Today’s reading includes Joshua 24:1-33, Luke 21:1-28, Psalm 89:38-52, Proverbs 13:20-23.
We have made it through another book of the Bible. At the beginning of the book of Joshua, we found him gathering stones from the middle of the Jordan River, as he led the people into the Promise land. The purpose of the stones was to be stones of remembrance. At the Lord’s command, Joshua said to the people.
“In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean? Tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’
For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
The Lord wanted them to take the stones from the Jordan because He knew them so well. He knew they were a forgetful people. They were forgetful about who He is, what He can do and what He requires. So for the rest of Joshua’s life, He was called to remember. Joshua gathered the stones from the River Jordan as they entered the Promised Land, and this was just the beginning.
As we continued studying about Joshua, we found that throughout his time of leadership he and/or the people were called to gather stones of remembrance seven different times. Notice that holy number seven! The seventh time that Joshua was called to gather stones of remembrance was just before his death. Here is a list of the seven times of gathering stones of remembrance.
- Joshua 4:20—Stones from the River Jordan
- Joshua 7:26—Large pile of rocks gathered as a memorial of how they weeded out sin and evil from among the people.
- Joshua 8:29—Large pile of rocks gathered as a memorial of victory over their enemies.
- Joshua 8:32—Gathered large stones and copied the commandments as a memorial of renewed decision to follow God.
- Joshua 10:27—A pile of stones gathered to cover their defeated enemies.
- Joshua 22:31—Built an altar of stones as a testimony and reminder that the people and their future generations would stay true to God.
- Joshua 24:26—Gathered all the people together to remember their great journey, and to renew their covenant with God.
We have already studied the first episode when they gathered the stones from the River Jordan. Now, let’s look at the last time Joshua was called to gather stones. This is found in Joshua 23 and 24.
“After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years, summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them: “I am old and well advanced in years. You yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you. Remember…”
And then Joshua began to instruct the people for the last time. This is what he told them: “Be very strong: be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left” (Joshua 23:6). Compare that to what Joshua heard over and over from the Lord himself, when He first became leader:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go”
Joshua 1:7, 9
He passed the wisdom on to the others. And that wisdom had now been tested and proved throughout his lifetime. Then, he goes on to give more instruction:
“But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now. The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the LORD your God…You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”
Joshua 23:8-11, 14
And then he gathered all the people together, and he called them to remember the great journey on which God had led them. Then he challenged them, through remembering, to renew their covenant. He said, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24:15
The people renewed their covenant to their faithful God. And then Joshua called them to action. They were to do two things:
- They were to throw away and rid themselves from all false gods.
- They were to yield their hearts to the Lord.
The people enthusiastically agreed. Joshua drew up a “plan of obedience”…decrees and laws. He took a large stone and he set it up under the oak, as a stone of remembrance of their moment of decision to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.
This proved to be Joshua’s final assignment from God. He died right after setting up this final stone of remembrance. With this seventh Stone, Joshua could rest. Seven being the number of completeness and perfection signified that with this last stone, Joshua had completed his ministry. Sounds much like Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
With these seven different piles of stones of remembrance scattered throughout the land, the land itself shouted the story of God’s faithful promises: the wonderful Promised Land. We can understand with greater clarity the encounter with Jesus found in Luke 19: 37-40:
“When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
‘“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’
‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’”
Joshua learned most of all to remember who God is, what He has and can do. To remember that He is an extraordinary God who loves to work in the lives of ordinary people. Gather your own stones of remembrance, that they, too, can cry out the truth of God and His faithfulness.