Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 60

What I Read Today: Joshua 1-5.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: “When the entire nation was on the other side, the Lord told Joshua, ‘Select for yourselves twelve men from the people, one per tribe.’ Instruct them, ‘Pick up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests stand firmly, and carry them over with you and put them in the place where you camp tonight.’”

Joshua summoned the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one per tribe. Joshua told them, ‘Go in front of the ark of the Lord your God to the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to put a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the Israelite tribes. The stones 3 will be a reminder to you. When your children ask someday, ‘Why are these stones important to you?’ tell them how the water of the Jordan stopped flowing before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the water of the Jordan stopped flowing. These stones will be a lasting memorial for the Israelites.”

The Israelites did just as Joshua commanded. They picked up twelve stones, according to the number of the Israelite tribes, from the middle of the Jordan as the Lord had instructed Joshua. They carried them over with them to the camp and put them there. Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan in the very place where the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood. They remain there to this very day.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

Our church used to have a summer “Family Camp” in Colorado. Now, from our location in Texas to the resort town in the mountains it’s about 840 miles…so for most families it’s a two-day drive. And since the idea is that families would be traveling together with their little kids, we invented a game to make it bearable.

For example, there were various points your family could get for spotting license plates on the highway or in a parking lot. The further away the state, the more points your family was awarded. You could get more points for stopping at various roadside attractions and tourist traps.

One particular exit had a big sign saying that you could see the monument to the Ludlow Massacre. It seemed interesting enough…and I was certainly expecting some sort of slice of American history having something to do with westward expansion.

Turns out, not so much. This was a monument to a labor dispute gone horribly wrong, and women and kids were killed. The story is one that, unless you took Colorado history as a kid, I can’t imagine you’d ever heard of. The bottom line is that it had an effect on unions and labor relations that led to several reforms for workers and their bosses.

Now, there are about 30 familes who know about it all because they needed to stretch their legs and could get points (which winners were given ice cream cones)…and I’m pretty sure they’ll remember it. The monument, which isn’t much of a much, and surrounding park (with picnic tables) made a lasting impression even if most of us didn’t relate or have a dog in that fight. It was important enough to the people of Colorado to put it up and maintain the park and put a sign on the interstate.

The power of memorials is strong. I mean, I’ve never been to Washington, D.C. But the images in my brain of that city…The Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument. The WWII Mermorial. The Vietnam Memorial. And when I grew up in Alabama, there were restored homes from the Civil War era and battlefields preserved. I can tell you all sorts of things about the events that spurred those memorials even if I’ve only seen them on TV!

And God knows that the power of memorials is strong.

When we pick up the story today, Joshua is about to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Moses died, and his 2nd in command was now in charge. 40 long years of wandering in the desert was about to come to an end and they were about to come home.

It wasn’t going to be easy. God repeatedly told them to be strong and courageous. Wars and battles would be fought. People were living there already and likely wouldn’t just say, “Oh, the Lord said you could have this land? Sure, give us a minute to grab our things and we’ll be on our way.” It might take a while.

So, Joshua sent out spies to see what needed to be done. The spies were close to getting caught, but were helped out by a prositute who kept them safe through her knowledge of the town and how the search would go. When the spies came back and informed them that the people of Jericho were already worried and disheartened as they saw the Israelites coming, it was time to go into the Promised Land (which, interestingly, Joshua had been into as a spy 40 years earlier).

They set out early one morning with specific instructions: Carry the ark of the covenant into the Jordan River and stand still.

Joshua, well aware of Moses’ impatience in following the minor details (which kept him out of the land after 40 years of paying for that failure) instructed them to do so with painstaking precision…

…and…

…tell me if you’ve heard this one before…

…when they took the ark into the river, dry land was provided for them to cross. That would certainly speed up the military operation, wouldn’t it?

And Joshua got representatives from each tribe to pick up a stone so large that they’d have to carry it on their shoulders. The priests would show them where to put it.

They were builing a monument out of the stones from the river bottom, that to them was only a path on that day. And God instructed Joseph as to the “why” of that act:

When the kids ask, and they will, you’ll tell them about God’s faithfulness on that day. And that memory will be important in their story, too. Even years from now when everybody’s moved on with their lives and have their own events to remember, you’ll walk with your kid and they’ll ask why that pile of rocks is there.

And you’ll tell them about God.
And his faithfulness then.
And how He’s faithful now…even if you don’t know how your story turns out.

When you look around my office, there are all sort of monuments: A Coke bottle from my grandmother’s house I lifted when she passed away because she always gave us a Coke when we sat on her porch to talk. I have souvenir baseballs from Opening Day every year I went with my daughter. I have pieces of wood signed by the kids who built a home in Juarez…one from every house we ever built. I have photos of mission trips…all of them.

They’re monuments of special moments, and when I tell you about the hockey puck from Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs where Brett Hull scored an important goal with 4 minutes left and the Stars hung on for dear life in an incredibly loud arena…

…well…

…I hope I get that same fond look in my eye when I tell you about God’s faithfulness in the moments in my past.

Because I think that monuments are really only as important as they story they tell, and the reminder of why it’s important enough to remember.

And God’s handiwork is always worthy of remembrance, and re-telling.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 6-8)

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