Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “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 12 Stones
This is such a symbolically rich passage, and the symbols deserve some unpacking. The 12 stones represent the 12 tribes of Israel, and are to serve as a memorial that God dried up the Jordan River so that Israel could cross over. Btw, “12 Stones” is also the name of a hard rock band whose lead singer is most famous for performing “Bring Me To Life” with Evanescence.
But the 12 stones do not serve to point to this event alone – as is clear at the end of chapter 4, the crossing of the Jordan is linked to the crossing of the Red Sea, and the parallels between those two are obvious and intended. So the crossing of the Jordan is not to be seen in isolation, but is supposed to immediately bring to mind God’s power at the Red Sea.
But adding to the depth of this symbol, the word for “memorial” used here is the same word that is used in Exodus 12 in reference to the Passover, that the Passover “memorializes” the beginning of the Exodus. Although not entirely obvious to us, for the Israelites, the 12 stones were to serve as a memorial not just to God’s faithfulness in a single event, but in a multiplicity of events. It evoked a larger narrative of God’s faithfuless to Israel: through Egypt, through the desert, and into the Promised Land. And through this, the people could be assured that God would be faithful to complete his larger plans and purposes, and through every generation.
We often fixate on single events God accomplishes in our lives: “God, thank you for letting me buy this house”, but forget to see God’s hand in larger movements: “God, thank you giving me this great job, so that I could buy this great house, and invite my friend to my house for dinner, present him the gospel there, and lead him to Christ!” The events of our lives are not separate and unrelated, but reveal God’s faithfulness to a wonderful plan.
1. What larger and longer things is God doing in your life right now?
2. How does the fact that God is using all the events of your life to fulfill a blessed plan change: your conception of his power? Or his faithfulness? How/why you worship him? Your view of the future?