By Aron Tolentino
In the movie Forrest Gump there was a line that became famous which says, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. Many of us can relate to this, especially now that we just entered the New Year. We realize that life is just filled with uncertainties—with regards to our health, career, finances, relationships, to name a few. Just like the previous years, this one will also bring surprises.
But while we know that life is filled with uncertainties, we can be certain about who God is. And so as we cross from one year to another, here’s a great story that will encourage us… the story of Joshua and his generation crossing the Jordan River in an amazing fashion.
14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. (NIV)
The crossing of the Jordan River is symbolic. Remember, the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness. But this chapter in their history is about to end. At this time, Moses already passed away and Joshua succeeded him as the nation’s leader. In this new chapter, God is going to fulfill His covenant of the Promised Land for Israel, the land of Canaan. This event signifies the end of the wilderness chapter and that a new one has begun.
God marked this important event with a miracle of stemming the flow of the river so the Israelites could cross it. And He wanted this young generation to remember what happened, the obstacle they faced, and what God did to deliver them. After crossing the river, God commanded the Israelites to build a memorial. In Chapter 4 God said,
2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 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 a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 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.” (NIV)
What a way for the Israelites to remember God and this event – by taking twelve stones right from the middle of the Jordan River to remind them how they crossed the river on dry ground. God knew they needed to bring this memory with them as they face a new chapter in their life. A chapter filled with uncertainties.
Now we know how their story goes when it comes to the Israelites claiming the land God promised to them. But at that time, Joshua and the Israelites didn’t. What they knew was that they were up against nations in Canaan that were far more equipped, militarily speaking. In comparison, they were young, inexperienced, and outclassed. What they were holding on to was the covenant of God to them, His people. And the stone memorial was to remind them that God is faithful and true. That the God who brought them though the desert and across the river is the same God who will bring them to the Promised Land.
As we face 2018 and its uncertainties, we can also bring with us encouragement by carrying over a memorial from our past year into our new year. A memorial – tangible or intangible – but something that will remind us of who God is and what He has done for us. A memorial that will remind us that God is faithful and true. A memorial that will remind us that the God who sustained us in the past years will be the same God who will carry us through this year.
Having said that, allow me to ask, “What is your memorial?”