A few weeks ago I shared a story about the Stolperstein in former German-occupied countries in Europe [https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/bitsnpieces/?id=stolpersteine] pointing out that physical memorials are important in ensuring that essential lessons of history are not forgotten. That same verse from Joshua which prompted my thinking is still on my mind, but for a different reason this time.
“When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.” Joshua 4:21-22 KJV
The Old Testament is full of sad stories of the nation of Israel stumbling, bumbling and fumbling on the way from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. But one of the saddest verses in the Bible is found in the Book of Judges:
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” [Judges 2:10]
How could this be?
The first generation of Israelites who were freed from captivity in Egypt were not permitted to enter the promised land because of their constant moaning and groaning, whining and disobedience, and their refusal to trust God to provide for them despite the many miracles and blessings showered upon them. So God waited for a second generation who would obey his commands and believe he was faithful to his promises.
It was forty years after they left Egypt to wander in the Sinai Desert that Joshua and Caleb (not Moses and Aaron) were ready to lead the nation into the promised land. As usual, this looked like an impossibility, because to get there they would have to cross the River Jordan at flood stage. Sounding like the challenge Moses faced at the Red Sea?
As soon as the priests leading the people stepped into the roaring water, the flow stopped twenty miles upstream and “stood up in a heap”! After all the twelve tribes had crossed over, God told Joshua to have twelve men gather twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan and build a cairn to remind the people what God had done for them.
Joshua told the people:
“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.” (Joshua 4:6-7)
So why didn’t the following generation know about it? Their parents obeyed up to a point. They set up the memorial, they praised God for delivering them yet again. But they didn’t tell their children the story. The miraculous account of God’s dealing died with them and as a result their children just had no idea! For the want of personal testimony another generation was lost.
People need to be told that God will be faithful in perilous times and it becomes all the more believable because you have experienced his faithfulness in perilous times. Your personal knowledge of God’s greatness and goodness is worth thousands of eloquent sermons on the subject.
After his resurrection and before his ascension Jesus told his followers:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NIV
The apostles figured out what to do. There is a marvelous story in the book of Acts:
“Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” Acts 5:17-20 NIV
Your personal testimony about being freed from some metaphorical (or even real) prison may be what moves the Kingdom of God forward for the next generation. You do not have a right to withhold your experience, rather, I would suggest you have an obligation to share it, for the sake of future generations.
“Go! And tell!"
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black