Israel was asked to create a different kind of monument. They had been enslaved in Egypt for centuries, then led to freedom across the Red Sea that God parted for safe passage. After failing to enter their promised land out of fear, they finally did cross the Jordon into the land God gave them. He again parted the waters, but before they reached the other side, He told them to take twelve stones and set them up as a reminder of what He had done. He also told them to be ready for questions.
And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:21–24)
When Christians read Old Testament passages like this one, some assume this is merely historical narrative without any application for us. However, there are New Testament passages about stones with symbolic meaning. If the connection is made between the symbols, then our lives are not only informed but enriched.
First, both Old and New Testaments refer to the Lord as our Rock and as a Living Stone. Jesus is also called the Cornerstone of God’s “building” the church, not a literal building but a spiritual household made up of His people, whom He also says are living stones.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4–5)
Just as the stones from the river Jordan were to provoke questions, so am I as a living stone. God wants my life to be significant, to have features that make people wonder “what does this mean?” I am convicted by this idea.
Jesus, as the Cornerstone, is my example. The significance of His life is still debated, argued over, imitated, rejected or followed. In other words, He did not disappear into obscurity, but created a monument of sorts. His life, death and resurrection won my freedom from slavery to sin, a harsh taskmaster. My life should demonstrate reverend fear. I should live in such a way that the people around me know that His hand is mighty. That pile of rocks in the Old Testament becomes the symbol of a high standard for my life.
Lord, it is easy to focus on the lesser challenges of life, easy to forget that You chose me and set me as a living stone in Your spiritual house. You have also declared me precious and given me the privilege of sacrificial service, even serving as a priest that intercedes for others in ministry to them. This is a lofty calling. I am humbled, yet cannot use “I’m not worthy” as an excuse. You use the image of a stone monument, not to declare that I am like a rock, but to remind me to glorify You. May I so live that others ask questions about the meaning of life because they get a glimpse of Your grace and power.