Joshua 4:1-7 ESV
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.”
Israel had just walked through the Jordan which was parted for them. In that moment, walking through the river cleared for them, it must have been as clear as crystal just how much God was helping them. And yet, immediately after, they were told to make a memorial of it for future generations. Not a week or month after it happened, but once they got to the other side.
These memorials were hardly unique. The Old Testament is full of examples of things being purposed or repurposed for remembering the things God did. The New Testament also has examples, perhaps most notably the Lord’s supper, when Jesus said to partake of it “In remembrance of me”. There are many things in the scriptures that call for remembering. And of course, this comes from our tendency to forget.
Sometimes it’s not even that we forget the events (though we do that too). For instance, we may remember something fond that happened, but we may forget how we had prayed for it beforehand. In cases like these we can forget to ascribe the glory where it belongs, to God. In the moment, we will know it’s of God, but as time goes on we may try to ascribe the event to other things, forgetting just who God is. And when we forget the things that he’s done, we tend to worry more. We focus on everything wrong with our life, and we can wonder what God as done for us that’s good. The problem, of course, is that in that moment we have forgotten all the good things he has done, because we have failed to remember.
So, how can we remember? We can use physical objects such as rocks. But one advantage we have over the ancient Israelites is higher literacy rates, so we can also record, in detailed words, what God has done for us. As in the passage, it is best to do this directly after, as in that moment it’s just so clear how much he’s helped us. If we accumulate a list, we can have an answer when our mind begins to worry or is under conflict. Remembering what he’s done for us can give us more things to thank him for, and help us to be more thankful, recognizing even more ways in which he cares for us. And it can help us to love him even more.
But, of all the things he’s done for us, we must put at the foremost part of our minds the ultimate thing he’s done for us: that he died on the cross for our sins. We must look at every other thing he’s done for us in light of this. For it is by that act that we may be called children of God.