Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 1, 2015

the second pile

Joshua chapter four tells one of my most favorite Bible stories.  It holds that place because of the repeated significance it has had in my life over the past handful of years.  I wrote a post about the story on my personal blog in 2009, and since that time, I have revisited the story six other times in writing personally or for Journey onWord.  I have piled up my fair share of stones over the years, and I never tire of encouraging others to do so, as well.

The nation of Israel had just experienced another miraculous intervention from God.  Actually, I need to be more specific to do this whole miracle justice.  God had just parted another major body of water, holding back a towering wall of it to allow His people to cross on dry land.  This time, however, things were different.  This time, the people were not being chased by an enemy.  This time, God was delivering His people to something, not from something.  This time, the choice was not transport, but import.  Import, as in the importance of Joshua being elevated in the eyes of the people (God knew how difficult it would be for Joshua in following Moses, so He chose to do something miraculous to cement his place as the leader of God’s people).  Import, as in giving this new generation (and those who would follow) a reminder of the sacred thread of God’s protection.

When the last person had successfully crossed onto the other side, God gave instructions to Joshua …

When the whole nation was finally across, God spoke to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, a man from each tribe, and tell them, ‘From right here, the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests are standing firm, take twelve stones. Carry them across with you and set them down in the place where you camp tonight.'”
Joshua 4:1-3 (MSG)

God’s instructions were to create a memorial.  His purpose being, to teach forward the great message of His care and love for His people, and his direct intervention and deliverance in their lives.  I have done so myself on several occasions.  At times the piles were physical.  There was once a pile of 12 stones at the northwest corner of the church we attended at the time, made by a group of 1st-6th graders and a women’s Sunday School class.  Both groups participated the week before in a lesson on the taking of Jericho.  The kids and the women walked around the church seven times and yelled collectively as they finished their final lap.  On a funny note, on our second time around we had a crowd of curious admirers.  Several children in a toddler class had noticed us and opened their window to see what was going on.  As we passed by, we heard one boy nervously asking his teacher whether the walls of the church were going to fall down!  Ah, the faith of a child!

I could simply stop here and leave you with another encouragement to “pile up stones” in your own journey with God, but there is one other detail that I believe often goes unnoticed, that I wanted to call attention to.  Namely, that there were two piles of stones made that day.

One pile was made in obedience to God’s instructions to Joshua in a place near where they setup their tents to stay the night.  But if we continue reading, and do it carefully, we’ll also notice a second pile.

So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there. Joshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day.
Joshua 4:8-9 (NLT)

It’s interesting how in all my years of Sunday school and church, I don’t ever remember the second pile.  I remembered the very last sentence about the memorial being “there to this day,” but I always thought that referred to the pile in the place where they camped.  It makes sense, right?!  Like the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Wall, the eternal flame at President Kennedy’s grave site – a monument is erected in plain sight so we will remember.

I remember the time I “discovered” the second pile as I was intentionally meditating on the story.  I remembered telling anyone who would listen that there was a second pile, and that pile was the one that remained to this day.  I remember the time that I came nose-to-nose with the intimate, sacred truth of personal piles of stones which exist in places only we and God know of.  This pile, described as being “there to this day,” was not out in the open for everyone to see, and it was not made by twelve men, or a class of children and women – it was made by Joshua.  Once priests exited the riverbed and the waters returned, that pile was no longer a memorial to the people.  But I can dare say that as long as Joshua lived, he knew where those stones were.

I can’t say that Joshua made that pile as a prayer of thanks to God in recognition of the great gift God gave him.  I can’t say it because the Bible doesn’t.  But I do wonder about it, and I do see my own story in Joshua’s pile of stones.

I believe there is great significance in marking occasions of God’s working in your life.  Your piles may not always be in places of deliverance and joy as it was for Joshua in the Jordan crossing.  They may be in places of great pain, or growth experienced in a time of great loss.  In whatever place they are, they are worth the effort of stopping and piling.  They help us remember – remember that God is present, and active, and good – both in the times when it’s obvious He is, and in the times of “and, if not, He is still good.” (Daniel 3:18)

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Responses

  1. “This time, God was delivering His people to something, not from something.” I like that! 🙂 We often see ourselves as the builders and the enterers rather than seeing our Father inviting us along, and sharing with us, as He builds and enters. Father, thank You for Your grace, Your Son, Your Spirit. “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36)

    Buried Memorials of significant truths that exist between me and my creator.

    Thanks for the reminder of these truths. 🙂

    PS I remember one of the big kids that was on that march. (And wishing I was!!) 🙂


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