There are certain places we visit that remind us of times gone by. When I visit my local park, I’m transported back to my childhood days when my mother would bring us there to have a picnic and play in the summertime. But it’s not just places that serve as landmarks for past memories. Smells, sounds, or certain foods may remind you of someone or even something from your past. Even household items as trivial as a coffee mug may trigger a bit of nostalgia. The human mind is a magnificent memory bank. I don’t understand how it works. I just know it does. And while sometimes the memories may be painful, at other times they can be ravishing reminders of the goodness and faithfulness of God.

            After roaming around in the wilderness for forty years, God’s people [the Israelites] finally reached the threshold of their new home – The Promised Land. Under the direction and provision of God, Moses had led them out of their slavery in Egypt; and now that Moses had passed, Joshua was God’s chosen leader to bring them into their new home. The land had already been promised to them (hence the name). All they needed to do was enter in faith…and cross a river. On foot. With all their cattle and children. No boat. Easy enough, right? But God promised to make a way:

11 Look, the Ark of the Covenant, which belongs to the Lord of the whole earth, will lead you across the Jordan River! 12 Now choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 The priests will carry the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. As soon as their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will stand up like a wall.”- Joshua 3:11-13 (NLT)

            I can imagine the timid tip-toeing that took place that day. One foot in. One foot out. One entire nation at stake. And still no boat. Not even a canoe for crying out loud! Nevertheless…

15 It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, 16 the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea[c] until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.

17 Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by. They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan on dry ground. – Joshua 3:15-17 (NLT)

God came through on His promise, just like he had done for them in the past. The riverside jubilation that day was probably enough to make a few waves. But like any good party, the music eventually stops and everybody goes home. By the next day the excitement has worn off, and by the next year it’s likely forgotten entirely. Not this time. God would make sure they had a permanent reminder of the day the river rolled up.

When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua,“Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” –Joshua 4:1-7 (NLT)

            To the outsider, it looked like a bunch of boulders. But to the Israelites, these were sacred stones. They represented the saving grace of God. For years to come, every time they would look at these stones they would be reminded of their Faithful Father and how He provided for them on that special day.

            What are your “memorial stones?” The places or things in your life that remind you of those monumental moments where God showed up in a big way. Let them be a reminder to you each time you see them, but also pass them on. Point out these places or objects to your children, friends, and neighbors. Let them in on the secret so they know it’s not just a rock. It’s part of your testimony.

“See that scar? That’s my reminder of God’s healing hand from open heart surgery 10 years ago.”

“That barstool is where I accepted Jesus into my heart when I had hit rock bottom.”

“The key on the wall over there is a reminder of how God opens doors – literally – when He provided me with a place to live in the midst of my struggle.”

Memorial stones remind us of what we often seem to forget with the passing of time – that God is good, and He is faithful to provide.

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Central Christian Church | Mount Vernon, Illinois