Joshua 4 records the Israelite nation as they finish crossing the Jordan River on dry ground. Verse 1 begins with this…
Joshua 4:1-8: When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 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.’” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 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, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 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.” 8 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.
Skipping to verse 20…the story continues…
Joshua 4:20-24: 20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 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, 24 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.”
The purpose of the 12 stone memorial is clear. The stones themselves were not to be worshiped, but rather they were to be a reminder of who to worship. They were to be a reminder of the Lord. The Lord who had not only brought them across the Jordan River, but who had also brought the previous generations across the Red Sea.
And the 12 stones were to help the people be reminded that they were commanded to pass on their faith to the next generation. So that when the next generation would see these stones and ask what they were for, it would open up an opportunity for the older generation to tell of their great God. That the Lord is mighty and strong. And so that the next generation would fear the Lord, meaning they would worship and live in reverence to Him. They would’ve live for themselves, but they would live for Him and His purposes.
If you’re a Christ follower, you’re a disciplemaker. To make disciples is not just something Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 28. It is all throughout Scripture, including right here in Joshua 4. You’ll also find it in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Our faith in God is personal, but it is never intended to be private or kept hidden. We are to proclaim the praises of the One who has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
We often talk of being driven to reach people, but sometimes we might miss the next generation that is right in front of us or living under the same roof who we are called to reach as well.
For some of you reading this, you’re not a parent, and yet you have a place of influence with the next generation. It could be within your larger family, or your job as a teacher or coach, or maybe it is as a volunteer in the community. The Lord’s command here in Joshua 4 is not just for parents. It is for one generation to the tell the next generation, so that that generation would tell the next, and on and on it goes, and on it on it spreads, so that all the peoples of the world may know.
We all have 12 stone memorials in our lives. We all have places we drive by, or maybe certain things in our houses, or an event that happened in our history, or maybe the 12 stone memorial is a person. Such as a friend who shared the Gospel with you or a family member who lived a Christ-like way of a life. Or a brother or sister in Christ who loved you enough to step into your life and be the hands and feet of Christ.
I drive by a house on Center St in Eureka, and it was the house where my girlfriend at the time, Heather (now my wife of nearly 20 years) shared with me the Gospel. It was the night I became a Christ follower. I drive by that house and I remember that God is faithful to save and use His people to reach others.
I drive by a restaurant in Bolingbrook, and it was there, that good friends of ours shared their testimony regarding sexual sin and marriage, and as a result, the Lord moved my own sin into the light in our marriage. So I drive by there and I’m reminded of the freedom and victory that is found in Christ.
I drive down Route 24 from Washington to Eureka, and I remember the time when the Lord impressed upon Heather and me to start a church in Eureka. It was a night of affirmation and confirmation. And so I drive by there and I am reminded of God’s calling and God’s goodness through the years.
There are so many others. Not just places I drive by, but things in our home, or people in my life. 12 stone memorials that cause me to worship and express my gratefulness to my Father in Heaven.
What are your 12 stone memorials? What are the objects, or the people, or the places that remind you of God’s work? That remind you He is mighty, that He is to be worshiped, that He has been gracious, powerful, and loving.
As Christ followers, we must be people who tell the stories of our faith to the next generation. We can’t be silent. We can’t just assume or hope they will get it. We must share with our words. Much like the Israelites, it is easy for us to lose sight of God’s faithfulness and power, and in doing so neglect to testify and tell. So this week, spend time praying, asking the Lord to help you see the 12 stone memorials throughout your life. And then don’t just remember them, but tell of the story, and tell of our God who is mighty and who is still at work!