Focus – What Mean These Stones?
By Major Anne Pickup –
Summer vacation this year was a slow, leisurely drive on Highway 101 from southern California to northern Oregon. There weren’t many tourist traps, shopping opportunities or unique delis we missed along the way. But the most memorable and enjoyable moments were the sights created by God.
Standing in a grove of redwood trees in northern California was to stand within one of the finest cathedrals in the world. Oregon presents mile upon mile of breathtaking coastline. Around almost every turn there was another awesome rugged cliff descending to a sandy beach where the foam of breaking waves created a series of broken white lines.
Standing tall and bold in the salt water were huge stone monoliths, the most memorable being Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. Seeing Haystack Rock was to remember my childhood and happy vacations with my parents and brothers. Seeing Haystack Rock was to remember when Bill and I took our children camping on the Oregon coast.
Isn’t it interesting that a stone monolith can create such memories?
“What mean these stones? These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:6-7
Moses led the children of Israel from Egypt to the border of the Promised Land, but it was Joshua who brought them into Canaan. Their victorious procession was led by the Ark of the Covenant. When it reached the shores of the Jordan River, God miraculously parted the waters, as he had done at the Red Sea. To mark the miracle Joshua placed 12 stones at the river’s edge. Why? To remember that God had delivered them from Egypt, guided them through the wilderness, formed an eternal covenant with them and now had given them a land, flowing with milk and honey. To remember that God had been involved in every aspect of their lives.
Centuries after Joshua, just before God instituted a monarchy, the prophet Samuel led Israel. The Philistines were the enemy, and battles between the two were frequent. Samuel assembled Israel at Mizpah to pray and seek God’s guidance concerning this constant threat. While Israel prayed, the Philistine army prepared to attack. But God miraculously intervened, allowing a great military victory for Israel. To remind them that it wasn’t their prowess in battle, but God who defeated the Philistines, Samuel erected a stone monolith and named it Ebenezer, “the stone of help.”
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘thus far has the Lord helped us’.” I Samuel 7:12
What mean these stones? In both stories they gave an opportunity to retell the story of the God’s power. The stones stood as a reminder of his guidance, blessing, help and loving presence. They are reminders of a sovereign God who is involved in the lives of his people.
We need to create occasions for remembering. Life can be hard. Life is punctuated by discouragement, temptation, and confusion. We need places and times that remind us of God’s past dealings with us. We need rocks of remembrance. Remembering brings a stability to our present wavering and hope for an unknown future. Remembering fortifies our faith, fortified faith trusts God, and trust in God gives hope.