Theme: The Crossing of the Jordan Continued
This week’s lessons tell about the importance of God’s memorial as they crossed the Jordan and into the Promised Land.
When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 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.”
And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the Lord told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day. For the priests bearing the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua.
The people passed over in haste. And when all the people had finished passing over, the ark of the Lord and the priests passed over before the people. The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh passed over armed before the people of Israel, as Moses had told them. About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho. On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Command the priests bearing the ark of the testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” And when the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.
The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
There are three specific reasons given for the erection of this memorial. It pertains to three different groups of people. The first reason is that it was to be a memorial to the generation then living, the generation that had crossed the Jordan. We find that in verse 6: “These stones are to serve as a sign among you.” Here were people who had witnessed a great miracle of God in dividing the waters of the Jordan in order that they might cross on dry ground. But these same people would quite naturally tend on occasion to become discouraged during the years of fighting in their attempts to drive out the Canaanites. Their discouragement might be for a number of reasons.
Occasionally there were defeats; that was true at Ai. Perhaps it was simply the duration of the battles. Furthermore we find that there were strongholds of the Canaanites that they weren’t able to overcome.
In circumstances like these it was important for the people who were doing the fighting to be able to go back to Gilgal and see those stones that were an evidence of the power of God as He had led them out of the desert and into the Promised Land. They needed to remember that it was the same God who had delivered them at the time of the exodus and who, because He is the faithful God, would be with them to the end. You see, we need reminders like that. We go through discouraging times in our lives. We have battles that seem to go on and on or problems that we can’t seem to solve. And we need to be reminded that our God is that God. Our God is the faithful and powerful God, and we need to trust in that, especially when for reasons known only to Himself His strong right arm is delayed in some particular circumstance of our life. It is not because He is weak or because He’s changed, but because it pleases Him to do that for His own purpose.
The second purpose for this memorial is for the generations that would succeed the present generation of fighters. Indeed, this is emphasized because it’s referred to twice, once at the beginning of the chapter and once at the end. When the generations to come ask these Israelites what these stones mean, they were to say, “God stopped the flow of the Jordan. And these Stones are a memorial to that fact.” Then again you find it at the end, when Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean’ you 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.’” It gets increasingly hard for human beings to remember the acts of God when time intervenes. So we need memorials like this so that when people say,
“Well, what does that stand for” we can say, “That is a memorial to the way God acted in the past.”
The third reason, seen towards the end of the chapter, is for the peoples of the earth. Verse 24 tells us that one of the purposes for the Lord’s drying up the Jordan was “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the You’re your God forever.” Memorials to the power of God are important for the world in which we live. Even though that world is not Christian and is in its unregenerate state of rebellion against our God, nevertheless it’s important for them to know that there is a God, and that the God of the Bible is the true God, and that He’s a powerful God, and that He does intervene in history in the lives of His people.
What were the three reasons for the memorial?
What was each group to learn from the memorial?