“What do these stones mean?” – Joshua 4:21
Yesterday, during a conversation with my mentor and friend I was reminded the importance of considering the past more than the future. So many of my wounds have been self-inflicted. Too often I have wondered from the narrow road turning to the right or left. The result of my wayward journey’s have been painful. Now with a family, the pain extends to my wife and children. Such poor decisions could be mitigated not by considering what might happen in the future but by considering again what actually has happened in the past. The past is certain; the future is uncertain. Trust certainty.
After the Isrealites left Egypt, wondered in the desert, crossed the Jordan river and entered the promised land, Joshua had the people set up memorial stones. Why? One day, people will start forgetting what the Lord has done in the past and focus on the present moment, without roots in certainty. Present fears might seem overwhelming. Present foes might seem invincible. The uncertainty of what might happen might cause crippling anxiety. In such situations, people might make bad choices. I know I have.
In hopes of keeping people from making bad decisions, Joshua set up stones to remind the people they’ve gone through bad situations before and come out okay. Israel was enslaved by a nation whose strength was their military. Yet, plague after plague, the power of Egypt was shown to be impotent in comparison the Providence of God. After Israel was freed from slavery, Israel stood pinned between the approaching Egyptian army and the Red Sea. What seemed like absolute death was transformed by God into absolute freedom. The sea was split and the Egyptian army swallowed. The people were rescued. In the desert where food and water were scarce, water gushed from rocks and bread and meat fell from heaven. Over and over again the Lord came through for his people when hope was fading like the light at dusk. And each time, rather than Israel experiencing dusk in despair, they experienced the hope of dawn.
Those stones are important. Those stones are certain acts of our good, good Father. Those rocks cry out to us of God’s faithfulness when our full bellies cry because of we feel abandoned by God. We cry “woe is me” when we know nothing of “woe”, but only “wow”. I’m not minimizing our “woes.” After all, I held my dead father’s face in my hands and sixteen months later I watch cancer take my mother as another of its’ victims. But, since then, countless stones have been laid for my remembrance. God is good and faithful. He loves his children. Thanks be to God I am one of them!
In the near future sit down and think carefully about all that God has done for you. Write them down. Find a place to put what you’ve written so you might return to them again when life’s pressures mount. Leave space for you to add more instances of God’s provision, even those provisions that come in ways you didn’t ask. Your faith will grow, your hope will be built up, and roots of joy and contentment will anchor you God’s life giving water, Jesus himself.
*Photo from the public domain