Memorial Day 2012 looked very different for my family than it does today. Growing up, and even into my early adult years, Memorial Day was always marked by a barbecue and and outdoor adventure.
My daddy was an avid outdoorsman and he never wasted a minute on a chance to get in the latest catch or see the latest natural wonder.
But in the spring of 2012 an unexpected heart attack ushered this man, who taught me so much, into the arms of Jesus. In his absence there were years of memories and a new way of looking at this holiday.
My daddy was a fierce believer in remembering the important. A former serviceman and strong follower of Jesus, you could always find him saluting God and country. So when he was no longer, I was left with quiet grief stained images of a man that once was.
Our memories good or bad can shape our future. It is with these that we discover who we are and what we hope our future to be. While my dad had his own quirks, as we all do, one thing he instilled in us was the appreciation of our freedom.
Freedom was never to be taken for granted. I can remember discussions from my parents and grandparents about the “hard times”. I heard them talk about using molasses in place of sugar, waiting in long lines for their car’s gas rations, and being unsure if the world would continue ticking as they knew it.
This Memorial Day I sit in quiet and think about what I will tell my kids and future grandkids about the days we are currently living in. No one would argue that the fear and uncertainty of the last few months and the months we are about to head into is unsettling.
I venture to guess, my parents and grandparents had the same silent concerns and fears.
There are days we find ourselves full of hope, and others where fear takes root and we struggle in wondering if we can even trust the future.
The Hebrew people lived in similar uncertainty throughout the pages of the Old Testament. In Joshua 3 and 4 we see an experience that must have rocked some of these wandering people to the core. We also see the immense grace and mercy of God on display.
The Israelites were headed to their promised land. Joshua had just been told by the spies that had been sent into Canaan that they would certainly be able to take over the land, because the Lord would help them. (Joshua 2:23)
The assurance of this statement must have been whispered through the camp and spread like wildfire. It doesn’t take long when there is uncertainty for “good news” to spread. Prior to this victory, however, the people were faced with a dilemma. They must cross the Jordan River.
The Jordan wouldn’t be a big deal, except that it was at full strength. Historians tell us that it was overflowing its banks that time of year. At its height it would have been up to 10,000 feet wide and 200 feet deep.
It wasn’t necessarily the kind of river you would want to dip your toes in and take a swim. It was dangerous and mighty.
After three days of circling this river and discussing what to do, Joshua gave the people this
“Consecrate yourselves because tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. When the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut of from flowing, and the waters coming down from from above shall stand in one heap.” (Joshua 3:5, 13)
I think it is safe to say that at this point, the people struggled to sleep that night. They were about to see an amazing work of God. But they had a job to do, as well.
Sometimes when God is about to perform a wonder in our midst, He requires something from us that displays our faith. The act is the very vehicle He uses to bring victory.
The priests were asked to step into the waters first. What if they had refused? What if they had stood on the banks and waited for the water to heap up before proceeding?
The story would look very different. No doubt there were some who were unsure. We can almost see them shaking and hear the cries from the people watching. The first tenuous step must have been one that caused everyone to hold their breath.
But because they obeyed, even in their uncertainty, they saw the miracles of God.
Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground…(Joshua 3:17)
Upon arrival on the other side there must have been a collective sigh and cheers of praise.
Then God had another task for the people. He knew that the people would need reminders of His faithfulness and goodness as they headed into new territory. He was aware of the frailty of the human heart and our propensity to forget when life gets hard.
God knew what the people would face in their “new” surroundings and He wanted them to have a reminder of what they had been through not only at the Jordan, but in their wilderness wanderings.
In chapter 4 we see God asking the people to gather stones of remembrance. These were to be placed as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests feet stood firmly and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight. When your children ask in time to come, What do these stones mean to you, then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever. (Joshua 4:3, 6, 7)
Our faith story is scattered with these stones of remembrance. Just like the Israelites, God gives us stories of His faithfulness, goodness and grace. He shows us His presence in the hard and He reminds of His peace in the good.
So as we remember all those who have fought for our freedoms, may we also remember that God is in the business of wonder working. Whatever uncertainty we are facing in light of our current world, we know that we have a God who sees and acts. He will stop the waters and our feet will walk on dry ground again.
“…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 4:24)