Terry R. Baughman
“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” (Joshua 4:6–7).
Instructive moments are not always planned. Children often ask questions, sometimes a lot of questions, in the daily course of life. They may ask, “Why does the moon look like a fingernail?” or “How do cows make milk?” or “Where does electricity come from?” In those moments we are sometimes challenged to give intelligent responses or “google” to find the answers. Science museums or educational displays are often created to pique curiosity and encourage teachable moments.
The memorial stones that were taken from the Jordan River were intentionally arranged to serve as a visual reminder of a past event. Not only did it serve as a historical marker of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan by the people of Israel, but they also served as a memorial to be shared with the next generation, the children who were born in the land of Canaan in the years to come. It would be a structure to cause children to question their meaning and why they were arranged as an altar. The stones were a memorial of God’s great power and His divine purpose in the people of Israel.
We might think about these stones of memorial in much the same way as those who stand at Stonehenge and wonder what took place and why were the standing stones so arranged? For centuries questions have been asked about their history and archeology, but no one from antiquity survived to transmit the story of their design. It is important to leave a memorial, but more vital that the reason and the events that inspired its construction be left behind for the generations to come.
The purpose for memorials are twofold: to remember and to teach. In the activity of life it is easy to forget things that should be remembered. Memorials, special days, traditions, and occasions to observe have a way of bringing events back to mind and causing us to remember. In the process of our observance and family traditions we are also teaching our children and grandchildren the reasons for our faith, the value of our heritage, and the celebration of our nation’s history. We sing songs that celebrate spiritual experience and reinforce our faith. Other songs relate events of our cultural history and inspire national patriotism.
Whether it is in songs, in pictures, icons of faith, or literature there should be many symbols to serve as memorials and teachable opportunities. Let us always encourage questions and take time to answer to the best of our ability so that there will always be a witness to our faith, an understanding of our spiritual heritage and a lasting legacy of truth in the next generation!
“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).