I have a small stone collection. Nothing fancy. They aren’t gemstones or even pretty polished stones, but each one means something to me. Each one has a story. Stones from streets in foreign countries. Stones from youth retreats. Stones from a class. Each stone reminds me of an important time and lesson in my life.
Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ Joshua 4:20-22
Joshua had a rock collection too. Well really, it was the Hebrew people. But it was so much more than just a rock collection.
The back story: The first generation of Hebrew people brought out of slavery had died. Their rebellion had a consequence. Moses didn’t get to see the fulfillment of the promise he was given by God. So the next generation, who had been born in the wilderness and knew nothing of slavery, was getting the chance to cross the River Jordan and see the land promised to their ancestors. That generation would receive blessing of God’s faithfulness to their parents and grandparents. Not because they were great – they were rebellious people too – but because it was God’s faithfulness that brought them to that point.
Yes, they would have to fight for the land. Yes they would have to continue to seek God’s direction in the midst of hardship and battle and chaos. They had their own faith to live out now. But I wonder if that is why God instructed Joshua (the leader that followed Moses), to have the leaders of the tribes to get a stone and build an altar. If you read the story closely (Joshua 4), it looks like Joshua also built an altar, right in the middle of the River Jordan, one that would be covered by water, but ever-present. God knew that when times got tough again, the people would falter, would doubt their God, would find it easier to place their trust in the ways of the culture than the ways of God. And yes, when times were so bad, that even the rushing waters of the river seemed dried up, there would be a deeply revealed reminder of God’s deep love.
You see, the 12 bank stones and the 12 stones at the bottom of the river are a reminder that God’s faithfulness began long before us and is a part of our story, our faith. God knew that when we are in the midst of the battles of today, we need a reminder that God has provided for us, protected us, guided us and remained ever faithful to us.
We need reminders of God’s work in our own life and in the lives of our family. As new generations of family grow in faithfulness to God we must tell the stories of how God worked in our life and in the midst of our family.
You see, one day, my kids will ask me what my stones are all about and I will tell them the stories. Joshua explained the same thing. He told the Hebrew people who one day their children would ask what the pile of stones meant and we are to tell the stories.
We need to tell the stories of our doubts, our struggles, our rebellion and God’s faithfulness. We are to tell the stories to others, not because we’ll get some kind of accolade, but because those stories give others hope that if God could be that for us, maybe God would do that for them. We need to leave visual reminders for ourselves and for others so that in the midst of the hard battles of life, we are reminded that God is faithful and God loves us, even in the midst of our rebellion, our doubts and our life chaos.
So today, leave a stone in your life. Think about the times God has been faithful and leave a stone reminder. Tell those stories to you children, to your friends, and yes, maybe even on social media.
And take the time to ask your parents and your parents’ parents about their stories.
May God’s faithfulness and goodness abound.