This lecture page is designed to go after the student has followed the workbook and done the homework for Lesson 3. A powerpoint to accompany the audio lecture is available, as well as a handout.
How good is your memory? I really have a bad memory, and it is getting worse with time. Years ago my husband and I attended a convention in Puerto Rico. Usually at those events, the spouses just go off and do something fun while the actual convention participants are forced to hear speakers relevant to their field. This particular time, however, the spouses were invited because the hosts felt that we would enjoy and even benefit from the main speaker, who was a memory expert.
We spent all morning one day learning this man’s method for remembering names. Basically, we were to think of a visual trigger for each person whom we met; then, when we saw them again, we should be able to visualize that image associated with the person. Of course, it seemed to me that his examples were all pretty easy to associate; his names were people like Bill Boxwood; we were told to picture him with a boxwood plant shooting out from around him while his mouth was a giant bill.
I never meet anyone with names like that. You don’t have names like that! If you did, I would remember all of your names!
Apparently, remembering is a universal and age-old problem. Over and over the Bible tells us that God’s people forgot Him; over and over God gave them triggers to help them remember His mighty acts so that they would not forget and turn from Him to other gods.
This week the book of Joshua reveals one of those times when God so wanted His people to remember His mighty acts that He gave them a memory trigger.
Joshua told the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God!” Joshua continued, “This is how you will know the living God is among you and that he will truly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites. Look! The ark of the covenant of the Ruler of the whole earth is ready to enter the Jordan ahead of you. Now select for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one per tribe. When the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord, the Ruler of the whole earth, touch the water of the Jordan, the water coming downstream toward you will stop flowing and pile up.”
So when the people left their tents to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. When the ones carrying the ark reached the Jordan and the feet of the priests carrying the ark touched the surface of the water – (the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest time) –the water coming downstream toward them stopped flowing. It piled up far upstream at Adam (the city near Zarethan); there was no water at all flowing to the sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea). The people crossed the river opposite Jericho. The priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan. All Israel crossed over on dry ground until the entire nation was on the other side.
As we look at this story, we see that God acted on behalf of His people at the Jordan River. In this case there was an insurmountable obstacle before the people. God had given them the dream and the promise of the land; however, the flooded Jordan River blocked the way in.
But God is a God of miracles. He created the water and the land. Nothing is impossible for Him to do. The work of God in this case was stopping the flow of the river. This was a great miracle. Look again at v.16. The waters piled up in a heap upstream from their crossing position, and the effects of the miracle were seen all the way to the Sea of Arabah, which is the Salt Sea or Dead Sea because there was no water coming in. The scholars I read understand this to mean that the water heaped up at Adam, which is today identified with Damiyeh, 19 miles upstream from Jericho, and the water did not flow all the way to the Dead Sea; this would have given them a broad area of crossing.1 They didn’t cross single file, which is probably how we picture it!
This mighty act of God resulted in the people of Israel entering the Promised Land by faith. The priests believed that God would stop the water when they stepped into it because He said He would; the people believed that God had the power to continue holding back the water while they passed on dry land. And so they all stepped out in faith and entered the land of God’s dreams.
It’s amazing to think that their children and their children’s children would somehow forget this story. What a miracle! And yet, God knew their tendency to do just that. So He prepared a memory trigger.
When the entire nation was on the other side, the Lord told Joshua, “Select for yourselves twelve men from the people, one per tribe. Instruct them, ‘Pick up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests stand firmly, and carry them over with you and put them in the place where you camp tonight.’”
Joshua summoned the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one per tribe. Joshua told them, “Go in front of the ark of the Lord your God to the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to put a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the Israelite tribes. The stones will be a reminder to you. When your children ask someday, ‘Why are these stones important to you?’ tell them how the water of the Jordan stopped flowing before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the water of the Jordan stopped flowing. These stones will be a lasting memorial for the Israelites.”
The people went up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month and camped in Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. Now Joshua set up in Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan. He told the Israelites, “When your children someday ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones represent?’ explain to your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you while you crossed over. It was just like when the Lord your God dried up the Red Sea before us while we crossed it. He has done this so all the nations of the earth might recognize the Lord’s power and so you might always obey the Lord your God.”
So that the people would have a memory trigger to help them remember God’s mighty act on their behalf at the Jordan River, He had them set up a pile of stones that came from the very bed of the Jordan, picked up while it was completely dried up by God in preparation for the crossing into the land.
There is also an interesting discussion among scholars about v 9. Look at it real quick.
Verse 9 in my NET Bible says, “Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan in the very place where the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood. They remain there to this very day.” Then, v. 20 says, “Now Joshua set up in Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan.”
Those who translated this Bible felt that since v. 20 says he then set up the stones, that the ones he set up in v. 9 were definitely a different group of stones.
If you have an NIV, it sounds like Joshua was placing the stones that the 12 men took from the river bed. This is not actually in the Hebrew; in fact, most other translations suggest that this was a second pile of stones that Joshua placed actually in the middle of the river bed.
Back to the point—you can probably think of other times when God asked the people to make memory triggers to help them remember. The Passover, which we will quickly look at next week is one. Another trigger is still seen on observant Jews, who wear certain articles of clothing because they believe God ordained them as reminders. The phylacteries on their foreheads and the fringe on their prayer shawls are to trigger their memories of God and His law.
We are to remember the mighty acts of God throughout the ages, not only in the Old Testament but also in the New. The greatest act of God on behalf of the world came at the cross.
God did this mighty act because of an insurmountable obstacle—in this case, our sins block the way to life with God.
Look at Rom. 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Turn over 3 chapters to Rom. 6:23: “For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul tells us that we are all sinners; no one can escape that truthful designation. He describes sin as falling short of the glory of God. We may feel like pretty good people when we compare our lives and our character to that of other people, but the real measure is God Himself. We fall far short of His glory and His greatness. We can never overcome that lack because Paul says that we deserve death for those sins. We can never do enough good or go to church enough or be kind enough to overcome the obstacle of sin that prevents us from life with God here and in heaven. We are blocked by our own shortcomings from reaching the life with Him that He desires for us.
Remember our story of Rahab last week? There was nothing Rahab could do to overcome her past. God had to do it. There is nothing we can do to overcome the obstacle of our own sin as we attempt to reach God and enjoy life with Him.
So God had to do it. God reached down to us to give us what we could never get for ourselves—no matter how smart, good, kind, generous, or loving we are. There is no heavenly scale on which our goodness can outweigh our badness for us to be with God. We are so short of the glory of God that no matter how much good we do or how many prayers we say or how much money we give away, God’s side of the balance outweighs us.
So God tipped the scales to our side. He gave us a gift so that the obstacle would be taken away. This was the work of God—Jesus, as God Himself, became a man, died for our sins, and rose from the dead to remove the obstacle.
“For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.”
What was the result?
We enter a life of promise by faith in Jesus.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.”
“The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children– children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.
Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.”
“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
The mighty act of God on behalf of the world at the cross meant that God Himself came to earth to die and remove the obstacle to life with Him. When we believe, not when we go to church or when we feel guilty, but when we believe that Jesus is God who came and died for us, when we trust in Him as our gift instead of relying on our own goodness, we receive Him and His life.
What an amazing gift! What an amazing God! But we have the same problem that Israel did—a memory problem. If we aren’t frequently reminded of the mighty act of God on our behalf, we forget and lose focus in life. We begin to turn to other gods to give us life—gods like beauty, husbands, children, success, and friends.
So God gave us a memory trigger, also—communion, which reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice for the life we now have and our future with Him
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
So that we always remember this mighty act of Jesus on our behalf, we participate in eating the bread and drinking the cup. Today we will do so together.
If you have trusted in Jesus and believe in His work on your behalf, not trying to please God yourself but throwing yourself on the mercy that Jesus gives through His death, you are welcome to partake of this bread and cup if you desire. Feel free to let it pass if you are more comfortable doing so. We remember together His mighty act on our behalf. If you are still on the journey of discovering who Jesus is and what He offers you, we ask you to simply pass it on.
If you want to participate in this memorial and remembrance, follow your leader and do what she does. If you are the leader at the table, please break a piece of bread and pass the rest around. All of you who want to participate, break a piece for yourself until we all have them. Hold them in your hands, and remember Jesus’ work on your behalf in coming to earth and dying for you.
Luke described the first time Jesus told them to remember Him this way in Luke 22:
“Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”’
Ladies, now take and eat the bread in remembrance of Jesus.
Now, leaders, take the cup on front of you. Hold them in your hands, ladies, and think about the death that Jesus died for you so that the obstacle of sin was removed from your relationship with God.
“And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”
Together let’s now drink the cup, remembering the mighty work He did by pouring out His blood for you.
God calls us to remember His mighty acts, just as He called the Israelites to remember His opening the way to the Promised Land by removing the obstacle of the flooded Jordan. We are to remember Jesus’ opening the way to a promised life with God by removing the obstacle of our sins.
But there is more to remember. God is always at work on our behalf, and if you are to remember His mighty acts on your behalf day-by-day, I suggest you have a memory trigger.
What mighty act of God do you need to remember? What obstacle has He removed? What prayer has He answered? What mighty deeds has He done for you? What door has He opened?
You may need to spend some time with God for Him to show you something that you have forgotten. Or you may know right now what God has done that you need to mark by a memory trigger. I have brought each of us a small stone to use as a memory trigger. I suggest that you put it in a prominent place where it will serve to remind you of that thing that God has done for you. Put it by your sink where you see it each day; put it in your coin purse so you notice it each time you get out change; put it on your desk where you spend time working.
Throughout the Old Testament, God was called the Rock. I think it’s fitting that we look at a stone to remember what God, our Rock, has done for us.
You may want to use it to remember how much God loves you so much that Jesus came and died so that you can be totally forgiven of the old life you had, just as Rahab was. You may to use it to remind you of His faithfulness to you in an answered prayer when He healed you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. What is a Jordan River crossing in your life?
You can choose other memory triggers as God does things for you. I have on a necklace that has the name of God el roi on it. That name means “the God who sees,” and comes from a story of Hagar. Years ago there was a hard time in my life when I relied upon el roi, knowing that He saw everything that had happened to me and would bring truth to light. Later that year I had the opportunity to buy this necklace in Israel and I bought it to always remind me of God’s mighty deeds in my day-to-day life.
Remember God’s mighty acts. Do what He called Israel to do at the Jordan and prepare a memory trigger so that you always remember what He has done on your behalf.