When I was a small child, my parents took me to see our nation’s capital, Washington, DC. As my little head tilted upwards, I remember being awestruck at the height of the Washington monument. I remember seeing the Capital steps and thinking there was no way anyone could climb that many stairs. We went to the Smithsonian, where I recall seeing “the Swamp” from MASH and Fonzie’s leather jacket. Most of all, I remember going to Arlington national cemetery and visiting the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We arrived just as they were changing the guard. I was mesmerized by the precise, elegant way the soldiers marched back and forth. I especially enjoyed seeing them turn, clicking their heels together. At the time, I was too young to realize the importance of this place as our nation honored its fallen heroes.
Our country is excellent at making memorials to honor the sacrifices of our brave warriors. From the Vietnam Memorial to the new World War 2 Memorial, we always honor our soldier’s bravery and courage.
War memorials are important to help us remember the sacrifices made by those before us so we can be free. They serve as visual images for future generations to learn what happened in the past. Even more important, they offer hope to our armed forces while in the heat of battle. It reminds them of past victories and gives them strength to carry on.
It is important for us as believers to erect our own war memorials. Let’s face it: As in real life, spiritual war is hell. While we are promised victory by the power and blood of Jesus, we must be aware that there will be times when we will feel defeated, discouraged, and alone. At these times, it is important to look at our personal memorials of times when God came through and carried us to victory. These memorials give us the hope and strength we will need to continue on and defeat our enemy.
As we return to the book of Joshua, we will learn not only how to make our memorials, but why they are so important in our journey toward God’s Promises.
When we last left the children of Israel, they had just experienced God’s miraculous power as He parted the waters of the Jordan River. This allowed them to cross over on dry ground. This was done as the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s Presence, into the middle of the River. Let’s look at the passage one more time.
15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.
God miraculously stopped up the raging flood waters, allowing them to cross over on completely dry ground. We read the entire nation crossed over without even getting muddy feet. However, notice that the chapter ends with the priests still holding the Ark in the middle of the river. While this seems an odd conclusion to a chapter, it is a perfect segway into our passage. Let’s look at it starting in Joshua 4:1.
And it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying: 2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.’ ”
The reason the priests are still left in the middle of the river is because God isn’t finished with the dry riverbed yet. He wants Joshua to send twelve men back in to grab a stone from the river. This may seem like an odd request to us; however, God always has a reason for what He does.
Each man obediently walked back into the dry river and carried back a large boulder. As they carried it back, I am sure they wondered why God wanted them to do this. Once on the other side, they got their answer.
4 Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; 5 and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
Here we see the first building of a war memorial. God wanted the twelve rocks from the river to remind the Israelites of His miraculous power. It is interesting to me that God wanted the stones to be from the river, not the shores of their new land. However, the more I thought about it, the more I understood God’s reason.
A river stone is nice and smooth from years of water pounding on it. Using these stones instead of rough jagged ones from dry land would stop anyone from denying the validity of the miracle. Any doubts would be extinguished the minute you ran your hands over the smooth stones of the monument. It would be a lasting memorial for the children of Israel. While this explains why they used river stones, we still have not learned why God wanted them to do it in the first place. As we return to the passage, we see three reasons why we, like the Israelites, need to erect war memorials.
1. They remind us of God’s Presence.
23 for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over
The first reason God wanted the memorial built was to remind the Israelites that God was the one leading them. He was fighting for them and protecting them. These were key facts for them to remember as they began to enter a land they had never seen before. They would have to face new challenges and fight new enemies. Whenever they began to feel like they were in over their heads, they could look back at the memorial and remember the miraculous way God had made for them to enter their Promised Land.
Let me be honest with you. There will be times in your walk with God when you will feel abandoned and alone. You will wonder where God is and why He isn’t helping you. Trust me, I know from experience. It is at these times we need to remember our war memorials. They will remind us that God was there in the past and He will be there in the future. If He came along side of us before, He will certainly do it again. This will give us faith to believe and continue on. However, this isn’t the only reason to have memorials.
2. They Remind Us of God’s Protection.
24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty,
This passage says that the presence of the war memorial will remind their enemies that God is the One fighting for them. It shows them He is their Protector. They cannot defeat Him. This knowledge fills them with fear. The memorial is a defensive weapon against their enemies. The same is true for us.
Our enemy, Satan, is constantly trying to get us to doubt God. He wants us defeated, afraid, and separated from God. He fills our head with lies that God has left us, God isn’t going to help us, God is angry with us, and many others. It is at this point we must pull out our memorials and praise God for all the times He helped us in the past. Praising God is a deadly weapon against our enemy. He can’t stand it and he won’t stay around where this happens. Thus, our memorial helps protect us against our enemies.
3. They Remind Us of God’s Promises.
Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; 23 for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
The people of Israel had a promise that the land they were entering would be theirs as long as they obeyed God and followed Him wholeheartedly. However, this promise would become void if they turned away and followed other gods. This is why it was important for their children to have this memorial. It was a reminder to them of God’s promise to give them the land forever. It was also a stark warning that failure to obey God could result in not only the loss of their Promised Land, but also the favor of the Mighty God Who had performed this miracle. This teaching would instill a healthy fear of God and His promises.
We all have Promises from God. When we erect our memorials, we have the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us. We remember He is the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever. If He did it for us once, He can do it again. We can be reminded that when the enemy attacks, God will raise up a standard against him just like He did before. When sickness attacks, we remember that He is the God Who heals us. We need to make memorials out of the times God does mighty things in our lives. They help us remember God’s presence, protection, and promises. We also need to teach them to our kids so they can learn to do the same.
As With All Instructions, Assembly Is Required
Maybe you are thinking, “I understand the need to build my own war memorials, but I just don’t know how. What should I do?”
Allow me to answer the question by describing how I erected war memorials. Then we will examine a few other ideas.
I began by writing down all the important times in my life with God such as the day I got saved. Then I wrote down times God performed miracles in my life such as the time He healed me from cancer in my wrist or when He paid for my college education without debt. I wrote down different commitments I made to God. These are the memories I used to make my memorial. In the future I can add to them for special occasions like getting married, ministry experiences, answered prayers, or special moments with God.
Now that we know what kind of events are memorials, allow me to describe the way I make my war memorials. Being the eccentric that I am, I have literally gathered memorial stones. My house is surrounded with decorative white river stones. I gathered a few of them that were 2-3 inches. Then I took a permanent marker and wrote the date of the event as well as a brief description.
For example, one rock says 4-20-97 and the word “pneumonia.” Whenever I feel discouraged or distant from God, I look at this rock and remember my 11 days in a hospital when I almost died from pneumonia (I will tell this story in a later chapter.). As I was sick and near death, I cried out to God and He healed me. Never before had I felt God’s Presence as strongly as in that moment. Looking at this rock gives me strength to continue on.
Another rock says “3-29-99 Surrendered life to God”. Whenever I begin to question why God is making my life so hard, I look at this rock and remember the intimate moment I spent with God in a college chapel service. I went forward to the altar and told God I would go wherever and do whatever He asked. This memorial reminds me that God is in control, and that I handed the reigns over to Him.
Currently, I have stones with memorable events written on them and stones for future events. I keep them in a small basket. One day I plan to display them on my desk. If anyone asks me what they are, I can share my memorials with them. If God blesses me with children, I look forward to holding them in my lap and showing them my rocks. I will use them to instill a love, faith, and trust in God in them. These rocks are precious to me. I will cherish them forever and look forward to adding to them in the future.
When you develop your own memorials, you don’t have to use real rocks like I did. You could keep a memorial journal. It could be a special book in which you could write down your memorials. You could write down the date and the memory on index cards and keep them in a box. You could write on blocks of wood and keep them in a special container. You could take photos of your memorials and make a collage. There are many different ways to make your memorials. Be creative, but make sure you do it.
In this chapter, I have tried to be honest with you about the struggles we all face in our spiritual war. I can’t emphasize enough the necessity of making your own memorials. It is vital to gaining victory over our enemy. The question is this: Will you do it?
Will you go through the effort to make memorials which you can look back on during the heat of battle? Is it too much trouble? Do you have the creativity to think of a unique way to make memorials? Will you share your memorials with other people? Will you use them to teach your children to trust and depend on God? I see no downside to building your war memorials. The question remains: Will you do it?
1. Find a way to create your own memorial stones. However you do it, make sure it contains the date of the event and a description of what God did. Keep them in a place where you can display them and show them to others.
2. If you have children, be sure to include them in your memorials. Tell them about your memorials so they too can learn to depend on God.