Acts of Remembrance – Joshua 4 – (@vahva)

When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: 2 ‘Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3 and command them, “Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.”’ 4 Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. 5 Joshua said to them, ‘Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?” 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial for ever.’ –  from Joshua chapter 4

When we read the bible, particularly the Old Testament, it becomes clear that people are pretty forgetful. A lot of the focus of the Torah is on remembering – and God gives the Israelites festivals and commandments to help them to do this.

So in this account of the Israelites crossing the Jordan into the promised land a man from each tribe is asked to collect at stone from the riverbed. Last week, I was at Lindisfarne (or Holy Island) in the North East, with fellow friends from theological college. We were encouraged to find a pebble from the beach and take it back to Durham where it was then used in a service for those of us who were leaving this year. I found this pebble and what I particularly liked about it is that it has a smiley face hidden in one of the fossils!

Pebble - taken by Bryony Taylor


Now a pebble is easy to collect and carry. What is mentioned in Joshua 4, however, is that the men carried the stones they found on their shoulders – these weren’t little pebbles!

If these Jordan river stones were heavy enough to carry on the shoulders, imagine the thunk as they ‘laid them down’ on the ground (Joshua 4:8). Imagine stubbing your toe on one of these big stones! God wants the Israelites to remember Him and his mighty acts. A pebble wasn’t going to cut it – it had to be a big stone, one large enough to stumble over (which makes me think of another bible verse).

We need to remember the things God has done in our lives. Remembering what He has done helps us to face the future, it puts our current problems into perspective. Yet it is so easy to forget. The Jordan river went back to flowing as it always had done. Even with the evidence of the big stones from the riverbed it was probably still difficult for the Israelites to remember 20, 30, 40 years on that they had walked across the river on dry ground.

What can we do to make sure we remember things so that we stumble over memories of God’s goodness to us? Here are some ideas:

Do you have any more suggestions?


About Bryony Taylor

Enthusiast for learning, technology, Christian faith and life! Ordinand in the Church of England - training at Cranmer Hall, Durham.