Look Back Before You Move Forward
“‘… tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.’” (Joshua 4:3 NIV)
At Gilgal, Joshua followed God’s command to take twelve large stones from the middle of the Jordan River—which God had miraculously divided to allow his people to cross on dry land—and set them up as memorial stones. The purpose of the stones was to spark discussions with the next generation: “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord” … In this way the miracle of God’s power and provision would be reinforced.
These stones were not idols to be worshiped. Rather, they were testimonials to the faithfulness of the one and only God. They gave reason to give God praise…
When the people of Israel looked out toward the perimeter of their camp, they might naturally have wondered how many Canaanite armies were lurking in the shadows or behind walls, wanting to harm them. But when they focused on the twelve stones, their fears evaporated. Their God had just stopped the flood-stage Jordan so they could cross over! Surely he could stop the arrows and rocks of the enemy, too.
In our confrontations with obstacles or opponents today, we would do well not to focus on the trouble lined up against us. Instead, we need to celebrate the God who has already demonstrated his power and provision in our past. We don’t need to be fretful or anxious. We need to anchor our hearts and minds in God’s overwhelming track record.
The Bible says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). Apparently not all Christians live the same distance from God. Even though we all belong to his family, some are pressing in closer to his dynamic strength than others. As we live a life full of praise and thanksgiving for past mercies, we experience God coming ever closer to us in the present.
Psalm 22:3 speaks about God being “enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” What a difference it would make if we simply paused once an hour or so to say, “I praise you, Lord. You’ve been so good to me! I give you thanks.” Just think how much more joy and peace would be ours all day long.
This would be valuable not only on sunny days but also in times of testing and loss. Of course, problems come our way throughout life. That is inevitable. But instead of worrying, we can face the difficulties in a context of all that God has done for us in the past. When our backs were against the wall, God opened a door of provision. He is the same God today.
-Pastor Cymbala (excerpted from You Were Made for More)
Read Joshua 3:14—4:9.