Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
As we continue this year-long study on what it takes to maintain 2020 vision, the next means for staying focused is remembering—recalling and recounting God’s goodness, faithfulness, and redemptive work in our lives. In biblical times, the nations of Israel would build stone monuments to commemorate God’s mighty acts of salvation. The memorial served to remind God’s people (particularly future generations) of how he delivered them from natural disasters or from their enemies. In the story of the crossing of the Jordan into the promise land, once all had crossed, Joshua commanded the elders of each of the twelve tribes to gather a large stone and then stack them in a column to reminds them of how God dried up the Jordan to provide safe passage into the land flowing with milk and honey:
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.” Joshua 4:5-7 ESV
Of course, memorials are only as helpful as our desire to remember. Immersed in the cultures of the surrounding nations, Israel’s forgetfulness would repeatedly lead them far from the safety of God’s righteous laws. Just one generation from Joshua’s passing, the tribes of Israel strayed far from their Creator’s blessings and “did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6 and 21:5). Consequently, the nation was harassed by its neighbors—particularly the Philistines. Yet, God graciously reached out to his people and granted them a decisive victory that restored peace to the land. So Samuel erected a monument to commemorate deliverance from the enemy:
And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:11-12 ESV
Each of these stone monuments would disintegrate with time, but there remains one lasting monument that stands for all eternity: the Gospel. While each of us have witnessed God’s redemptive work in our own stories, the Cross of Christ and the empty tomb stand alone as the greatest act of redemption in all of history. This is why the author of Hebrews encouraged a church under persecution to fix their eyes on the salvific work of Christ, to remember that we serve a good and gracious God:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we find refuge from our fears, doubts, and anxiety. The consequences of our sins and that of a fallen world may linger, but all that is of eternal import is safe and sound in the loving arms of the Son who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Father. Remember how your loving Father sacrificially rescued you through the death and resurrection of his Son, and you will see your way forward with 2020 vision.