After the people of Israel had crossed the dry riverbed of the Jordan, and had reached the shore of the Promised Land on the other side, there was one thing that was yet to be done before the waters of the river returned to their normal channel. At the Lord’s bidding, twelve men – one out of each tribe – went down into the riverbed on a special errand. Each of these 12 men picked up a stone from the spot where the priests had stood in the riverbed, holding the sacred symbol of the presence of God – the Ark of the Covenant. For centuries, these stones had lain there undisturbed; but now – piled together in a heap, before the eyes of all the people – they were to be a memorial of the crossing of the Jordan River, just as the song of Moses (Ex. 15) was a memorial of the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea.
It is good that forgetful hearts like our own should be stirred up by way of remembrance. We are so prone to grow unmindful of the Rock that begat us, and to forget the God Who gave us birth. Jesus’ love has effected a redemption which runs parallel with our lives, like a river beside a road; and yet He Himself knew that He needed to set up a memorial – in the Lord’s Supper – of His most precious death, so that we would not forget it! Therefore, it is necessary for memorial-stones to be built beside the “Jordan Rivers” in our lives, with the inscription, “Remember!”
It is to be regretted that in modern times, memorial-stones are not more frequently set up. We often carve out monuments to great men; why should we not more frequently build houses or sanctuaries in remembrance of great national events? There are stories of memorial-trees being planted in commemoration of royal visits, and of memorial-churches being raised in remembrance of certain events and gracious deliverances. But why should our own land not be studded with memorial-buildings that commemorate plentiful harvests, the cessation of wars, the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus, and other national events which ought to call for our gratitude as a nation? The memory of a whole country does not retain the knowledge of its mercies any more than the memory of an individual person, and hence it would be good for us to have public monuments to remind us of our obligations to our God – monuments to which we could point our children, and say, “In such-and-such a year, God delivered us from a terrible plague!” Or, “In such-and-such a year, He gave us abundant harvests!” Or, “In such-and-such a year, He visited us with a great revival of Christianity!” Such memorial-buildings would be ornaments to our country!
Why did the Israelites take such reverent care to set up a memorial, and to record the fact with such minute detail? “What mean these stones?” If we have carefully followed the teaching of the preceding chapters, we cannot hesitate to make our reply. Just as in the crossing of the Jordan River, all Israel came up on the river’s opposite bank; so also, in the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus, all His redeemed people have passed over to resurrection-ground – and in the purpose and thought of God, they are already seated in heavenly places!
We have crossed the river! Our eternity has begun! Part of the possession of our heritage has already been bestowed. In Jesus, we are loved and accepted! We are more than conquerors. We occupy a position which is unassailable by our foes, for they can only prevail against us when they succeed in tempting us to abandon it. All things are ours, for we are united with our raised and reigning Redeemer! Praise His name!
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