation of the mighty power of God in my life since 1978! They are an excellent way for me to remember the fingerprints of God on my life.
I have also collected different mementos that remind me of key encounters with God. They are things like shells from the beach, river water, sugar cubes from Spain, a nest, a cup, a little clay pot. They hold no meaning to others, but they remind me of significant times in my relationship with the LORD. I keep them as treasures on the table near my "quiet time corner" in my office or in my window where I do dishes. I can look at them and "remember."
What are your memorial stones?
Look for God in your life today. The crossing of the Jordan was a big miracle, but God is constantly trying to reveal Himself through little miracles every day. We just need to open our eyes to see them. When You see His fingerprint, set up a memorial stone: journal, write a poem, write a verse on a card, draw a picture, gather a memento. Do anything that will cement the remembrance of Him in your heart and mind.
Then, share it with a friend and bless them.
Lord, we confess our forgetfulness. Help us to remember and memorialize Your mighty power in our lives so that we may fear and reverence You forever (4:24). We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.