Joshua 4:9 says, “Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.” Upon first glance of this sentence of Scripture, the aspect of the 12 stones is very interesting.
It is common to wonder what the 12 stones of remembrance are and what are their significance. This article will uncover what is the significance of the 12 stones of remembrance.
The Twelve Stones
The event of the 12 stones of remembrance occurred after Israel crossed over the Jordan river by God’s divine help into the Promised Land. When Israel came into the Promised Land, it would have been after Moses’ death.
Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his lack of faith and disobedience (Deuteronomy 32:51-52). Moses was able to see the Promised Land; however, he was not allowed to enter it (Deuteronomy 34:4-5).
Even though Moses was strong and healthy, he died on Mount Nebo. God buried Moses, but nobody ever knew where Moses’ actual burial was located. After Moses had died, Joshua Son of Nun became the leader of Israel.
When Joshua and the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, God spoke to Joshua and said, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 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” (Joshua 4:2-3).
The 12 stones of remembrance are more than 12 stones. Rather, the 12 stones of remembrance are to be a memorial in remembrance of God’s divine provision of bringing Israel into the Promised Land.
Each stone was for each Tribe of Israel, such as one stone was for the Tribe of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. The 12 stones of remembrance would forever be a lasting memorial that would remind Israel of God’s providence.
Not only did God divinely help Israel cross the Jordan River, but He also parted the Red Sea and saved them out of slavery in Egypt. These 12 stones were extremely important to Israel.
To other nations, the 12 stones would have been seen as nothing or just rocks; however, to Israel, it was a physical reminder of God’s faithfulness, providence, and love.
Remembering the Past
The 12 stones of remembrance were carried by a man from each tribe and placed in the center at Gilgal upon Joshua’s command (Joshua 4:20).
Joshua taught the Israelites that the 12 stones were a memorial to the Lord and that every time they looked at the stones, they were to be reminded of God.
“He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 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’” (Joshua 4:21-24).
The entire purpose of the 12 stones was to act as a memorial to the Lord. Their significance is great as the stones reminded Israel of God’s providence. In the future, God’s name could be carried on and remembered through the twelve stones of remembrance.
Since the 12 stones were solid rocks, these rocks would endure as a permanent memorial to the Lord. Rocks never die — they only change due to erosion.
Therefore, the rocks of remembrance would endure through time. This was God’s purpose as He wanted Israel to remember how He enabled Israel to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
Significance in Our Own Lives
The 12 stones of remembrance are significant not only for Israel but also for us. As Christians, we have been adopted into God’s eternal family (Romans 8:15; Galatians 3:26). This means that we are part of spiritual Israel.
We too can reflect and remember God’s faithfulness and providence just as Israel did during the Old Testament. Even though we may not erect a memorial site with 12 stones, we can still remember God’s past faithfulness.
It is important to remember what God has done in the past in order for us to have hope for the future when we are going through dark seasons of life. God has always been divinely helping His people even though we may not have seen it with our eyes.
Ever since God created us, He has loved us deeply. Because of His great love for us, He has provided ways of salvation and redemption. During Old Testament times, God provided freedom for the Israelites through the exodus out of Egypt.
Israel was only freed from Egypt’s bondage and slavery because of God’s divine providence. In the same way, Israel was only able to pass the Red Sea and the Jordan River by God’s divine providence.
There again, the Promised Land was only able to be entered because of God’s great love and grace. Without God, the Israelites could not have succeeded. It is only because of God that they were freed and given the privilege of entering the Promised Land.
Even though we are not held in bondage to slavery today by Egypt, we are held in bondage and slavery to sin (Romans 6:20). It is only when we place faith in Jesus that we can truly be free (John 8:36).
We can remember what Jesus has done for us by partaking in communion (Matthew 26:26-29). In addition to partaking in communion, we can remember God’s great love by honoring Him in our daily actions, spending time with Him, and reading the Bible.
We must never forget what God has done for us. Similar to the Israelites, we need to make an intentional effort to remember God in our daily lives. Whether we have a physical reminder or not, we need to make sure to remember God, praise Him, and give Him thanks.
The Lord did great things for Israel, and He has done great things for us as well. Let us praise Him for all He has done in the past, present, and future.
What Does it Mean?
The stones of remembrance may have been seen as just rocks to other nations, but the 12 stones of remembrance were significant for Israel.
These stones were significant because they acted as a memorial and reminder of how God brought His children across the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
Israel had waited a long time to enter the Promised Land and the 12 stones of remembrance marked their entrance into the Promised Land. Israel was reminded of God's faithfulness, providence, and love every time they would look at the stones.
In this way, the Israelites would never forget God’s past faithfulness and goodness. As Christians in the modern-day, we too need to never forget God’s past faithfulness. Take time today to remember God’s providence, faithfulness, and love.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
These verses serve as a source of renewal for the mind and restoration for the heart by reinforcing the notion that, while human weakness is inevitable, God's strength is always available to uplift, guide, and empower us.
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