After Pentecost Devotional - Day 57

Someday your children will ask, “Why are these rocks here?” Then you can tell them how the water stopped flowing when the chest was being carried across the river. These rocks will always remind our people of what happened here today.” Joshua 4:7

Throughout the Bible, memory is an important concept. The Old Testament lays plenty of stress upon remembering God's deeds throughout the history of the people. There were festivals of many sorts to re-enact various aspects of Yahweh's history of redemption. We have seen the important place Passover held in fashioning the nation and calling each new generation to consider themselves personally redeemed in the experience of each year's observation.

At various times, however, memory was not centered around a festival of celebration. It was, however, brought out and stimulated through cairns of stones, as we see in today's passage. Memorials can serve significant purposes to remind us of our past and God's dealings with us through that past. For Israel, memory was to extend beyond the sphere of personal experience. It was to be transmitted from generation to generation. It was to be part of a heritage of communal experience that molded the nation from year to year.

Those experiences were to be rehearsed, recalled, and passed down so that future generations might recognize the value of Yahweh's intervention in the past. They would be a reminder that Yahweh could be counted upon in the future, as well.

Through cairns and other memorials to Yahweh's action in the past, the people could look to the possibility of Yahweh's intervention in their future challenges. They could learn not to repeat the mistakes of the past. They could learn to rely upon Yahweh, rather than to turn in fear in the face of adversity. They could appropriate the lessons of Yahweh's faithful care to give them courage and direction to face uncertainties before them

These cairns were not a testimonial to a history devoid of conflict. They were not a statement that all would be painless. They were, however, a reminder that in the midst of various difficulties and moments of uncertainty Yahweh had been present and active in their midst. In moments when the people were close to despair, they had witnessed the intervention of Yahweh, preparing a path where there was no visible path before them.

The stones were not a memorial to special people. They were not a memorial in regard to human action. They were witnesses to the actions of Yahweh bringing unexpected solutions to a people facing various conflicts, doubts, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The stones were reminders that Yahweh was master of the impossible, providing water in the desert and dry ground amidst torrents of water.

Memory and reminders of past victories can distract us from life facing new challenges. We can get bogged down in a glorified past we wish to fashion into an idyllic present. That is not what the stones on the bank of the Jordan were to do. They were simply to remind us that the challenges of today are no match for Yahweh any more than the waters of the Jordan had been. Memorials should not keep us from moving forward. They should challenge us to move forward in confidence that Yahweh is still dependable.

Reflect on the victories God has accomplished, granting confidence for today.


"Lord, help me to remember you in the face of the obstacles that would distract me."

©Copyright 2016, Christopher B. Harbin

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