You have been waiting a long time for the promises of God to come true in your life. You and your fellow countrymen have been sentenced to a life of wandering in the desert for the last 40 years as punishment for not trusting God. Moses has died and his protégé, Joshua, has been put in charge. God is beginning to move. His hand is becoming apparent. Everyone is filled with hope as Joshua makes preparations for Israel to take possession of the Promised Land. The camp is buzzing with excitement while the tents are broken down, packed away, and the fires from the morning manna roast are quenched.
The multitude of nomads make their way to the Jordan river. The priests carry the Ark of the Covenant several thousand feet ahead. God is moving before his people and will lead them to victory. He is the captain of the army, the fiercest warrior marching first in battle.
As the priests proceed, you look beyond them and in the distance you see it. The great barrier between your people and the Land– The Jordan river– is there, taunting your passage. Your heart drops. You see the promises of God begin to slip away. You wonder, “How are we going to cross that?” You might be tempted to swim across in normal conditions, but there is no way for the women and children to make it, nor the priests carrying that massive ark. But, these are not normal conditions. The river is at flood stage and even the most experienced swimmer, of which there are none in this group of desert nomads, would not dare cross. God has certainly failed. Our enemies will see our quandary and will squash us like locusts.
Okay, neither you nor I are Israelites. And barring that either of us are time travelers or time lords, we are not among the Israelites venturing out to take possession of the Promised Land. No, our inheritance is much greater and worth far more than a tract of land.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you… 1 Peter 1:3-4
Our inheritance is waiting for us in heaven. Such a vague concept; I wonder what it is? Thankfully, Peter does not leave us in the dark but goes on to tell us what our inheritance is: the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9). We are still on our journey to possess it. And with the Israelites, countless obstacles get in our way. We may suffer deep loss, face debilitating circumstances, be ensnared in temptation, or have our faith obliterated by doubt. People, circumstances, and our own choices get in the way.
But God does the amazing. He stops the Jordan river at flood stage and makes the riverbed dry as the priests bearing the ark step into the water (Josh. 3:14-17). The barrier is removed and their faith renewed. To make sure the people never forget this day God commands Joshua and the people construct a memorial.
And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” Joshua 4:5-7
We too have experienced God’s removal of some great obstacle. None of us have erected a stone altar to commemorate that event. Our neighbors would think us all the more crazy. We may have certain places or people that serve as a constant reminder of God’s provision in our lives. But the truth of the matter is that each and every one of us, those of us who have Jesus as our savior, are living memorials. We are living memorials of God’s presence, his power, and majesty. We are constant reminders that God forgives, heals, empowers, and sends. We are constant reminders that Jesus has come, the He died, that He rose from the dead, that He works through his people to restore the world to himself, and that He will return. Consider these verses:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Matt. 5:14
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law… Galatians 5:22-23
Here is where it gets tough: because we are living memorials, we had better actually be living memorials. That means that we follow the Spirit and allow Him to mold us into the image of Christ. That even when we stumble, we demonstrate God’s love, grace, compassion and discipline. That we stop acting, thinking, and breathing like the world. And it means that when we again face some impassible obstacle, we can look back over our own lives and have no doubts that God will get us through our trials because he has proved himself time and again. We are living memorials to the world and to ourselves that God is at work and that Jesus will come again to bring fulfillment to all he has promised.
*All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version