When I was a kid, our family moved into a new neighborhood that was built in an area that was very rocky. Everyone’s lot was full of rocks, making it hard to grow things. They had to be removed from the yard to make way for a lawn and shrubs. It was backbreaking work to make anything flourish in the hard environment. But Mom made the most of the stones by mounding them up to create a rock garden and planted it with cactus and flowers. As the years went by, grass and plants took hold and flourished. The pile of stones, covered in blooms, was the only reminder of where the yard began.
Many times we see some of the Bible Greats stacking stones. They did not do it to build a garden but something beautiful resulted all the same. For some, it was a place of sacrifice. For others—a simple memorial. But what they had in common was they were located in a place where they had encountered God in a significant way.
Take Joshua for example. As he was about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, God gave him a list of instructions. Get ready. Be brave. Take courage. And by the way, pick up a few rocks on your way. Huh?
I picture the leaders of these people scratching their heads, but they did just as they were instructed. Of what use some stones could be was perhaps a mystery to them. God would reveal all, just as soon as they arrived in the Promised Land.
So off they marched down to the banks of the Jordan River. As the priests put their feet in the water, the ground became dry and they crossed with ease. Rocks, now exposed at the center of the stream, were hefted to the shoulders of the leaders and carried to the other side. One by one, the stones were stacked to form a memorial that would serve to remind the generations to come that God had made a way where there had been none.
But this stack of rocks would be more than just a reminder. I took a bit of time to look at the word stone in its original language. Eben, a noun, comes from the root word banah, a verb, which means to build, rebuild, establish or make permanent. When God commissioned this memorial to be built, He intended it to be the opening line of His story. He says, in the passage found in the book of Joshua, “In the future when children ask their fathers, ‘what is the meaning of these stones?’” they can finish the story by telling of God’s strength and faithfulness. The inanimate stones were meant to spur them into action. Their express purpose was to build up the faith of future generations through the telling of God’s story.
This account is not just for the Israelites. It is for us, as well. We all have witnessed times in our lives when God has ‘parted the waters’ and made a way. These stories are important when those around us face events in life that seem impossible. The rocky times should remind us of when God worked out the details in our own lives. When others ask, “How on earth did we get through it?” the story of God’s greatness should be on our lips in hope that their faith will be strengthened through our experiences.
I mentioned the rock garden at my mom’s house to one of my daughters recently. I thought she was much too young to have remembered it, but she did. She recalled being a little afraid of the cactus that grew on it. Other than that, she did not know why the pile of rocks were in the yard. I told her the story of how Grandma created beauty out of a very rocky place.
God works the same way. His story is meant to be shared. Through recounting the tales of His activity in our lives, hope blooms. Don’t miss an opportunity to speak to others about your experiences. You may need to follow the same instructions God gave the Israelites. Get ready. Be brave. Take courage. And don’t forget, He’s already started the story for you.
What we have heard and learned—that which our ancestors have told us—we will not hide from their descendants. We will tell the next generation about the LORD’s praiseworthy acts, about His strength and the amazing things He has done.
This post is part of a link up over at Literacy Musing Mondays. Pop over and join the party.