And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV)
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.’” 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.”
And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the Lord told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day. Joshua 4:1-9 (ESV)
When life is good, remember the Lord. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with enjoying life that we forget to thank God and know that it is only by His grace and by His hand that we live and that we can enjoy life, family and creation. The mountaintop experiences are amazing, but for the most part we live life in the valleys. We set up our remembrances while we are on the mountaintop so that we can reflect when times are not so good, and say, “Look what God has done for us.” We don’t generally put stones in rivers, but we do take pictures and buy souvenirs. Sometimes we leave something of ourselves behind- a signature, or a coin, or a dollar bill with a catty saying scribbled on it, so that others will know we were there. Son of Thurman’s in Delaware has dollar bills with various scribbling and signatures on them all over the dining room- on the seats, the walls, everywhere, there are commemorations of visits from people from time past. We can see who was there in July of 2014 or March of 2009.
We put up memorials to commemorate those who served in the military and have parades so we will not forget them or their service to our country. We celebrate the building of new homes and buildings. Often the owners or contractors of a building will set up some sort of plaque to remember who funded the building and for what purpose it is dedicated.
God commanded the Israelites to set up the twelve stones in the Jordan so they would not forget what He has done for them, to commemorate their passing into the Promised Land.
What kinds of things do we celebrate? As a nation, as a church, as a family? How do we celebrate when life is good?
God has shown love and mercy to our ancestors, and He shows His love to us, just as He did to the twelve tribes of Israel.
We don’t need to be afraid of the things that seem so much larger than us- people who don’t have our best interests at heart, bad circumstances, things that would defeat us, because God is with us. He is with us when we celebrate, and when we mourn.
God is our refuge- Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8 (ESV)
God, Our Mighty Fortress – Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy- Psalm 61:1-3 (ESV)
God is good when life is good.
God is good when we remember where we came from. Our families are important. Our faith is often handed down and strengthened through our family, whether we share genetic bonds or simply bonds of the heart.
We share our good times and remember our victories with our families. We commemorate events and memorialize them together as a culture, as a country and as families. We celebrate holidays and birthdays- and special days like today (Father’s Day) together. As God’s family, the church, we remember God’s story that has been written down for us in Scripture. We learn that ultimately God is the hero of the story, no matter the circumstances and no matter who the characters in the story may be.
Most importantly, we know the end of the story. God wins! Jesus won when He died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead. We will be with Him to celebrate His victory over sin, death and the devil, forever in the new heaven and new earth. God is preparing us for life forever with him even as we live in this world of now, but not yet.
There are more celebrations coming for those who have faith in God. The apostle John was shown a glimpse of the new heaven and the new earth as he tells us in the book of Revelation:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)
We may not be able to imagine exactly what our future life and joy with the Lord may look like, but we can trust that it will be good. Even as we celebrate the joys and mourn the sorrows of this life here and now, we hold on to the promises of God. We trust God like Abraham trusted God, like David trusted God, not because we are such fantastic people, but because God is faithful. God is good, all the time.