The Bible describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1). In other words, trusting God to deliver on his promises demands hanging onto hope against hope, and moving confidently towards something which is yet unseen.
Our forefathers in the faith discovered the powerful practice of setting up visual monuments or memorials to remind them of God’s faithfulness in the past in order to fuel faith for the future. More often than not, these memorials involved stones and rocks.
In the previous post I mentioned “my immovable rock” by the harbor in Mound that I sit upon regularly on my prayer walks. This massive, sturdy, immovable rock has become a visual symbol of God’s bigness, God’s rock-solid faithfulness, and God’s immovable promise to be true to the Vision he has given Keri and I to plant a church in Mound.
By claiming this rock as a visual symbol of God’s promises for the future and faithfulness in the past, I am carrying on a long and ancient tradition found repeatedly in the scriptures.
Consider an example.
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. 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.”
Do we have any visual memorials for our children to ask us about? What spiritual symbols do we display to remind us of God’s heroic acts in our life? We have largely ridded ourselves of conversation pieces in our homes today. When we invite company over for dinner, we usually talk about things present and future. Yet the ancients sought to understand both present and future realities in light of the settled past. As Soren Kierkegaard put it, “Life must be lived forward, but understood backwards.”
Yet, God knew very well that human beings have a poor and selective memory, and so he told Joshua to have his people set up a stone memorial “to serve as a sign among you” and conversation starter for one generation to pass along the story of God’s miraculous provision to the next generation who may not have witnessed the power of God in such a concrete way.
I was walking along my prayer path the other day with a young college-aged disciple of mine, and had the opportunity to share the significance of my immovable rock. I looked this young man in the eyes, and said, “The Lord has laid a big vision on my heart to be part of launching a new ministry and community in this town, and this rock will serve as a symbol of God’s immovable promises and rock-solid faithfulnesses to the ones he has called according to his purpose.”
Now that ordinary rock has extraordinary meaning for Kyle as well as me. Perhaps Kyle will someday walk by the rock with somebody else and share the immovable Vision of God for Mound them. This is the power of a visual memorial to the Lord.
Next time we’ll explore a stone named Ebenezer.