Sometimes a certain song will come on and, all of a sudden, I’m transported in my mind to a time and place where something significant happened in my life. Or I’ll drive down a particular stretch of road and remember an event that happened there. I’m not necessarily looking for the memory, but it seems to be tied to the song or the place.
It is fascinating, isn’t it, that God made us this way? We are meaning-makers. There is something eternal in us that knows to link moments and places in our past to the significance of our present and to our hope for the future.
In Joshua 4-5, Israel stood in a place they had long-anticipated: the banks of the Jordan River. Those waters represented the end of their wilderness wanderings. God, because He is an artist, parted the waters so Israel could cross over on dry ground, effectively bookending their wilderness wanderings with the same miracle performed twice.
As they crossed the dried-up floor of the Jordan, with the ark of the Lord leading the way, the Lord told Joshua to instruct the men to pull twelve stones from the riverbed—twelve stones no person should have ever had access to, were it not for the powerful hand of God. They stacked the stones into an ebenezer, or a monument, designed to elicit questions from their meaning-making children who would want to know what that strange and deliberate pile meant.
What did those stones mean? They pointed to the past. They meant God had preserved Israel through famine, slavery, wilderness, and war to bring them to this place from which they would serve Him. They meant that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31), since many of their countrymen died before they could cross over. They meant that these people were tied to Abraham’s God by a covenant oath.
But those stones also pointed to their future. The memorial reminded the people of their ongoing relationship with God. They were stones that reminded the people that God was not finished accomplishing His redemptive plan. Those stones prompted memories of the God to Whom they belonged.
Those stones carry meaning for us as well. God delivers His people. In Christ, all our sorrows will be taken. In Christ, we will cross over from this wild place to a Kingdom of light and life and joy and peace. The people in the book of Joshua lived between a promise made and a promise kept—between the promise that God would bless the world through Abraham’s offspring, and the empty tomb of Christ, that grand miracle that provides otherwise impossible passage from this life to the next.
The empty tomb, with its stone rolled away by the very finger of God, is our ebenezer now.
Written By Russ Ramsey