Joshua 4:4-7 and the Vital Importance of “Standing Stones”

Joshua chapters 3-4 record a pretty neat event in the early history of Israel’s taking of the Promised Land. As the young nation moves into the land of promise, God does something to show them His power. He stops up the water of the Jordan River and allows the nation to cross without getting their feet wet. Most Christians have heard the recounting of this event for as long as they have been believers. But do you ever stop to think about what happened next?

Joshua 4:4-7 reads,

Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that 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.”

God had just done something amazing for His people. He had shown His strength in a mighty way. Surely, the people of Israel would always remember that, tell their kids about it, and remember the power of God when things got tough. But God knows the heart of man, and the weakness of his flesh. And so God commands Joshua to do something that we would be wise to observe. He commands Joshua to select twelve men. Those twelve men are to build a monument. “Monument” might even be too strong of a word. It was a standing pile of stones. But it was there for a purpose. See, throughout their time in the land, children would see those stones, and when they saw them they would ask the most natural question in the world (if you are a parent of young children you know that question all too well), “why?”

This pile of stones becomes a visual teaching opportunity for fathers and mothers to tell their kids about the awesome God they serve. Why is this vital today? It has been documented in a variety of places that kids are walking away from the faith is grossly overwhelming numbers. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I want to highlight one. Too many kids do not see the great hand of Almighty God at work in their lives and the lives of those around them. Everything is explained away. Healings are attributed to modern medicine, provision is coincidence or hard work, the wonder of birth and life is downplayed, and the stories of old are downgraded as the sufficiency and authority of scripture is brought under attack. Kids don’t see mom and dad on their knees crying out to God much, and those prayers around the dinner table start to sound really formalistic after a while (been there, done that!). Their worldview gets shaped by government schools (secular humanism), peers (self-focused materialism), and the entertainment world (both). Those spheres seem so much more realistic than the world of the Bible, and thus the God of the Bible seems distant, unreal, and unattached to the life that they experience.

So, what’s the solution? Well, it ultimately involves a massive reorientation of how we view the world and culture around us, and the need for churches to preach and teach the authority and sufficiency of scripture. But lets start with something really simple. Set up “Standing Stones” with your kids. God is at work all around you. Remember when you blew out that tire while driving down the road and got safely to the shoulder? How about when the brakes went out, or you were able to squeeze and extra year out of that car that you never should have gotten so that you had time to save and pay cash for a newer vehicle? What about that injury that could have been so much worse? What about that job that opened up to enable you to provide better for your family? This list could go on and on and on. See, the problem is not that God is not working. It is that we as parents are not taking the time to point it out and emphasize it to our kids.

Here’s a simple process:

  1. Look for God’s hand of provision, protection, glory, and awesomeness in the daily things of life
  2. Tell your kids about it, take time to pray and thank God for it, and praise Him because of it
  3. Do something to mark special times of provision/protection/wonder. Maybe it’s a sign on the wall with an applicable Bible verse. Maybe it’s a tree in the backyard that you use as a visual reminder. It can be a variety of things, but do something that when your kids see it/think about it, they remember what God did.

I would love to hear how some of you have done this in your own homes. Feel free to share how you have “made much of God” and taught your kids about His glorious Person and works!