Sun, Dec 30, 2018

Joshua 4:10-24 Memorial Stones!

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JOSHUA 4:10-24

MEMORIAL STONES!

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Joshua chapter 4 as we continue our study through this book that deals with victorious Christian living!

            As we have seen in our studies, the children of Israel are entering the Promise Land. They are crossing over the Jordan River on dry ground. Remember, as the priests, carrying the Ark of the Covenant or the Ark of Testimony stepped into the Jordan River, the waters were stopped!

            And one of the things that the children of Israel were to do after they crossed over was they were to set up memorial stones. First, twelve stones in the center of the Jordan River were placed before the waters returned. Then twelve stones on the west side of the Jordan River, in the Promise Land.

            These stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel. And these first set of twelve stones were a picture of the old life, and as the waters of the Jordan River came crashing back down upon them, it was a picture of how we are to die to the old life.

            Then what?

            Then we see the twelve stones in the land of Canaan, the Promise Land, which is a picture of the new life in Christ, it is a picture of resurrection life or that Spirit-filled life!

            Remember what Paul said in Romans 6:4, Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

            Do you see that? Buried with Him as the water in baptism cover us, and we were baptized into death. But we don’t stay there. We are raised up out of those waters into the new life we have in Christ and thus, . . . we also should walk in newness of life. In other words, walk in that Spirit-filled life, be directed by the Holy Spirit and not the flesh, that old nature!

            We also see this spoken of in Colossians 2:12, where Paul tells us that we were, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

            And thus, we are a new creation in Christ. That is exactly what Paul tells us as he wrote in II Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

            What is the point that I am making? And I have spoken of this already in our last study, but we truly need to understand this, it is important if we want to live that victorious Christian life!

            The twelve stones that were placed in the midst of the river represented the old life and in the death of that old life, as I have said, and the twelve stones placed in the Promise Land spoke of the new life – RESURRECTION LIFE!

            In other words, is speaks of the Spirit-filled life!

            Paul put it like this in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

            Crucified to what? To that old life, to that carnal life. That has been put to death and now I live in the new life that Christ has given me! It is a life of faith, trusting in the promises of God given to us in the Word of God to live out that new life that was given to us.

            But we must walk by faith. What happens many times is what was started out in faith ends up a walk of sight and we end up going back to the wilderness and walking in the life of defeat.

            The old life was put to death, don’t go back to it, it stinks!

            This morning we are still going to be talking about twelve stones but specifically, the twelve stones that were placed in the Promise Land, the land of Canaan.

            I have called this study, “Memorial Stones!” The reason being is that these stones were placed in Canaan as a memorial or to remember what God has done in bringing them into the Promise Land.

            You see, it is easy to forget things, isn’t it? Of course it is! Think about this for a minute. When God brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, they plundered the Egyptians, not by force, the Egyptians willingly gave them food and stuff. God said that is what they would do and it is exactly what they did, they plundered the Egyptians!

            As they travel towards the Promise Land, trouble comes. The Egyptians are coming after them as they probably were thinking that their slaves are going away, and they wanted them back. And now the children of Israel are trapped. The Red Sea is in front of them. There were mountains on either side of them. And the Egyptians were coming from behind them! No place to run to, no way of escape! From a human perspective that is.

            And what happened? They started to complain to Moses. They said that he brought them out there to die. It would have been better for them to remain in Egypt.

            Why did they feel this way? Because, from a purely human perspective, it was true. They had no way to cross the Red Sea and there was nowhere else for them to go. They were dead in the water you might say.

            But, from a spiritual perspective, a heavenly perspective, they were right where God wanted them and instead of fear, they needed faith!

             But how in the world do you have faith when you are faced with a situation like this?

            That is a great question. The answer is simple. You remember what God has done in the past, the memorial stones, to give you strength for the present situation you are in!

            But what memorial stones could they look at? There were a few but the most significant one is what happened when the angel of death passed over the homes that had the blood on the door and for those that didn’t, their firstborn died.

            Listen to what we are told in Exodus 12, ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. . . . It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” that you shall say, “It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.”’ So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. Exodus 12:12-14, 25-28.

            My point is this. The Passover was a memorial stone, you might say, for the children of Israel. It showed the power of God to spare a life and to take a life. And this same God that delivered them that night would deliver them by the waters of the Red Sea.

            Do you see how important that is to remember what God has done in the past to help us in the present situation we are in!

            But again, we tend to be forgetful. We tend to not remember what God has done and we lose hope. Let me explain how easy it is to be forgetful. We are told,

            Maybe you heard about a guy named John who had a really horrible memory. One day John ran into a friend whom he had not seen in a long time. He greeted him and said, “Bill, do you remember what a bad memory I had?” Bill answered, “Yes, I certainly do.” “Well, it’s not bad any more. I went to a seminar that taught us how to remember things. It was a great seminar, and now I have a wonderful memory.”

            Bill answered, “That’s great! What was the name of the seminar?” “Well,” John said, “wait a minute, my wife went with me. I’ll ask her.” He turned and saw his wife nearby. Then he turned back to Bill and said, “What’s the name of that flower with a long stem and thorns and a red bloom?” “Do you mean a rose?” Bill answered, “Yeah, thanks,” John said, “Hey, Rose, what’s the name of that seminar we attended?”

- Source Unknown

 

            How easy it is to forget!

            In our study this morning we are going to focus on three issues dealing with remembering plus the introduction. We will be looking at:

            THE INTRODUCTION – JOSHUA 4:10-18

            A WITNESS TO THEMSELVES – JOSHUA 4:19-20

            A WITNESS TO THEIR CHILDREN – JOSHUA 4:21-23

            A WITNESS TO THE WORLD – JOSHUA 4:24

            So with that said, let’s begin reading in Joshua chapter 4, beginning in verse 10 and let’s see what the Lord has for us this morning as we look at the topic of – MEMORIAL STONES!

 

JOSHUA 4

VERSES 10-18

            So the priests, carrying the Ark of the Covenant, stood in the midst of the Jordan River until all the children of Israel had crossed over.

            When they finished crossing, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant also stepped out of the Jordan River and the waters came crashing back down.

            We see that in Joshua 4:18, And it came to pass, when the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet touched the dry land, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks as before.

            This was not some natural event, but it was supernatural. God held back the waters of the Jordan, and then, after they had crossed over, the waters came crashing back down!

            Now, in verses 12-13 we see Ruben, Gad, and the ½ tribe of Manasseh send their representative armies. Remember that these 2½ tribes wanted to remain outside the Promise Land, on the east side of the Jordan River. But they promised Moses that they would help their brethren in the battles in the Promise Land and then return to their homes on the east side of the Jordan River.

            The rest of the people from these tribes remained on the east side of the Jordan River to protect their families.

            The population of males in those tribes 20 years old and up totaled some 110,550 since we can’t take all the tribe of Manasseh, for only half remained on the east side of the Jordan River, (Numbers 26:7, 18, 34).

            So the 40,000 soldiers that came to fight represented about 36% of the adult population.

            It would make sense that they needed to keep some of the fighting men back to help protect their families while they were fighting in the Promise Land with their brethren, but that would not be a problem if they would have entered into the Promise Land!

            Again, they were being faithful to what they had promised to Moses, that they would fight with their brothers, to defeat their enemies, and then they would return to their homes on the east side of the Jordan River, opposite the land of promise.

            I don’t know if you thought about this, but can you imagine the sound that was made as these waters of the Jordan that were held back, and then, all of a sudden began to flow again? It must have been like a roaring thunder.

            And, what a sight for the children of Israel and I wonder what the people of Jericho were thinking when that heard that thunderous noise!

            And I wonder if they could see the heap of waters piled up as the children of Israel were crossing over!

            Also notice what we are told in Joshua 4:14, On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they had feared Moses, all the days of his life.

            As the children of Israel saw how God used Joshua, just as He had used Moses, they respected the position that Joshua now had. He was their leader because Joshua was following the Lord, and thus, they would follow him!

            Now, the big question, and the focus of our study, is given to us in Joshua 4:21, where we are told, What are these stones? A great question and that is what we will be looking at next.

            And the first point is this, they are A WITNESS TO THEMSELVES or to the individual people. Let’s read on and we will see that point and expound on it.

 

VERSES 19-20

            As I have said, these stones were a witness to them to remind them of the faithfulness of God in keeping His Word. How were these stones a witness to them?

            Very simply, God had brought them into the land that He had promised to them and thus, as they looked at these stones it was a reminder to them of the faithfulness of God!

            Why did they need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness?

            Remember what they were facing in the land of Canaan. This was not a time for them to relax and do nothing. They were going to face many enemies, many battles, this is where the real work would begin!

            And as they saw these intense battles, as they saw what was in store for them, they looked back at these stones and they remembered the faithfulness of God and it gave them encouragement, it strengthened their faith in the present situation!

            And when things get tough, when the battle is intense, it is easy to grow tired, to be discouraged, to just give up.

            But, for the children of Israel, this memorial was there to encourage them to forge ahead. Gilgal was their base of operations and every time they returned to camp, returned to Gilgal, they would see these stones and it would encourage them! They were reminded of the faithfulness of God and it spurred them on! I know, I have said that a lot, but if you are anything like me, we all need to be reminded that what God has done in the past, He is more than able to do now!

            God had given them the victory and God will give them the victory!

            I can’t tell you how important it is to be reminded of what God has done in the past to spur us on in the present. To encourage us not to give up but to continue that walk of faith.

            I don’t know where you are at this morning. Maybe some of you are discouraged. Maybe some of you are weary. Maybe you are thinking about just giving up! DON’T!

            Remember what God has done in your life and use that to encourage you to keep going in the present situation you are facing!

            Let me show you how we can be discouraged, lose hope and what can rectify that problem. We are told,

            An elderly Christian was in much distress as he lay dying. “Oh, Pastor.” He said. “for years I have relied upon the promises of God, but now in the hour of death I can’t remember a single one to comfort me.”

            Knowing that Satan was disturbing him, the preacher said, “My brother, do you think that GOD will forget any of His promises?”

            A smile came over the face of the dying believer as he exclaimed joyfully. “No, no! He won’t! Praise the Lord, now I can fall asleep in Jesus and trust Him to remember them all and bring me safely to Heaven.”

            Peace flooded his soul, and a short time later he was ushered by the angels into the light of God’s eternal day.

- Our Daily Bread

 

            You see, perspective is everything and if we can trust in the promises of God, if we can remember what God has done in the past, it will help us in the present situation we are facing!

            That truly is the key and there are many Bible verses that deal with this subject of remembering what God has done. I want to share a few of them with you.

            In Psalm 143:3-6 we are told, For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land.

            Look at what David was going through. He was persecuted by his enemies. He felt like his life was being crushed by his enemies. He felt like he was walking in darkness because of what they have done to his life.

            In fact, he feels like the walking dead! And he is just overwhelmed, he is distressed.

            Have you ever felt that way? I am sure you have, we all have at one time or another and maybe some of you are feeling that way right now. What can we do about it?

            He is remembering the past and how God has delivered him to give him strength in this present situation that he was facing. He remembered how God delivered him before and he believed by faith that God could do the same in his present situation. Something that we should do!

            For David and the lesson for us, I remember the days of old. May we not forget what God has done in our lives!

            Also, in Lamentations 3:21-24 Jeremiah tells us, This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’

            As I have said so many times before, perspective is everything. Now you may not believe that but let me show you what I mean. Imagine it is January, in the heart of winter and the temperature is 40 degrees above zero! We would think that is great, some may even wear a lighter jacket with those temperatures. David would be wearing shorts!

            But now it is July and the temperature is 40 degrees above zero! Guess what? We would be complaining how cold it is; we would probably put on winter jackets. Hey, I remember one Fourth of July fireworks show down by the lake where we had on winter jackets in July!

            How can that be when it is the same temperature? It is all about perspective. You see, in January that is a great temperature but not in July.

            The same is true in our spiritual lives. As we look at the world it is cold, heartless, it is bad, and we complain about it. But all of a sudden, your perspective changes as now you are placing the Lord right in the middle of all that, you are looking to Him. Now there is peace, there is joy, there is hope and-so-on.

            Why the difference? It is not because the situation changed but your perspective of the situation changed, now you are looking to the Lord. Same circumstances or same temperature you might say but now you are resting in the Lord and that does change everything.

            Notice again what Jeremiah says in verse 21, This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. What did he recall to his mind? The truths of God found in the Word of God! You see, God’s Word is unchanging and what He has promised will come to pass. On the other hand, everything else is changing, all the various circumstances of life!

            Not only that, but I think Jeremiah is recalling to his mind what God has done in the past to encourage him in the present situation that he was in.

            Also, in Psalm 77:10-15 we are told, And I said, ‘This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph.

            Here we see the Psalmist being in anguish, overwhelmed at what he is seeing but then he speaks of taking his eyes off the situation and placing them upon God, meditating, remembering the faithfulness of God. That is so important for us to do!

            And as you read this Psalm you will see that the Psalmist goes back and remembers God’s awesome deliverance of His people from Egypt.

            Remember the story, as they left Egypt God lead them to a place where they seemed to be trapped. On one side there was a mountain range. On the other side there was a mountain range. And there was no way you were going to get 2 to 3 million people through those mountain ranges. In front of them was the Red Sea and from a human standpoint, you were not going to be able to cross the Red Sea and get to the other side. And then, coming up behind them was Pharaoh with his men to capture them.

            And as you read this story in Exodus you may wonder why did God do this? Why would God lead them into this trap? There truly was no place for them to run to. There was no place for them to scatter. And as you look at this you can clearly see that their backs were up against the wall. There was no way out!

            And when it seemed hopeless God showed them where to walk, as He parted the Red Sea.

            If God did that back then, surely He could deliver me from my problems today, even though I might not see His hand working at this time.

            And when I look back I can see His footsteps that were guiding me all the way! God is able to deliver His people today just as He did back then, do not forget that!

            What a great, loving Shepherd He is!

            There is one more I want to look at and that is one that the Lord has set up for us. Remember on the night of the Last Supper, as Jesus instituted communion, do you remember what He said?

            He said, . . . do this in remembrance of Me. Luke 22:19.

            In other words, when you are overwhelmed, when you feel nobody loves you, nobody cares for you, when you feel all alone, never forget Jesus loves you and when you share in communion it is a time to remember the work that He has done for you, for me! And that should encourage us, spur us on because if God is for us, who can be against us! And just in case you don’t know the answer to that one, NO ONE CAN BE VICTORIOUS AGAINST US BECAUSE GOD IS FOR US! It is good to remember that fact!

            The memorial stones were A WITNESS TO THEMSELVES!

           

VERSES 21-23

            Here we see that these memorial stones were to be A WITNESS TO THEIR CHILDREN!

            As parents, as we live out our faith, what are our children seeing? That is so important. There are so many teachable moments that we encounter every day and those lessons can be given to our children.

            Let me share this with you and I want you to see how lessons are there if we are willing to share them. Then we will look at a few verses showing us that we are to teach our children the things of God, use those stones that are in our life to point them, to teach them about the Lord.

            Many years ago we were on vacation at Glacier National Park up in Canada, Banff to be precise. And we rented a cabin which was our base camp. From there we traveled all over the place putting a couple thousand miles on our rental car. But it was truly a beautiful trip.

            When you have two boys and two adults you do go through clothes quickly and thus, my wife went to do the laundry. As she got back I helped her get the clothes out of the car and we settled in for the night because that morning we were going on another adventure.

            That next morning, I went looking for the keys, you see, Julie used them the night before to drive to the laundromat! But they were nowhere to be found. I checked her purse; her clothes and I came to the conclusion that she must have locked them in the car.

            So I went looking to see if I could find them. I couldn’t, they were nowhere to be found and it was possible that as she was helping me get the clothes out of the car that they fell into the trunk!

            Now the rental company only gave us one set of keys and now they are nowhere to be found.

            Back then fanny packs were popular, and Julie had one. Now, just to be clear, I did not have a fanny pack, never did! Just to be clear.

            So I checked that fanny pack several times as well as my wife and even my children checked it, and it was not there. Granted it was not that big of a fanny pack, so it was easy to go through it and it would have been easy to find the key to the car if it was in there. It was not.

            The only thing we could do is call a lock smith and have him come out and open the door and see if we could find the key and if not, he would have to make us a new one.

            Keep in mind that we are in the middle of nowhere, in a cabin, and it took hours for him to get there! He again explained the options and it was a lot cheaper just to break into the car to see if he could find the key compared to making a new one.

            I am not sure why we even lock our car doors, he was in that car in a few seconds! But once inside we did not find the key, it was not even in the trunk of the car, it was nowhere to be found. So he made us a new key.

            It cost us over $100 to have that new key made but we had no other choice.

            So my wife, carrying her fanny pack, opened it up to get the money out and there, sitting right on top of all the stuff that was in her fanny pack was the key to the car!

            The locksmith looked at us and said, “Didn’t you look in the fanny pack before you called me?”

            And, of course we did.

            We paid him, and we were shortly on our way to a waterfall that was even more in the wilderness!

            On our drive to the waterfall our children were asking us why God allowed that to happen. We were not sure, and we said that it was possible that God was preventing us from getting in an accident, but we don’t know, and we may never know, we just have to trust God!

            Little did I know that there was going to be a big, teachable lesson coming!

            As we pulled into this waterfall we were the only people there. And I have a camera that has two lenses, one regular lens and the other a telephoto.

            So as my family got out of the car I started to change my lens on my camera. I no longer needed the telephoto lens and I changed to the regular lens. And then I joined them. The waterfall was beautiful.

            After some time, we went back into the car, and I reached into my pocket to pull out the key to the car and it was not there. I never do this but when I was changing lenses on my camera I put the keys on the seat and then I forgot about it when I left the car. I had locked the keys in the car!

            My wife looked at me and smiled as she reached into her fanny pack to pull out the other key!

            We know why God did all that, because I was going to lock my keys in the car and we needed another set to get into the car!

            The hand of God! And what a lesson, not only for me and my wife, but for our children. They saw that God had worked it out and they understood why we didn’t see that key in the fanny pack!

            The Lord wants to create curiosity and questions in the hearts of our children about Him which we can then use as teachable moments. May we share them with our children and grandchildren!

            Look at Psalm 78:4-8, where we are told, We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

            That’s what a memorial is supposed to do, remind the adults of some important event that they should not forget; and to provoke curiosity in the minds of the children so that they would ask questions and could then be taught the lessons that these special monuments or days memorialized.

            Think about the secular holidays that we have in this country that are memorials, like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and-so-on!

            We are to use these days to tell our children what others have done to help us have the freedoms we have today. We don’t want to forget these memorial stones you might say.

            And yet, when you look at some of these memorials, what are we doing with them? We are tearing them down so that future generations don’t know what our history is about, and it will not encourage them in the present.

            We are doing that in the church as well by not teaching our children. By not believing in the promises of God found in the Word of God. By not sharing with our children what God has done and is doing in our lives!

            And if you don’t think this is a big deal, look at what we are told in the book of Judges. The result of not teaching them the things of God.

            In Judges 2:6-13 we are told, And when Joshua had dismissed the people, the children of Israel went each to his own inheritance to possess the land. So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel. Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.

            They did not know the Lord, the children; because their parents never instructed them of the Lord, His words were not passed on to them. It was something that the Lord commanded the children of Israel to do - teach their children the ways of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

            You see, the Lord was to be the focus of their life, and they were to not only instruct their children of the Lord, but their life should reflect that relationship. They were to show their children the power and faithfulness of God.

            Here is the bottom line. Christianity is not transmitted through our genes. It is not transmitted biologically. It is caught by the next generation because they have their own personal relationship with Jesus as they see the works of God working in people’s lives. May we let them see that our God is real; our faith is strong, not perfect because none of us are, and that we believe God at His Word because compromise is a dangerous road to travel on!

            Think about this for a minute. As with other memorials in the Old Testament, the intention of the memorial was to provoke questioning especially from future generations.

            Christianity is never more than one generation away from extinction. If we are not careful America could well be the exhibit “A” for this truth.

            Just think for a moment how far our country has drifted away from its foundation in just one generation. 1962 - Prayer in schools is declared illegal. 1963 - Bible reading in Schools not allowed. 1980 – declared illegal to post the Ten Commandments in the schools and now they’re working on “One nation under God” out of our pledge of allegiance. God’s warning to Israel was not to let the environment of the secular society that surrounded them dictate their values.

            In Deuteronomy 4:9-10 we are told, Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.

            May we do that, may we teach the things of God, the lessons that God is showing us, to our children and grandchildren, it is very important!

            The memorial stones were A WITNESS TO THEIR CHILDREN!

 

HVERSE 24

            Here we see that these memorial stones were to be A WITNESS TO THE WORLD!

            Now this is interesting to me because we don’t go and set up a pile of stones in our neighborhoods to witness of God. That would not be a good witness!

            Then what do we do?

            I love this because the Bible tells us that we are living stones, we are the memorial stones that will be a witness to a lost and dying world! And the Church is the Temple of the living God!

            Let me first deal with this idea of the Church being the Temple of the living God. In Ephesians 2:19-22 Paul tells us, Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you are also being built together for a habitation of God in the spirit.

            You see, we are being built into a house of God, stone by stone. That is the Church, the body of Christ. 

            And this spiritual building has as its chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ. The cornerstone is the visible support on which the rest of the building relies on for strength and stability.

            If the Church has anything else but Christ for its cornerstone, it will be weak and unstable.

            And we see that today where Jesus is not the focus, at least the Jesus of the Bible and in those Churches, the witness of Jesus is not there because Jesus is not there!

            Not only that, but like I have said, the Bible says that we are living stones. Let me show you what I mean. In I Peter chapter 2 we are told, Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . .But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. I Peter 2:4-5, 9-10.

            Peter is speaking of Christ as the living stone. That He was rejected by men, beaten and crucified. But was precious in the sight of God. 

            And then Peter says, you also, as living stones . . . Peter is saying that we are living stones, memorial stones for people to see!

            And as Christ was rejected by men, we too will face that kind of opposition. But don’t hide your life in Christ, don’t hide your faith, let it shine.

            You see, as living stones, we are to be a sacrifice unto God. Paul picks up on this in Romans 12:1 when he says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

            The dictionary says that the word sacrifice means “The forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of someone or something considered to have a greater value or claim.” Our lives are to be given over to God, for His use, for His glory!

            As Peter goes on in I Peter 2:9 he says that we, as living stones, are a chosen generation. In other words, chosen by God. 

            As Jesus said in John 15:16, You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

            We are also a royal priesthood. The priest was a “bridge-builder” in that he showed others how to come to God. He showed them the way. 

            We are all priests, God is saying. For our lives should help bridge the gap for people to come to Christ. To show them the truths of God. And the way to God is through Jesus Christ, no one else!

            We also are a holy nation. In other words, we are set apart for God. Our lives should reflect that. 

            Peter goes on to say in verse 11, Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. I Peter 2:11-12.

             H. A. Ironside put it this way. “We do not become holy by looking into our own hearts.  There we find only corruption. But as we look away from self altogether, ‘Looking unto Jesus,’ as He is the object in which we delight, as we contemplate His holiness, purity, love, and

compassion, His devotion to the Father’s will, we shall be transformed, imperceptibly to ourselves, perhaps, but none the less surely, into His blessed image.”

            We are a special people that are ambassadors for Christ, II Corinthians 5:20. 

            We are the official representative for God and thus we must be imitators of God, Ephesians 5:1.

            He must flow through our lives and if we allow that to happen, then the fragrance of Jesus should flow from or lives and touch the lives of others, II Corinthians 2:15. For the fragrance of the spice to be released, it must be crushed, and as we have persecution, as tribulation comes upon our lives, it is then that the fragrance of Jesus will flow from our lives and touch others. As our faith grows in Him, His fragrance will flow from us.

            Now some of you may be thinking that these living stones that form a spiritual house are a nice illustration, but that is all it is. That is not entirely right. 

            Let me illustrate this for you by this story from Sparta. There was this Spartan King who was boasting proudly to a visiting monarch about the magnificent walls of Sparta. As this visiting monarch looked around, he could find no walls that were standing. So he said to this Spartan King, “Where are these walls about which you boast so much?” 

            The King then pointed to his bodyguard of magnificent troops, “These,” he said, are the walls of Sparta, every man a brick!

            The point of this story is this. If the bricks were by themselves, they were useless. But when these same bricks were incorporated into a wall, a building, it was then that we see its strength. 

            The same is true with the individual Christian, he should not remain alone, a brick by himself. He must be built into the fabric of the Church on the local level and in the body of Christ!

            And think of our lives before we were saved and where they are at today. There should be a vast difference and something that our family, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors and-so-on, can see. Our lives should be a testimony of what God has done and is doing!

            A changed life is a powerful testimony to the world of God’s existence and power.

            But here is the problem. Yes, here in Gilgal we see this memorial of stones set-up. But, sadly, over time the meaning of these stones began to fade away. And instead of being a memorial of the living God, it became a shrine where the Jews sinned against God by worshiping there.

            You see, the people of God were worshiping there at Gilgal instead of at the Temple in Jerusalem and the Prophet Hosea condemned them for their actions!

            In Hosea 4:15 we are told, Though you, Israel, play the harlot, Let not Judah offend. Do not come up to Gilgal, Nor go up to Beth Aven, Nor swear an oath, saying, ‘As the Lord lives’ (See also Hosea 9:15, 12:11)

            We also see this played out in Amos, he is echoing the same warnings. In Amos 4:4 we are told, Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days. (See also Amos 5:5)

            What’s my point? It is simple. We need to be careful, as a church, a body of believers, as individual believers, that we don’t lose the fire and the testimony that we are to have so the world can see the power of God to save and transform lives. We need to be careful that we don’t become dead shrines that worship the Church instead of the living God. We need to be careful that we don’t become a dead shrine that is filled with false doctrine and idolatry!

            The memorial stones were A WITNESS TO THE WORLD!

            And here’s the thing. As we lose this witness of God in our own lives. As we don’t teach our children of the greatness of our God. As our witness to the world goes out. What happens?

            Remember what we read in Judges, Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. . . . When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Joshua 2:8, 10.

            What are you doing to remember the blessings, the work that God has done and is doing in your life?

            What are you doing to teach your children and grandchildren about the true and living God. You see, your life is a living testimony to them and there are so many lessons you can teach them as you live out your faith. Let them see how God is working in your life!

            And here’s the thing. What are you leaving behind for them? Are you leaving behind for your children and grandchildren great material blessings, that will pass away? Or are you leaving them great spiritual blessings that will show them how great God is and help them spiritually speaking?

            And what is the world seeing in your life? What kind of testimony or memorial stone have you set-up that they can see the true and living God by? What you do at work, what you post on Facebook, how you live out your life, is a testimony to the God you serve, it is a witness to a world that is looking for hope and the hope you have given them is Jesus!

            As we conclude this morning back in Joshua chapter 4, may we, as living stones, be a memorial or a testimony of God’s faithfulness and power That all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever. Joshua 4:24.

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