Good morning Beloved. I trust that you are growing in Christ. As I look around in the world today, I feel a sense of solidarity with the apostle Peter when he greeted the saints with these words, “she who is in Babylon greets you.” (I Pt.5:13) We are living in Babylon. And very soon the great Babylon will be thrown down and the kingdoms of men will become the kingdom of our Christ. (Rev.14:8, 18:2, 11:15, Dan.7:15-28) We know this because God has told us. And we would do well to remember this regularly.
Well, that brings me to our subject matter today. We are going to look at the idea of remembering. Specifically, remembering the miracles of God on behalf of His people. And various related truths associated with that. Open up your Bibles to Joshua chapter four please. I will read the entire chapter. Hear God’s holy word. Read.
The command to gather the stones. Joshua 4:1. Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, 2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.'” 4 So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; 5 and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. 6 “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?‘ 7 then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”
The obedience in gathering the stones. Joshua 4:8. Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the LORD spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there. 9 Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing, and they are there to this day. 10 For the priests who carried the ark were standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything was completed that the LORD had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua.
The people enter the land. Joshua 4:10B. And the people hurried and crossed; 11 and when all the people had finished crossing, the ark of the LORD and the priests crossed before the people. 12 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken to them; 13 about 40,000 equipped for war, crossed for battle before the LORD to the desert plains of Jericho. 14 On that day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; so that they revered him, just as they had revered Moses all the days of his life.
The river resumes its course. Joshua 4:19. Now the LORD said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests who carry the ark of the testimony that they come up from the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” 18 It came about when the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD had come up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up to the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as before.
The placing of the stones at Gilgal. Joshua 4:19. Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. 20 Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 “For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
Let’s go to the Lord and ask His blessing upon our worship today. Pray.
By these stones God is teaching His people that we are to remember Him especially to remember His saving mercy and power. Let’s go to our first section, verses 1-7 the command to gather these stone.
The stones of remembrance.
V.1-7. Right away we are told that it was the Lord that commanded Joshua to command the people to gather these stones. A few things here.
God instructs us via His representative.
God governs us via a Mediator. Jesus is the only mediator between God and Man. That means that man, after the Fall, does not come to God directly. We come to God via the person and the work of another. (I Tim.2:1-7, Ezek.2:7, Jer.7:27, Jn.15:20)
Like that God most often speaks to His people via a representative. In the OT mainly God would speak to His people via His prophets and also His priests and kings. In this occasion we see that. When Joshua says, thus says the Lord, these really are the words of God and not ultimately the words of Man. I say this because our flesh is averse to authority. And we are especially averse to God giving authority to another person over us. Our flesh is like Korah in Korah’s rebellion. Who is this Moses?! Is he the only holy one among God’s people?! We are also holy. We will not listen to Moses! (Num.16:1-50) Every man does what is right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)
God is training His people to live on His word – as delivered by His chosen leader. (Eph.4:11) Beloved, let us be on guard against an autonomous spirit. May God give us a properly submissive spirit, a teachable spirit, a directable spirit.
And I will say an obedient spirit. Remember God is through Joshua telling the people to “do” something, to gather the stones and then to remember what the stones represent. So physical obedience to the word of God and spiritual and mental obedience to the word of God. Oh, may we not be ineffectual hearers only, but effectual hearers and doers of God’s word. (Jas.1:22-25)
God instructs His people to remember Him.
Next, since it is the Lord that commands to gather these stones, we know then that this is not an expression of idolatry by Joshua.
Remember what God is doing and has just done with Joshua. The text tells us that God exalted Joshua in the eyes of the people. God did a miracle. But He did that miracle while at the same time using Joshua. This is like God splitting the Red Sea while using Moses. God did the miracle. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. (Num.14:13-14) Joshua and Moses did not do the miracle. But they were the appointed leader that God exalted. (Josh.3:7, 4:14)
Salvation is of the Lord.
The benefit of our Bible and of these stones, is that both the leader and the people will remember that God did the miracle and not the leader and not the people. Salvation is all of the Lord and none of Man. (Jonah 2:9, Ps.3:8, 62:1, Rev.7:10)
This earthly Joshua is just a type of the ultimate Savior Joshua Jesus. Joshua did not give them rest. Jesus does. (Heb.4:8-10)
You see even the redeemed of the Lord we still have the corruption of our flesh. Our fallen flesh still lusts for authority and preeminence. This is an expression of our fallen pride. This is the idolatry of self. There were occasions where God did something great and then the human instrument made a monument to himself!
The first instance we see this occur in scripture is with the City of Babel, the precursor of Babylon. The City of Man opposed to the City of God.
Genesis 11:4. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
King Saul did this after the defeat of the Amalekites. And may I also say, after he disobeyed the command of God given to him by Samuel to utterly destroy everything of the Amalekites. Natural man thinks much higher of himself or herself than we ought. We extol our virtues, while we are blind to our sins and faults.
I Samuel 15:12. Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.”
Another occasion of idolatry to self was David’s treacherous murderous son Absalom. (2 Sam.14:25, 2 Sam.3:3, 2 Sam.13-19)
2 Samuel 18:18. Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar which is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to preserve my name.” So he named the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.
Remember Beloved God opposes the proud and God exalts the humble. (Jas.4:6, I Pt.5:5, Ps.138:6, Prov.3:34)
God is to be glorified.
The other lesson that God teaches His people by these stones is that He desires to be glorified in the hearts and minds of His people. God does not want us to build moments to self or to man. But rather He wants us to build monuments to Him.
God is worthy to be praised. Remember the holy angels fly around the throne of God singing, holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, worthy of all praise, honor, and adoration. (Isa.6:3, Rev.4:8) I commend for your reading from our secondary standards the chapter on God, chapter two of the WCF, read WCF 2.1-3. Study the Scripture proofs and I guarantee your estimation and love of the Lord will increase!
As an aside, by this God is not forbidding or condemning all statuary commemorating great men or great events or even the use of gravestones. These things are not religious. Here we learn that God is concerned with His worship.
Let me read for us some other instances in Scripture where God commanded the use of memorial stones.
Jacob’s memorial stone.
Genesis 28:17. He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. (Gen 28:10-22, Jacob’s Ladder)
Jesus Christ is Jacob’s ladder. In Christ God comes down to Man. In Christ man ascends up to God. (Jn.1:51)
Moses’ memorial stones.
Deuteronomy 27:1. Then Moses and the elders of Israel charged the people, saying, “Keep all the commandments which I command you today. 2 “So it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones and coat them with lime 3 and write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over, so that you may enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4 “So it shall be when you cross the Jordan, you shall set up on Mount Ebal, these stones, as I am commanding you today, and you shall coat them with lime.
Samuel’s memorial stone.
I Samuel 7:10. Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. 11 The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer,
Yahweh’s memorial stone.
Zechariah 3:7. Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here. 8 ‘Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you– indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch. 9 ‘For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. 10 ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.'”
God receives glory by choosing the lowly and weak.
Also, we see the means that God’s chooses for the remembrance of Himself – bare stones, uncut stones. Not artwork. Just a bare piece of rock. This is very similar to the altar that God prescribed.
Exodus 20:24. You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. 25 ‘If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.
Oh Beloved, God’s ways are not our ways. His are infinitely higher. You see, by intricate artwork people are often absorbed by the artistry. But by the simple stone our minds are directed to what it represents. God chooses what men think is nothing and by this gets the glory.
Think of what Paul says about those people God chooses to save – the lowly, the poor, the nothings of this world. God gets all the glory. (I Cor.1:27-31)
The neediness of this present generation.
Now let’s address some additional reasons why God would give such a command about setting up stones of remembrance. First, let’s address the neediness of the present generation actually present here in this text.
Think of who these people were. Two of the military men, Joshua and Caleb came out of Egyptian slavery and they walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. Most of the adult women did the same. These men and these women along with their children witnessed miracle after miracle in the wilderness. And now all of the people witnessed this miracle at the Jordan River.
God had preserved them from death – miraculously. God had made good on His word – miraculously. God brought them into the Promised Land – miraculously. You would think that after witnessing all of these miracles that none of these people would ever be prone to forget God in any way such that they would need stones to remember God by.
Oh Beloved, even true Believers have so much remaining corruption and weakness. The world, the flesh, and the devil assault our minds and hearts. We forget the Lord. We forget His power, His mercy, His goodness, and His salvation. Constantly.
I watched a show on Richard Wurmbrand the other day. He was a Christian minister in Romania when the communists took power. They threw him into prison and tortured him regularly. At the end of his time in prison he said that he had forgotten much of his bible. But he remembered four great truths. They were basic. Something like God is always with, Christ is the Savior, He cares for us, and to love others.
Oh, how we need the Bible, which is the true stone of remembrance, so that we can daily fill and refill our minds and hearts on the Lord and His things, especially on His salvation of us.
View material life in reference with reconciled spiritual life with God.
Plus I want you to think of this. Imagine the scene of all the people, all their animals, the military men armed for war, it must has seemed quite overwhelming to see and to hear. Plus, two walls of water standing upright! And in the middle of all of this, God says, essentially stop for something very very important. Remember Me!
Oh, how many people would run through without a thought of God! God does not. God does not neglect religion in favor of temporal things. And He teaches us not to either.
The danger of worldliness.
As Believers we are right to be mindful against serious breaches of the Moral Law. We are right to watch out against temptations to create idols, to misuse God’s name, to forsake God’s worship, to dishonor authority, to sin against the sanctity of life and marriage and so on. But let me say, by these stones of remembrance we are warned against what I would say is the common way that we fall into those other sins and that is by the sin of forgetting God.
We just get busy with life. We get overwhelmed with problems. We grow disappointed and disinterested. And we fill up our mind and heart with other things, buying, selling, marrying, life.
The danger of forgetfulness.
And so, bit by bit we grow colder and colder to the Lord. Bit by bit we forget His goodness.
Oh beloved, great sins begin by a little forgetfulness. This is how marriages fail. This is how our marriage with Christ grows cold. (Rev.2:4-7, Rev.3:16-18)
The neediness of the future generation.
V.6-7 gives us another reason for these remembrance-stones. When the next generation of God’s people that did not personally walk through the Jordan River on dry ground by this miracle of God see these stones, they will ask the older generation – what do these stones mean?
Beloved, I suppose we come from all over the lot as regards to the status of children in the church especially on the subject of baptism. But that aside, there can be no debate the God wants us to instruct our children in the Lord and His ways.
God has given us children in order that we might raise them up in the fear of the Lord, in the love of the Lord and in the worship of the Lord. (Eph.6:1-4)
Listen to these Scriptures.
Genesis 17:7. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.
Ezra 9:2. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness.”
Malachi 16:20. Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? 21 “You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire.
Malachi 2:15. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth.
I Corinthians 7:14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. (Prov.2:16-17, Ps.106:34-39)
The Lord get the next generation of worshipers from within the visible church. Yes, He also uses evangelism to call those who are far off to come to Christ, praise God. But the promise is for us and our children. God has in fact, promised to be a God to us and to our children. (Acts 2:39)
And therefore, He wants us to think about them religiously and to treat them accordingly. Yes, seek to meet their physical, temporal, and material needs, but we ought not neglect their soul which is eternal. (Dt.4:9, Prov.22:6, Exod.12:26-27, 13:8-14)
Deuteronomy 11:18. You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.
I will say this by way of application, we do in fact teach both by precept and deed what we really believe religiously to our children. And by this text, we as the parents have the greatest responsibility to teach them about the salvation of the Lord. And we are the best human instruments for that, because of the natural love bond between parent and child.
Every parent that has tasted of the salvation of God in Christ is equipped to tell their children about Jesus. And this ought to prompt us as parent and grandparents to study God’s word so we would be ready to give a good answer when our children and grandchildren ask us why we have the good hope of eternal life in Christ. (2 Tim.2:15, I Pt.3:15)
Some truths of God are obscured and must be sought after.
V.8-10. Now the memorial stones that we have been speaking about are the ones that they people placed in the Promised Land at Gilgal. But in Joshua 4:9 it does appear that Joshua carried another set of memorial stones and these he placed in the middle of the Jordan River where previously the priests had stood.
Now this is very interesting. And even a bit perplexing. After all, why set up memorial stones if they are under the water? My sense is that since these “hidden” stones are recorded in God’s word and thus talked about that this is their usefulness. Think of this. For the holy of holies no one but one man on one day ever saw this. But we knew that this was there and what it teaches us because it is written in the ultimate remembrance-stone, the holy Bible.
I would also add this. The memory stones in Gilgal are easily seen, they are the evident truths of God so to speak. But the stones in the river under the water, they represent the truths of God that are obscure, hidden treasures of God as it were. Jesus uses this idea when He speaks about gospel truths that we find hidden in a field, under the earth, that digging has exposed. (Mt.13:45-48)
Sometimes Beloved we do have to dig and to search in God’s remembrance stone of the Bible to find certain truths of the Lord.
The entire people of God will arrive at the Promised Land.
V.19-24. Finally, we see that the stones of remembrance are set up in the Promised Land, in Gilgal.
Then on a very certain day, a day recorded in God’s word all of God’s people arrive safely in the Promised Land.
Joshua 4:19. Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho.
Oh beloved, there is a fixed day, a certain day when each one of us will cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. There is a fixed day, a certain day, when Christ will return and bring all of His people together, the entire Israel of God into the heavenly Promised Land.
Very soon faith will give way to sight.
To God be the glory.