Have you ever had a serious illness or disaster or a situation befall you, from which God has healed or saved or delivered you? Something that you KNOW was God and could ONLY have been God? I have, and it stands in my mind and spirit as a shining beacon of remembrance, something to which I can and do return often, to remind myself and God ~ “You did this! You healed me! You brought me up out of a horrible pit!”
The Bible tells of something similar in Joshua 4. Moses, the servant of the Lord, had died, and God told Joshua to prepare to enter the Promised Land with all the nation of Israel. The descendants of the very people who had turned away from following the Lord at a crucial time, the first time He brought them to the Land of Promise, were now faced with the same decision. Would they be found faithful? Would they follow Joshua, God’s appointed leader? In order to establish Joshua and exalt him in the eyes of the Israelites, God instructed him to have the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan River. God would stop the flow of the Jordan and the Israelites would cross over on dry ground. This people, the Apple of God’s eye, whose parents and grandparents had miraculously crossed the Red Sea ahead of Pharaoh and his army, were about to experience their own miraculous crossing.
The Lord further instructed Joshua to select 12 men, one from each tribe, and as they crossed the Jordan, they were each to pick up a stone from the place where the priest’s feet stood. The stones were to be set as a memorial to what the Lord had done.
Memorials are important in our lives. I have personally visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. The black granite dips silently into the earth, bearing mute witness to 58,000 + dead. I have also visited the Holocaust museum, a somber place where one’s spirit cries out a resounding NO to the horrors visited on humanity. These memorials are sobering remembrances of terrible times in history, commemorating the loss of so many lives. I have visited the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, with its quietly lapping waves and flags snapping in the wind. Within the shrine, the roster of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice glistens in white marble. We know of the inspiring 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, with it’s reflecting pool and towers of light. And anyone who spends much time on the road has passed countless roadside memorials, each one remembering someone who is dearly loved and sadly missed.
But the memorial at the Jordan served a different purpose. It was not recalling a terrible time in history or the loss of many lives. It was not a place of sobering reflection. It was not a memorial to death. It was a place of celebration, of LIFE! This memorial shouted to the people of Israel, “Look what God did!! He brought us through the Jordan, at flood stage, on dry ground! He brought us into the Land of Promise!” Joshua instructed the people, “In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’, you should tell them…!” Tell them what the Lord did! Tell them, so all the people of the earth will know that the Lord’s hand is mighty!!
Let it be said, then, that on November 5, 2014, the people of Kirbyville, Texas, a small town in the heart of the Pineywoods, walked through the Jordan on dry ground. The Lord’s mighty hand intervened in a serious and potentially horrific school bus accident. And now, instead of grieving parents setting up roadside memorials in remembrance of their children, instead of travelers thinking thoughts of sobering reflection as they pass the scene of the accident, we can celebrate, and we can celebrate LIFE! So set up that stone of remembrance, Kirbyville! Set it up in your mind and spirit! Make it a bright and shining memorial to the Lord!! Make it a place to which you return often, and of which you speak to your children and grandchildren!
“This is what God did! His hand of protection was on our children and therefore on our whole community!”
It wasn’t chance, it wasn’t luck, and it wasn’t happenstance. It was Providence.