“And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.'”
-Joshua 24:26, 27
Yesterday, the Adult Sunday School at my church wrapped up the book of Joshua by studying the last two chapters of the book (23 and 24). In these two chapters, Joshua gathered the people of Israel to lay out some reminders, warnings, instructions, and challenges before he died. It is very similar to what Moses did before he died in the last few chapters of Deuteronomy!
Perhaps the most famous part of the book of Joshua lies in the last chapter of the book. After reminding the Israelites how they came to enter into the Promised Land and conquered the inhabitants of the land, Joshua puts forth a great challenge to the people:
“…fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served… and serve the LORD… choose this day whom you will serve.“- Josh. 24:14, 15
Then, of course, we all know what Joshua will do, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.“
But, what will the people of Israel choose to do? Well, they respond by saying that they will serve the LORD their God. The Israelites were committing themselves to the true God. So serious was this commitment that Joshua repeated the challenge three times and each time Israel affirmed that they would serve the LORD.
It’s pretty clear from Joshua’s words to the people that serving the LORD wouldn’t be easy. In fact, Joshua flat out says, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins” (Josh. 24:19). Joshua wants the people to know exactly what they were getting into. There are no words withheld. Joshua lays it all out on the table! Yet, the people repeatedly commit themselves to serve and obey the LORD.
This is such a big deal that Joshua actually records the covenant he made with the people in the Book of the Law of God. The Israelites words would be forever preserved in God’s Word! This would serve as a reminder of their vow and covenant to serve the One True God.
But, this was not the only reminder. Joshua actually set up a large stone by the sanctuary of the LORD to be a witness of this solemn covenant made by the people. This stone would be a visible memorial to remind the people what God had done for the Israelites and what the Israelites had vowed to do for God (Josh. 24:27).
Throughout the book of Joshua, memorials were set up all over the place in the Promised Land. Actually, 9 memorials were built that we can read of in Joshua.
1. The stones in the midst of the Jordan (4:9).
2. The stones on the western bank of the Jordan (4:20–24).
3. The stones in the Valley of Achor (7:26).
4. The heap of stones at Ai (8:29).
5. The altar on Mt. Ebal (8:30).
6. The stones of the law on Mt. Ebal (8:32).
7. The stones at the cave at Makkedah (10:27).
8. The altar built by the Transjordanic tribes (22:10ff).
9. Joshua’s stone of witness (24:26–28).
Now, it’s important to point out that none of these memorials were meant to be worshipped or thought of as a god. In fact, each of these memorials were to serve as a reminder to the Israelites of something that God had done for them. For example, the memorial in the Jordan River and on the banks of the river would remind the people how God parted the river to allow them entrance into the land. The stones in the Valley of Achor would remind the Israelites of the seriousness of sin; its consequences and how it separates people from God.
Today, we might think of memorials, like a heap of stones, as having little importance or impact on our faith. But, stop and think for a moment. What sorts of things, good things, has God given us as memorials of what He has done for us, His people? I can think of an easy one. On the front wall of the sanctuary in my church is this giant cross anchored to the wall. The cross is certainly a memorial of what God has done for us! His Son died on the cross for our sins!
You can visualize your own church and find many more memorials throughout the building, probably. The Communion Table, a visual reminder again of what Christ has done for us. The pulpit, a memorial that God’s Word is the supreme rule we are to listen to and obey because God has spoken to us.
You can even walk through your own home and find memorials there as well. On one of the bookshelves in my house, my wife and I have a Bible that is always open to help remind us that God still speaks to us through His Word.
It’s important to remember the great things God has done for us. Israel knew that well! So many times as they wandered through the wilderness, they forgot God’s power and love for them. Hence, the 9 memorials scattered throughout the Land as they acquired possession of it.
So, what sort of things serve as memorials of what God has done for you? I challenge you to think of a few and comment below what those things are! I’m curious to know what sort of things serve as memorials!