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Twelve Stones

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God. The title for the lesson is, “Twelve Stones” and our text is taken from the Old Testament, the book of Joshua chapter four and the first seven verses.

Listen to the Word of God.

     The whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan. The Lord said to Joshua: Choose 12 men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where ye stay tonight.

     So Joshua called together the 12 men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them: Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future when your children ask you: What do these stones mean? Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

In Washington, DC there is a memorial called the black stone. Perhaps you have heard of it.  Well, who or what does the black stone memorialize? The black stone is a memorial to our military personnel who died during the Vietnam War. The black stone is officially referred to or called the Vietnam Veteran’s memorial. It was dedicated on November 13th in the year of our Lord 1982. This memorial is V shaped, made of black granite. It is a wall in which is inscribed the names of more than 58,000 Americans who lost their lives or remain missing, MIAs, missing in action, during the Vietnam War. This war, the Vietnam War, it is estimated had more than nine million military personnel on active duty during the official time of August fifth 1964 though to May seventh, 1975, thereby being one of the longest wars that our nation has been involved in. Two hundred and forty men were awarded the medal of honor during the Vietnam War, but also 58,148 were killed in action, 23,214 became 100 percent disabled, 5,283 lost limbs. Sixty one percent of those killed were under the age of 21 and about 30 percent of those killed were married. And so these are not just statistics, but the numbers that represent real people and real families and a lot of tragedy.

So the black stone is today open to the public to remember the human cost of the Vietnam War. This stone is a memorial to the people of America forever. Stones and memorials are not new. In our text in Joshua chapter four and the first seven verses we find much of the same type remembrance. Before the ancient Israelites could begin their war against the Canaanites to repossess their Promised Land from the Lord, they had to cross the Jordan River which at that time was at flood stage and they had to cross without a bridge.

In Joshua chapter four in verse one it tells us that the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan. It is estimated that as many as possibly two million men, women and children, successfully crossed the Jordan River bed on dry land, obviously miraculously by the power of God, being that the river had been at flood stage.
In verse two it says that the Lord instructed Joshua to choose 12 men, one from each tribe. These men would have been strong men. They were not going to pick up and carry at a distance 12 pebbles, but 12 large stones.
In verse three it says in part to take up the 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood. Well, how did these men do this? Wasn’t the riverbed flooded again? Well, the answer is in Joshua chapter four and verse 10. Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded—commanded to Joshua—was done by the people.

In Joshua chapter four and verse three it adds: To carry them over with you and put them down—that is the stones—to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight. Well, where was that? Well, the answer is in Joshua chapter four and verse 19 that tells us, in part: The people went up from the Jordan river and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. Well, according to scholars the distance from the middle of the Jordan river bed to Gilgal is about eight miles.  Have you ever carried something really heavy like a large stone for even just a hundred yards which would be the distance of a football field lengthwise? Imagine carrying a really heavy stone, a big stone eight miles.  These were not weaklings. These men were probably supernaturally aided by God to carry these large stones eight miles. And if God can hold back river waters, he can also certainly strengthen men to be almost like 12 Samsons.

 

We have a powerful God and our God is just as powerful today as he was in Joshua’s day. And our God can also give us the strength that we need to carry the burdens that we have today. But we need to ask and obey and seek his will. And this also illustrates in this passage of Scripture the importance of careful study of the details in Scripture. And usually Scripture itself gives us satisfactory answers to our questions.

In Joshua chapter four and verse five it says, in part: Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder. And therefore, from this description, from this descriptive detail, obviously these were large stones to be packed on shoulders. These 12 large stones were to be used to erect a memorial monument of lasting remembrance made out of solid stone. But why? In Joshua chapter four and verse six it tells us. To serve as a sign among you. In the future when your children ask you: What do these stones mean? And so as a sign, as a monument of stone, for not only that present generation, but for the generations to come. And the piling up of the 12 stones would serve as a sign to prompt their children to ask: What do these stones mean?  Since the future children of Israel did not witness by sight what happened at the Jordan River that day, miraculously by the power of God to hold back the river while perhaps two million men, women and children walked across the dry riverbed of the Jordan.

Well, by application today in the church age do we have signs? Do we have physical, tangible items that could prompt our children to ask: Well, what does this mean? Do, for example, children ask today: What does the bread and the grape juice mean? These are signs. These are symbols, tokens to help us to remember and to teach the next generation, to tell our children, our grandchildren. Is not the Lord’s supper, the communion service our memorial, our memorial to the death and burial of Jesus Christ our Lord as he gave up his body and blood for the sin of the world? And do not children even ask today: Well, what does the cross mean? Does it help us to remember? Is it not also a memorial sign as our Lord hung on the tree, on the cross for the sin of the world?
In Joshua chapter four and verse seven it says: Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

And so the 12 stones at Gilgal were as a memorial remembrance of God’s faithfulness and of God’s power toward his people Israel, a memorial for the generations to come.

Consider, for example, from the gospel of John in the New Testament, of course, the gospel of John chapter 20 and verse 27 where we find these words speaking of Jesus: Then he said to Thomas: Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.

Well, was not Jesus Christ already in his glorified, post resurrected body? Well, yes. He was in his glorified body. And yet he told Thomas to put his hand in his side and put his finger in his hands. And so what does this suggest to us? What is the only man made thing in heaven? The answer: the crucifixion scars, even on the glorified, resurrected body of Jesus Christ.

So what is the point for us even yet future? Evidently the Lord’s scars from men, evil men that nailed him to a cross for our sin will serve as a sign and a remembrance of his faithfulness and love toward all of his people, including us, forever.  The believers can look and see, perhaps even touch the scars as a remembrance, as a memorial of what Jesus did on the cross for you and me.

Today in the modern nation of Israel at the Golan Heights which were captured from Syria there is a striking memorial erected to the honor of the bravery of Israel’s fallen soldiers on those heights in battle. And yet the spiritual battle for the hearts and minds and souls of most modern Israelis today still rages, because the majority of modern Israelis today have not believed, have not received as their Messiah and King and Lord as the Son of God Jesus of Nazareth who is the precious cornerstone.

We find these words by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah in Isaiah chapter 28 and verse 16, which reveals in part: The sovereign Lord says: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation. The one who trusts will never be dismayed, end of quote. And so whether Gentile or Jew, male or female, young or old, all accountable human beings need today in the church age to trust Jesus Christ to receive personally and individually Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord.  And since he is Lord it involves obedience. Obedience points back to our saving faith. He, Jesus is our sure foundation forever. He is the cornerstone of our faith. Jesus Christ is the greatest revelation of God that we have. Jesus Christ is deity in bodily form. And we need to share this with our children and with our grandchildren and for each and everyone that we meet that needs to acknowledge and receive the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord. Even yet future as many as one third of the nation of Israel, according to Scripture in Zechariah, after Jacob’s trouble which is the great tribulation, especially the last three and a half years, which is especially for the purpose of Israel, to repent as a nation and turn to Yeshua, to Jesus as their Savior, as their Messiah, as their Lord. But on that day the nation will not be crossing a river, but a remnant, a righteous remnant of the nation will be crossing over to eternal life, because God, again, will supernaturally act, yet future, to intervene and to save Israel, not only from here enemies, but this time as they recognize and remember the one they have pierced.

Zechariah chapter 12 and verse 10 says: And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a first born son. Look unto me when one third of the righteous remnant of Israel will receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. And Jesus is the sure foundation of our faith forever, whether Jew or Gentile. Have you made that decision? You must before it is everlastingly too late.

 

David Johnson is minister of Sellersburg Church of Christ in Sellersburg, IN.




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33