I have a big birthday coming up later this year. You know, the kind that ends in a zero. As a result, I’ve been feeling more mortal than usual—aware that my life is passing by, and I won’t be here forever. Milestone birthdays make me introspective.

An elderly family member passed away a few weeks ago. Between the memorial service and the burial, the obituary and the discussion among relatives and friends, we’ve all had plenty of chances to reflect on and discuss the life and character of the deceased person. A few of his acquaintances had some nice things to say—mostly about how intelligent and articulate he was, and how remarkable his life story was.

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Losing a Pillar

I’m attending a memorial service this afternoon for a person I didn’t know. And it’s not the first time. I’ve been to a number of services for people I either never met, or was barely acquainted with. Let’s just say it’s a bit awkward.

(The first such service I sat through, years ago, happened to fall on my birthday. Our plans for a special outing were interrupted by the demise of an acquaintance of Pete’s, who dropped dead while shoveling snow off his sidewalk. We endured over four hours of sobbing people repeating stories for which we had no context. I sobbed too—first because it was such a rotten way to spend a birthday, and second because I felt guilty about feeling that selfish.)

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Rock Your Memory

They say that our memories are the first thing to go… and apparently God agrees.

The third chapter of Joshua relates the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the promised land. In order to get all those people across from one side to the other, God stopped the flow of water. Instead of rushing by in torrent, the river piled up into a wall far upstream while the tribes walked across on dry land.

While the Jordan miracle was perhaps not quite of the same magnitude as the parting of the Red Sea, it was still an extremely significant milestone in the history of Israel. Moses led the people out of slavery; here Joshua is leading them into the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Such an important event needed to be remembered, so God instructed Joshua to have twelve men, one from each tribe, collect twelve stones from the middle of the river bed (See chapter 4). They carried these stones to their camp and set them up as a memorial. Joshua 4:24 explains, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

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