Terry R. Baughman
“And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; 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, 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” (Joshua 4:20–24).
While memorials serve as a monument for remembrance they also afford opportunities to teach. When we teach there is also the potential for others to learn. Until the lesson is learned we have not adequately taught. Repetition is the key to learning. When we hear a lesson repeatedly there is greater retention and more assurance that the lesson will be learned.
Twice Joshua mentions the children in the future asking, “What are these stones?” He mentions it once in verse 6 and here again in verse 21. The double mention lends weight to the importance of the lesson. It was like he was saying, If you didn’t get it the first time let me tell you again!
We can learn from the experience of others, both from their mistakes and also from their accomplishments. When others fail in their pursuits and suffer the consequences of their failure a lesson is taught. More than a lesson taught, this is to be a lesson learned. If we learn from their mistakes we can avoid repeating the same errors in our own lives.
On the other hand, lessons of faith and victories are memorials from which we can learn valuable lessons. Stories of those who faced difficulties and prevailed serve to build our faith and strengthen our convictions.
Joshua summed up the reason for the lesson in the statement, “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” (Joshua 4:24). Not only can our lives be enhanced by learning lessons of faith from the victories of the past, there is a lesson to be learned by all who hear the story of God’s faithfulness and power. These are lessons that will be extended to “all the peoples the earth.” The learning outcome will be a knowledge of the Lord, an understanding of His might, and a respect for His greatness.
Memorial serve as an opportunity to spread the fame of our God. The prophet Isaiah declared the word of the Lord, “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations …, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations” (Isaiah 66:19). One of the greatest reasons for establishing a memorial of the acts of God is to be a witness to the world and spread abroad His glorious fame.
“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have” (2 Peter 1:12 NIV).