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The Meaning of the Stones

4 Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: 5 And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: 6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? 7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. 8 And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. 9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.  (Joshua 4:4-9).

I wonder if atheists ever gaze into the face of a baby and weep over the miracle of evolution.

I wonder if secular humanists ever drink in the wonders of a tree and marvel at the artistry of nobody in particular.

I wonder if a godless scientist ever admired the genius of the human brain and breathed a whisper of thanksgiving to the random molecules that collided in the primordial soup and caused it all to happen.

Whatever we look at is worthless unless we consider the meaning behind it.  What is a tree, a stone, a tiny baby, a human brain if we do not know where it came from and what its existence means?  The Psalmist etched in stone the reaction we ought to have when we consider the wonders of creation.  He said,

“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: 7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”  (Psalm 8).

“The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable icons in the world.   It was a friendship gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, on the completion of 100 years of independence. The copper clad statue is of a robed woman, who holds a book in her one hand and a torch in the other.  It is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. Located on the Liberty Island of New York, occupying 12 acres of land, the monument welcomes all those who come to New York as tourists and also welcomes the inhabitants who are returning to their native place.”

Man lives in danger of forgetfulness.  How many of us have forgotten 90% of what we learned in school?  We forget birthdays, anniversaries and special events.  We forget the lessons of history.  There was a song written a few years after 9/ll, sung by Darryl Worley, asking “Have You Forgotten?” 

Have you forgotten how it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell
And you say we shouldn’t worry ‘bout bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

A shooting at the Holocaust Museum the other day turned our attention back to that terrible time in Europe.  There is a movement of anti-Semitism gathering speed in Europe because people have forgotten that six million Jews died in the Holocaust.  A newsletter article on the museum says:

“Quite often, donations are received from Holocaust survivors who are now in their seventies and eighties. They carry their personal treasures in shopping bags and shoe boxes retrieved from the back of their closets. These possessions are almost always presented with a story: the object takes on a significance beyond its physical state…There will come a time when it will not be possible to hear such first hand accounts.”

When you are full today, it is easy to forget that you were hungry yesterday.  When you feel good today, it is hard to remember the pain you felt yesterday. 

Let us not forget the price of our freedom.  Someone is missing from us today so that we could be here today.  The awful price of freedom took lives, limbs and families from them so that we could wake up this morning and breathe free.  You can’t taste it, smell it, see it or hear it, but don’t let that make us deny the reality of freedom.  It cost far more than your new car, your new home, your college education, your surgery or your retirement package.  I’ve walked between the white crosses and Stars of David in France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Hawaii and the islands of the sea.  The price of our freedom lies beneath these somber markers.  Over 175 such cemeteries exist in twenty-two countries around the world.

Joshua knew that despite the incredible miracles that God performed for the nation of Israel, despite their deliverance from Egypt, despite their victory over Jericho and despite the fact that God gave them the promised land and their inheritance, that they would forget how it all happened.

    So, God instructed Joshua to take stones out of the Jordan River and put them where they were about to lodge for that first night.  Joshua probably had them put in a small circular pile that resembled a tower.  This was the first monument to the miracles of God that was built in the Promised Land. 

        Two Reasons:

        Joshua had two main reasons why he wanted this monument of stones. 

First, God performed a specific miracle.  And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. 21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? 22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23 For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:

    This wasn’t a theory; a legend or a philosophy.  This was a real event.

    What you have in salvation needs to be known as a real experience.  That’s why we do not agree that Pentecost is a religion.  Religions come and go.  Religions are a dime a dozen.  People join religions, leave religions, change religions, start religions, debate religions, love religions and hate religions.  You can’t do that with an experience.  You know what God did for you.  You cannot be stripped of your experience with God.  The old song says it best:

There are some people, who say we cannot tell
Whether we are saved or, whether all is well;
They say we only can hope and, trust that it is so
But I was there when it happened and I guess I ought to know

Yes, I know when Jesus saved me

The very moment he forgave me;
He took away my heavy burdens, lord he gave me peace within;
Satan can’t make me doubt it,
It’s real and I’m gonna shout it;
I was there when it happened and I guess I ought to know

Now, I don’t care who tells me, salvation is not real
Though the world may argue, that we cannot feel;

The heavy burdens lifted and the vile sins goBut I was there when it happened and I guess I ought to know

The second reason for the monument was that there was a message to be proclaimed. 


“That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God forever.”  Joshua 4:20-24.

The popular wisdom in our culture is that faith is a private matter.  Keep it to yourself.  Nobody wants to hear about Jesus or church anymore.

The entire Bible speaks out against this view.

“But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  Acts 1:8.

How will the world know about Christ if we don’t tell them?

How will we satisfy the heart of God if we don’t share the good news?

Someone asked me the other day why we aren’t seeing as many people getting baptized and getting the Holy Ghost as we should.  I heard someone say that the reason we see too many empty pews in church is that we have too many empty seats in the cars in the parking lot.  Here is the letter of a missionary who was killed in Iraq in March of 2004:

Dear Pastor,  You should only be opening this in the event of my death.

When God calls there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the nations. I wasn’t called to a place; I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory my reward, His glory my reward …The missionary heart:

 Cares more than some think is wise

 Risks more that some think is safe

 Dreams more than some think is practical

 Expects more than some think is possible.

I was called not to comfort or to success but to obedience… .There is no Joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him. I love you two and my church family.  In His care, Karen

And so, because God has performed some specific miracles for us and because we have a message to proclaim, let us look around at the stones that stand for monuments to us today.

What means this pulpit? 

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Acts 20:25-28.

What means this baptistry?

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.  Acts 22:16.

What means this altar?

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;  Acts 3:19

What means these offering plates?

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him,   1 Corinthians 16:1-2.

What means this prayer room?

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.   James 5:16.

What means this modest appearance?

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  Romans 12:1-2.       

What means this disciplined life?

12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. 14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. 15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? 1 Corinthians 6:12-15.

What means this Bible?

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.   2 Timothy 4:1-8

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