Stopping to Remember
Stopping to Remember (Joshua 4)
God's people sometimes suffer from spiritual amnesia. The psalmist complained, "They forgot what he had done, and the wonders he had shown them" (78:11). On the contrary, God expects His people to remember His mighty acts in their lives. We can easily forget the significant because of the clamor of the immediate. The same things that could cause Joshua's generation to forget could cause us to forget. The inconvenience of the moment, the pressure of the practical, and the call of the future can always create spiritual amnesia.
God desires His people to appropriately and meaningfully remember what He has done for them.
God Prescribes the Way His People Ought to Remember
God's people ought to remember inclusively. "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe" (v. 2). Twelve representing all the people of God were each to carry a stone for a monument to God's mighty acts. To remember what God has done is not just for historians. From the most recent to the eldest member of God's family, we are all to hold in memory His mighty deeds.
God's people ought to remember conspicuously, "Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of Jordan" (v. 20). The twelve stones were caused to stand erect on a large eminence. The people of God gave a conspicuous place to the memory of what God had done for them. We ought to keep before us and near us the reminders of the mighty acts God has done.
God's people ought to remember with vividness. The stones of remembrance were taken from the place "right where the priests stood" (v. 2). They recalled with vividness the mighty act of God. When parents recounted to their children what God had done, they told it as if their children had actually been there during the act itself (v. 23). We ought to remember by creating the present power of God's past acts.
God Prescribes the Reason His People Remember
God desires His people to remember for the purpose of instruction. We are to tell His mighty acts to our children in every generation (v. 6). This includes not only what God has done in the biblical revelation, but also what He has done in our church. Rootless-ness is a curse of our times. Our children will profit from knowing they are part of what God has been doing here for seventy-five years.
But our celebration of God's mighty acts also warns the enemies of His cause. The hearts of God's enemies sank when they heard of His mighty victory (5:1). To celebrate what God has done in our past warns the opponents of His kingdom that our God is a mighty God.
But beyond that, we instruct the entire earth by remembering what God has done. "He did this 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" (4:24).
God desires His people to remember for purposes of commemoration. God has acted for the intervention and preservation of His people. He has done for them what they could never do for themselves. Beyond that, He has sustained them by repeated, mighty acts.
God desires His people to remember for the affirmation of the future. The monument of stones was placed midway between Jordan and Jericho. They placed their memory halfway between God's mighty deliverances in the past and the unknown challenges of the future. The God who had delivered at Jordan was the God who could deliver at Jericho.
That monument reminded them that there was no retreat. The God who opened the Jordan before them closed the Jordan behind them. The ultimate meaning of that memorial was a call to advance into the future, for there could be no retreat into the past.