jasonbwatson

January 15, 2013

Monuments

I’m back! It has been a hiatus of nearly a month since I posted last, which is hard for me to believe. I took some time off and did some traveling around Christmas, and though I thought perhaps I would blog some during that time I never did. And even though I have intended to do so several times since, it seems as though something else always came up. But, I am back, determined I was definitely going to post today, and hopefully I will get back into a routine of posting a few times a week.

While I was traveling my wife and I took our children into Washington, D.C. I grew up just a few miles outside the city, and as someone who loves politics and U.S. history I have always loved much of what Washington, D.C. has to over. My children enjoyed it too, for the most part, though they did grow tired of all the walking as we tried to cram as much as we could into the few hours we were there.

While we did spend some time in three of the museums that are part of the Smithsonian Institution, we also saw several of the most recognizable monuments in the city: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial. Visiting these monuments provided me with an opportunity to tell my children about why the monuments had been erected, and about the people and events they were there to remember and honor. That, of course, is exactly why the monuments are there.

Of course, monuments are not unique to Washington, D.C. or even to America. In fact, monuments are described in the Bible. Numerous times the Scriptures record God instructing the nation of Israel to erect monuments–usually in the form of piles of stones–to commemorate a specific event, a specific way in which God had intervened and met the needs of the nation in a supernatural way. One of the best examples is contained in Joshua 4:1-3, which reads:

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’”

However, God’s instructions included more than the erection of the monument. He went on, explaining that the purpose of the stones was this:

“[T]hat this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (vv 6-7)

Joshua elaborated on this instruction. When the Israelites had crossed over the Jordan River and the stones had been erected, Joshua said to the people:

“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (vv 21-24)

So, just like I can take my children to look at the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial and use those to teach my children about the lives of those great men and the impact that they had on the shaping and survival of our country, or we can look at the World war II Memorial and I can talk to them about my grandfather’s service in the U.S. Army during that war, or the many men and women who served to defend our country and to defeat the Axis powers, so too the Israelites could show their children the pile of stones near the Jordan River and tell them about the miracle that God had done of stopping the waters to allow them to pass over on dry ground.

Looking at the monuments in Washington reminded me of the biblical instructions, and also reminded me of a song written several years ago by Bev Lowry (perhaps most well-known as the mother of Christian comedian Mark Lowry). Her song, entitled “Monuments,” includes this chorus:

Where are the monuments we should be leaving
so our children can find the way to get home?
We should be laying stones so they can follow
the pathway that leads to God’s throne.

That’s a powerful and thought-provoking question and reminder. While it is true that I have never seen God part the waters or seen manna provided from heaven, I have seen and experienced God do amazing things in my life and in the lives of the members of our family. Am I taking care to teach God’s provision to my children? Am I reminding them of all that God has done for me? For them? Probably not nearly as well as I should be. I think it may be time to build some monuments….

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