The dictionary defines a memorial as something designed to preserve the memory of a person or event. In many countries, they design memorials to remind future generations of great leaders and victorious conquests. Just as memorials are an important way to commemorate military victories, they can also be a great reminder of spiritual victories.
“A Trophy Room for Memories”
(Joshua 3 & 4)
What a fitting introduction it is to our study this morning. I invite your attention back to the book of Joshua as we continue our study now four weeks old.
As the Israelites planned to enter the land, one point must be perfectly clear and it is the point we just sung about. It is the same point that we need to understand as we pursue victorious Christian living.
Joshua 3 & 4 will not give us one of many ways to experience victory in Christian living. It will give us the only way to experience victory in our Christian pursue. And it is important for us as it was for them then to note not only what God did but why God would do it. And what it took on their part to see it happen.
Now if you were with us in our last session, you remember the spies return from Jericho with the report that all people were terrified at their coming. So at their report, the people of Israel gather all of their things and they traveled all of the 7 or 8 miles to the edge of the swirling Jordan River and their they camped for 3 or 4 days.
As the day for the crossing approaches, Joshua, unlike most military leaders, says to the people, not the sharpen your swords and polish your shields,but he says, consecrate yourselves for tomorrow you will see the hand of the Lord.
Look at Joshua 3:4, Then Joshua said to the people, Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow, the Lord will do wonders among you.
You see there is this path of victory that makes important the purity of man and the power of God. So he says, to consecrate themselves. What is consecration? Well back then it meant several things, it meant: washing their clothes, taking a physical bath, a time of confession, it was a time of personal searching. This consecration was something taken very seriously by the Israelites.
Joshua tells them I want you to consecrate yourselves, why? Because for God’s power to be revealed his people must be pure.
Perhaps the reasons that we do not see God’s power is much as we do, because we have fallen in our part to present to him pure vessels. But why all the bother of now of consecration? In addition to that it is critical that Israel recognize not only that God’s power will pull back the Jordan waters, but they must be consecrated so that they can sense all the value of that miracle.
You see ladies and gentlemen, it is possible for you and I to experience the power of God, it is possible for us to see God’s hand at work and notice, but never connect, never sense the value. You see the Israelites needed to understand when they saw the Jordan waters go back, that if God is powerful to do that then something else will happen. He is powerful enough to dispel the attack of the Amorite. If God can pull back these raging waters, He is powerful enough to help them to overcome the Girgashite warrior who lives to fight. It is important that they notice that if God is powerful to help them enter the land, He is powerful enough to give them the land.
An unconsecrated heart in life in effect, ladies and gentleman, blinds our eyes. Does it bother you that you could possibly go through life and God could be at work and that you never really recognize all that is happening?
Does it bother you that God could work in the routine of affairs in your life and you completely miss it? Because there is the lack of concentration in our hearts.
Joshua announces to the people (not sharpen your swords there in that chapter), consecrate yourselves. . .for the Lord will do wonders among you tomorrow. The point is that God does not need clever people to conquer Canaan, he needs clean people through His power to conquer Canaan.
The difficulty facing these people, is this swirling Jordan River. The word Jordan literally means descender because it would descend a 1,000 feet as it makes it way from the Sea of Galilee down to the Arabus Sea or the Salt Sea we know it today as the Dead Sea. And that descent of a 1,000 feet causes a natural current, not a torrent but it is a current. However, during the flood season, that is during their harvest time, it would overflow its banks and fill what we call the Jordan’s flood plain. Now the flood plain was anywhere from 1 mile to 3 miles wide. And every year the Jordan would overflow its banks and cover a period of perhaps as much as 1 mile in width.
Now the text tells us that is the exact point that the Israelite were standing on the edge. It is when it is at flood season. It has overflow banks and they looking not at a little current or a stream with a good run and a jump would make it. They are looking at 1 mile perhaps wide torrent of rushing water. Humanly speaking there were no possible way for the children of Israel to cross over it. It was to them the major obstacle. It was an impossibility. And adding to that suspense is that little phrase in verse 3:4, there is a volume in that, For you have not passed this way before. And I love that.
You see, this generation apart from Joshua and Caleb had not seen God part the waters of the Red Sea. They did not have any experience to pull from. Saying O I have seen them do that before, I know He can do it now. These people I am sure were standing and wondering God, you want us in the land, but now we got this problem in our way and it is about 1 mile wide and it is very deep. And I am not sure if we are very good swimmers. And I know my children aren’t and our cattle and all of our belongings. So there was a significant problem. And I think that is why we need to understand significance of the ark of the covenant.
Look at chapter 3:6, Joshua spoke to the priest saying, Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over ahead of the people. So they took up the ark of the covenant and went ahead of these people (these priests got in the front of the line), then Joshua said to the sons of Israel, Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God. Joshua said, By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite , the Hivite, the Perizzite, and Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusit, and all other parasites. 11. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you that is it leading the way into the Jordan. Now then, take for yourselves twelve men for the tribes of Israel, one man for each tribe. we will know why in a momemt. 13. And it shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off and the waters which are flowing down from above, shall stand in one heap. So it came about when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan there were the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people. . . lets stop here just for a moment.
This ark was a 2 by 4 foot box, rather simple, it was overladen with gold which made it very beautiful. But inside the ark there were several important things. There were: the rod of Aaron which supernaturally budded to life, a jar of manna - that was a constant reminder of God’s provision when they did not have anything, and there were also tablets of stone - which God with his own hands wrote that the commandments. . .remember the first set was crashed to the ground by an angry Moses, well the next time around God wrote it with His own finger and blazing into that stone the commandments and those stone tablets were inside the ark as well.
Now the lid, of course, was gold and on top of the lid were 2 angels or cherubim facing each other with their wings spread out or toward them covering their faces. Now they believed then the power of God, or literally the presence of God, rested in the cradle of the wings of these angels not like in these popular movies which have them in the box. He is there as it were in the crest of their wings.
And so the point is the ark is supposed to lead the way. What did that mean? That meant they were not just the people going for a trek or a camping journey in this land to see if they kind of liked it there, they were optimistic and all believin that the people would open their arms and say O the Israelites welcome. No, they were people of God being led by God. And with God in front leading the way they by faith were to follow. Now that is where the challenge comes in.
Notice as I read that it talked about the priests, when would God part the waters? When the priests dipped their feet into the water. Now I would not want to be a priest in that day, but if I were, I am sure all of those priest carrying the ark and they are heading toward the waters edge and all the while probably saying in Hebrew, Lord, help me please or we are sunk.
Why did God wait until as it was the midnight hour? Why not the night before? Just roll back the waters and blow the moisture out of the dirt so that when they get up in the morning, Oh great, lets get up, get our stuff and go through. Why would he go through this? Why would the process be the priest must first put their foot in the waters edge and then I’ll act.
Why is it that He waits so long for you in order to come through for you? Do you wonder why? I think there is a fundamental principle here, ladies and gentlemen, that is as God leads us into the land of rest, the land of victory, He is much more interested in developing His people than He is in displaying His power. We get all hung up on wanting His power. And NOW. But God wants to develop the faith of His people. So He waited until the last moment.
Lets watch Him work, pick it up at verse 15 of Joshua 3 - when those who carry the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priest carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest). 16. that the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea or the Dead Sea were complete cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. 17. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.
The waters pile up as far as 30 miles - the city of Adam. Why would God do that? I think because this mountain of water would be a testimony to His power but it would be also a warning My people are coming. And another opportunity to repent to throw down their arms, they would see Him coming.
I have read a number of books and in my library I have books written by people with liberal persuasion more than that liberal persuasion those of conservative persuasion. It has been a real interesting thing, almost laughable to read those liberal commentators as they try to dance their way around these miraculous events. Ladies and gentlemen, it cannot be done if you take this at face value.
Let me give you the sequence of all the miracles involved here:
1. the waters were at flood stage (3:15), 2. the waters were stopped just as promised (3:16), 3. the timing was exact - it was right when the priests hit the water (3:15,16), I read one gentleman who suggested that there were an earthquake killed somewhere and the land came down and stopped the water and isn’t that amazing it happened right then and they were able to cleared out when the priests got out of the water, that takes a lot more faith I think than believing God did this but any weight - any weight, I knew you would enjoy that, 4. the wall of water was held in place while the entire nation crossed (3:17), 5. the soft river bottom became dry at once (3:17), 6. finally, the waters returned immediately as soon as the crossing was completed (3:18)
Now one incident that takes place here in chapter 4 that I want to spend the remainder of our time on. 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. skip to over verse 19. now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and they camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. 20. and those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.
Men and women, it is critically important that we prepare for to see God work. That we consecrate our lives, that there was purity on our part, confessing of sins so that the hand of God can work. And it is also important by comparing we are able to see him work. That we can put the facts together, that we can see His power and His presence and that is a wonderful thing to observe, but it is just as critical as those other two as to remember that God did work.
Perhaps one of the greatest enemies to the victorious Christian life is forgetfulness. Just as in marriage, the greatest threat is not something that can happen over night, the greatest threat is the constant erosion of forgetting the significant of the vow.
One of the greatest threats of the Christian life is walking through life, and never pausing, never stopping to take note that God has worked and there may be people in here all of us has experience it I know, the point in our life is when we have wondered is He really at work. The only reason we say that is for we have forgotten that He already has.
As one man wrote, The superstructures of our lives are built upon the foundation of our memories. We are instructed by our memories as to how to live now.
Another one writes, memories of God’s hand and power create the soil in which our presence roots of faith sinks deeply and from which we receive nourishment.
Now the direction was very clear to Joshua. In fact, look back at verse 21 of chapter 4, Joshua would then repeat message and said to the sons of Israel, when your children ask their fathers in time to come, 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.
So the people set up then a memorial of stones. . . why was it so important? Well let me suggest not only that which I have already suggested to add to that,
Memorial Stones are incredibly important for several reasons. Let me suggest them to you if your are taking notes.
1. Memorial stones help us to overcome a tendency to forget.
I can be so preoccupied with my immediate problem and the supposed lack of spiritual resources that I will overlook by forgetting that God had already provided, or that in the past He had provided the resources necessary. This is by nature that we tend to remember the negatives, we catalog the defeats, and bumps us and can spit them out, we alphabetize them in our memory, we know they are there and because they are there we are constant mind whenever we face trouble - what do we run to first? Failures. Defeats. As a result we continue propagating the feet of life.
Another reason Memorial stones are important.
2. remind us the importance of thanksgiving.
God would provide a number of times in impossible situation, perhaps you come this morning and are right in the middle of an impossible situation. I do not know what it is but you do. That monument from the past impossibility allows you the opportunity to stop and thank God for what He has done, because for we so often get caught up and asking Him to do something now that we forget to praise Him for what He did then.
3. I suggest to you is very clear here. That is so the people be challenged to share the story with the next generation.
Several years later there at Gilgal National Park there is a heap of 12 stones. And there is an Israelite father with his son or daugher, 8 - 7 or maybe a teenager, the child says Daddy, what are those stones means, what are they here for? The father or the mother can say why don’t we pull up a seat right here and let me tell you what happened. This is were God came through with tremendous power so that you and I can enjoy everything we have today.
What will the children or the next generation hear from us? Will they hear that God is worth following? That God is powerful? Will they hear that God can be trusted. Or all they hear from us is a reconciliation defeat to despair, discouragement.
Whether you are here with little children or grown children or a grandparent here with grandchildren, you are in the tremendous - you have a tremendous opportunity to give to the next generation the message that God is alive and that He works, and that He is powerful, and that He can be trusted.
Now I want to go one more step here in terms of practicality. Because I think we all have the same problem of forgetfulness. I want to suggest to you we begin to build what we will call a trophy room. And we will put in it the momentous of God’s power and His presence. It maybe a journal where you write things down, it might be a computer disk where you have a file where you activate whenever you want to make another entry. It could be putting things to song. It could be including them in your personal prayer life. Or whatever it may be, but building a trophy room to fill with the power and providences of God.
Let me suggest by way of these next few notes some entries you would make.
1. let me make this very clear. Refuse 1st of all any entry of spiritual defeat or failure.
Why? Because you will want to ignore them? O No. The trouble isn’t that we are ignoring them, the trouble is we can’t forget them. They will always be there, you do not need to write these down.
This will be a trophy room not a boxing ring where the good will fight the bad. This is a place where you will remember what God has done. So refuse right off the bat, putting down anything of that nature.
2nd of all, I would suggest that you revisit places of spiritual significance.
Maybe in your mind, you go back down memory lane and you remember that particular place of great significance, perhaps that church where you trusted Christ, the camp - the dormitory room where you were disciple, a place where you met an individual that impacted you, as we will talk about it in a moment. But revisit them. Go back if you can physically can. Especially if you are here this morning and you are saying things like God is not at work in my life. You have forgotten that he is. And you have forgotten that He has been.
Let me suggest 3rdly, that you remember people who made a spiritual impact on your life.
For you there may be people in your life right now, for me a wife and children impact me daily to live as I ought to live. I can add to that list both parents, a brother who is in the ministry, I can jot down into that journal some college professors, and a few seminary profs and people in this church that has impacted me in a spiritual way.
Let me suggest that once you come up with those names you call them up. Be prepare for a heart attack on their end because they probably don’t have any idea they impacted you. Spiritual people don’t recognize that. But you tell them what they did for you. Maybe call them on the phone. But jot into your journal not just events, not just places, but people. And the next time you mope around and you say God doesn’t care about me, He is not at work in my live, then you can stop and hit yourself with the question, then if that’s true, why in the world would He spend so much creative design to bring these people into your life at different crossroads. And then you might wake up and say WOW, you know He has worked. I am just ignoring His work now. Unable to see it because of the valley.
Let me suggest it, let me suggest the 4th, that you rekindle moments of spiritual decision.
Remember that time you raised your hand or you knelt down at an altar, perhaps wrote a letter, perhaps that point in time when you said yes to God, perhaps the time when you committed your marriage or your home or your career to God. Go back and rekindle those. Those moments of spiritual decisions.
A couple of years ago I did something I think shared it on a Sunday night of going back to the home where I was raised. My parents lived in the same home for 19 years and my brothers and I was raised there and they moved when I went to college, but there was a very special place in that house and God motivated me. I believe to rekindle that particular moment. So I remember getting in the car, we were home visiting my folks and I got into the car and headed to the house - 45 minutes away. I pulled up outside and of course as if you have ever been back to a place like that you notice how different it looks and what your memory has. That front yard was so tiny and a touchdown seemed so long back then, but now it was just a little patch. And it was also growing grass which was a miracle for it never did when we were growing up. But I went and knocked on the door and this gal answered the door - 20 or 21 years of age - carrying a baby on her hip and I awkwardly said I would like to come in and look around for this is where I was raised. She said, far out man, come on in. I became a little nervous what my room looked like at that particular point. But I looked around and everything was much smaller of course than I remember. I went upstairs and turned left and walked into what was my room. Kind of a glorified closet, a 5 x 7, a little rug, a little bed. Pretty much the same. I walked into that room and I wanted to go in there for one reason only, and I stood right right there where as a 18 year old knelt one night, and I said to God, Lord, I am making the decision to give you my life now. And I stood there until she got nervous and wondered what I was doing. I explained to her and evidently left. Boy that did a lot for me. I would suggest that you do the same if you can. If you can’t physically go, at least remember those places of spiritual decisions, those people who impacted you spiritually, those decisions that you have made that impacted your life.
Let me suggest one more that 5. you record the moments of spiritual victory.
You remember that time God answered that prayer. More than likely you like me forgot what we prayed for last month and it probably came to past but the particular time when it came to pass it may strike as insignificant or small. Write it down then. Perhaps the time when a loved one came to Jesus Christ that you had been praying for so long, or the time when financial relief came from no where. Those times when God came through in a very visible prominent way. Record them. Remember in the darkness of that valley you were in when God gave you special verses. Have you ever gone back and read those verses again? By nature we remember the valley. We remember the darkness of the night. And because of that the pain, the disappointment, the despair is so fresh, come about them with fresher memories of God’s providence.
I kind of like to imagine that King David had a trophy room. Probably he was a man and man is pretty bad about keeping things like that. Some of you guys have your 20 year old bowling trophies stuck somewhere and you wouldn’t dare throw away. I would imagine that David had a room like that and I would imagine this week what it must had looked like. And I visited it in my memory. I could remember keeping special things for myself. I just bet that David kept some things. Perhaps it is a room of stone walls and a fireplace, and you look at the fireplace and you are struck right away with the fact of lying in front of it is a bear skin rug the one David killed. Maybe mounted on the fireplace is the stuff head of a lion, the one he killed as a boy. I think the gravitating thing of the room had he kept one would had been one particular wall and mounted on it would be this huge display of armor, a Philistine helmet he had recovered when the army fled. A large breastplate of bronze and a huge spear with a bronze head. A long sword. Armor belonging to Goliath.
I imagine one of the most prized possessions would be hanging perhaps on the mantle from a peg. A well-worn fabric cord with a leather pouch sewn in the middle - his old sling.
Maybe tuck away on the shelf somewhere is a piece of cloth, the cloth he cut from Saul’s robe. A tremendous display of God’s grace in his life. Rather than plunging his spear into his body, his enemy, he cut a piece from his robe to let him know he had been there. Maybe he kept that too.
Where do you keep your memories of God’s power? Do you pray them back to God? Do you record them in a journal? Do you type them? Do you sing them? Or do you forget them?
It was so significant to God that they remember this miracle that God said, I want you to take 12 ordinary stones and by the way there is a principle in that. Memorials do not need to be dazzling, they do not need to be sensational to be significant. Just a pile of stones. To the world your prayer answer would probably be simple. The way that God came through in your life, maybe it would not put any sizzle into a public church meeting or wouldn’t really hit the vine. Hey have you heard what God did. Maybe no body else would care but between you and God they are priceless. Do you have somewhere to remembering them? Perhaps it is time to start.
Just as Joshua 4 ends, we would be able to say in the valley, in the time of difficulty, by looking at our trophies, that we may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty. So that we may trust the Lord, our God forever.