Beth Moore — A Memorial in the Middle
Joshua chapter 4. I'm gonna read verses 1 through 18. Let me give you a little bit of background. For 40 solid years, the children of Israel have been in the desert, in the wilderness, having been set free out of the wonders and mighty works of God from their oppression and slavery in Egypt to go to the land that God had promised to their forefather, Abraham, way back in Genesis chapter 12 and this would be the generation that would get to go in and take the Promised Land.
One thing was between them and their land of promise and it was the Jordan River. And I wanna say something to you as we get started here together. This will always be the case. That whatever stands between you and your land of promise will always be at flood stage. It will always threaten to drown you, it will always threaten to take you completely under, because if you thought you could do it, it would not be a God thing.
Listen, your land of promise when you and I draw a parallel to the children of Israel, our land of promise is that place, is that ground, in which you and I live. It's not geography as much as it is our theology of faith as we live out disciples on this globe, all over this earth. It is about being in a place where God's promises that were made to you in this new covenant this side of the cross, this side of the Resurrection, this side of the Ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that the promises he made over your life are actively fulfilled.
In other words, that you don't just know that you were an overcomer but you get to live like one. That you get to see some things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. That all the promises he made, that you are chosen and called and you are gifted to bear much fruit, that all of those promises are brought into active fulfillment, not in a land of ease, not in a land without an enemy, but in a land where you bear much fruit. That is your land of promise and there is one for every single person in this room. And what stands between us and getting into that land wherever it may be in your sphere of influence, our lives are gonna bear much fruit, there is gonna be a flood stage river right between us and that place. And the whole question will be will we have guts enough to step our feet into those flooded waters.
Read with me, Joshua chapter 4, verse 1: "When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 'Take 12 men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, Take 12 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 12 men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe". Verse 5: "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 these 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. And 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 12 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 12 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. For the priests bearing the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. The people passed over in haste".
I've just gotta stop there for a moment. Don't you suppose they did? I mean, like, wouldn't you kind of like... I just want you to kind of get the feel of that, with the waters pushed back, that there would be something in you with a big... "And the people passed over in haste. "And when all the people had finished passing over, the ark of the Lord and the priests passed over before the people. The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh passed over armed before the people of Israel, as Moses had told them. About 40.000 ready for war passed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho. And on that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life".
15 through 18: "And the Lord said to Joshua, 'Command the priests bearing the ark of the testimony to come up out of the Jordan.' So Joshua commanded the priests, 'Come up out of the Jordan.' And when the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before".
I want you to get a little bit of a look at a map so that you can see the path that they took and it will position us where we need to be as we crack open the words in Joshua chapter 4 and apply them to our present season. So I want you to look at it for just a minute and I wanna see if I can explain it to you. So that Jordan River is of great importance of the Word of God and for many different reasons and a number of different times. But it starts way, way, way up north and it begins at the bottom of Mount Hermon. And it comes from the snows on Mount Hermon and about three different rivers that come in together to form this one Jordan River and it begins to go all the way down through what we would call the Holy Land. And it spills first of all into the Sea of Galilee.
Now, if you know anything about the New Testament and where Jesus lived as a young man and where his ministry began, it would be up around the area of the Sea of Galilee where the disciples were called. That's where they were fishermen, so many of them, James and John and Peter, right there on the edges of the Sea of Galilee. Then the Jordan River's gonna come down south of that and it's gonna continue splitting down through the Holy Land and it's going to empty ultimately into the Salt Sea or the Dead Sea and that is where it stops. So the people of Israel would have been free. They would have taken a very long route but I'm gonna give you essentially what's happened here. They've come up from Egypt. They've gone around the Dead Sea and they're coming over from the east of the Jordan River to the Promised Land that will be on the west.
Now I want you to get this with me because this positioning, this geography, becomes very important to us this weekend, that they are coming up, they have come from Egypt all the way up Moab, around the Dead Sea. They've come up to this place where just across is going to be Jericho and then somewhat past that we would find Jerusalem. But they're standing on this edge and here's what happens on that edge. God has told them — he's given them instructions on — what side of this, tell me what direction this is. Tell me again. What direction? Tell me one more time really loud. What's that? All right, they're on the east side of the Jordan. West, over there, that is the land of promise. They've got the Jordan River and it's completely at flood stage. And he says, "You tell the priests with the ark of the covenant that they're to go step their feet in that water and when they step their feet in that water, that water will begin to part".
So here's what happens because this is a gorgeous thing. There's nothing like the power of a Scripture teaching Scripture when you look in another place in the Word of God and it sheds light, inspired words, God-breathed on that sacred page, and one Scripture sheds light upon another. Do you know that in the book of Deuteronomy 31, verse 3, this is what it says: "The Lord your God himself will go before you". The presence of the Lord your God will go before you. So here's what happens. I want you to imagine that it is the Lord working through this, like I'm gonna work with these scissors, that he goes right through this, that it's not just that the waters are rolling back. It is that God is going across the waters.
Does that make any difference to anybody? Anybody just find any significance in that, that it's his presence that is just going across that water and that he is splitting that water with his own presence and glory? So here's what's gonna happen. When he goes across it, that water begins to fold up. So it's his invisible presence just moving across it. It began to, like, from the winds to heap up on the sides and so the water heaps up on each side and it exposes these rocks. And so he tells them through Joshua, "You tell one leader per tribe that they are to go into that water and they are to pull out a stone of remembrance, a memorial stone, that they are to heap up in the place where you will spend the night".
So that's exactly what they do. Twelve different leaders go into that riverbed and... mind you, these are tens of thousands of people that have crossed over. When we talked about them walking in haste all the way across, these are ten thousands of people. We know that 40.000 of 'em were just soldiers that crossed in front of 'em. So imagine, if that's just the soldiers, how many people were coming behind them? How long did it take? And Joshua, their leader, is watching all of these people go by.
I mean, as far as the eye can see. "When are we to the end? When are we to the end? C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving". How long did it take? We have no idea. The leaders go in. They're commanded, "Take out a stone". They bear them on their shoulder. They bring it out and they're gonna set it up then in Gilgal and they make a memorial there where they stay for the night and they set up their 12 stones, stones of remembrance, so that when their sons ask, "What do these stones mean to you"? They will tell them the story of the wonders of their God whose presence went before them and split the waters so that the people could cross over on dry ground.
I've heard of those 12 stones hundreds of times. I could tell the story from memory to anybody listening. But suddenly, you see, I'm reading out of an English Standard Version and I all at once saw something different. It was different than what I'd read before and I read verse 9 and verse 9 says this, return with me there: "And Joshua set up 12 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". And I was like, "But wait a second". Because that sounds like, to me, it's talking about a second set of 12 stones.
Now because up until the last couple of years I had been in the NIV for many, many years. I love the NIV. Only reason I made a little bit of a switch is just to shake up some of the language just a little bit because I'd studied out of that same translation for so long and loved every minute of it. But I had never read it in a different translation. You're gonna see two versions of verse 9. Holman Christian Standard Bible: "Joshua also set up 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing". Let me read it out of the NET: "Joshua also set up 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan in the very place where the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood".
So two sets of stones, one that is set up in the land of promise, the other one Joshua goes back into the river bed before the waters have come back together and he sets up another one right in the middle of the Jordan. Twelve stones just like that one, that one on the shore, this one remains tucked under those waters that only would show when the river was low. Two memorials, one over here at the goal, the other memorial right here dead in the middle.
You and I are gonna be compiling seven different statements that are gonna help us learn what it means to set up a memorial in the middle and I believe it's gonna speak to you and it has certainly spoken to me. And it begins with number one and this is it: "Stones of remembrance in the MIDDLE shape us far beyond that shore". What I'm telling you is that what happens to us right here, right here, shapes us way over here. That's something when we will take the time to remember what God did right in the middle of the passage from point A to point B that something shapes us right there in the middle of it way past that shore. That is what you and I are building on.
I wanna ask you a question. Anybody here just in the middle of something? I mean, would you just, like, say, "Man, am I ever in the middle? I am in the middle". Anybody in the middle of something big? There's just nothing like the middle. It's not like the beginning, it's not like the end. It means that you're still in the thick of something big and you might say to me, "Well, Beth, we're always in something". No, you know the middle when you're in it. There's no, "Well, I must be in the middle of something". No, no, that's not what I'm talking about. No, what I'm talking about, you know. Like, "I'm in the middle". Like, you'd be able to look around you and go, "Oh, no, I'm in the middle".
Somebody tell me you're in the middle. Anybody? Just in the middle of it. Just in the middle of it. Anybody, in seasons of dramatic transition, when you know there's no going back over here. To what direction was this? Tell me. That you're going... But you're right here in the... And this can get really long. This can get really, really long. But things are happening here that we will tend to forget and you and I are gonna learn how to build a memorial to what our God did for us right in the middle because we'll get so fixated with our past and so fixated on where we wish we were that we do not pay attention to the wonder that is happening to us right there in the middle.
And you and I are gonna learn how to build a memorial, a remembrance to God. We're gonna learn how to wake up to him. Not just think about where I wanna be, not just think about where I have been, but that somehow in this moment, Jesus, reveal yourself to me right here in this moment. You who part these waters, reveal yourself to me. I wanna know you here in this place because, see, if in times of dramatic transition, we do not memorialize, we will either generalize or we will romanticize. If we don't build a memorial and remember what God has done right here then here's what happens. We get way over here and we start to generalize or romanticize.
Could anybody track with me in that? Let's think of a couple of ways we do that. Generalize, here's what we do: "It was awful. I mean, that season was awful. Like, I hated college". Anybody, anybody hear what I'm saying? "It was a blast. "I mean, you cannot believe what... I loved high school. It was a blast". And here's how we go. "It was the worst time of my life. But I tell you, that season of my life, the worst time of my life," or it was, "You know what, I have never had a better time in all of my life". We generalize. It was either awful or it was wonderful.
This is what we older women do to younger women that are moms of really, really small children. We put this on them: "These are the best years of your life". Don't we? And they're just going, "God, help me! Help me! It's downhill from here". I mean, what are we doing to them? They have not slept in months. They are pooped on and puked on every day and, yes, it is precious, yes, it is dear, and no, there's no more living it over again but the thing about it is it isn't all wonderful and it certainly isn't all terrible. It's this glorious concoction of all sorts of things in the life of one human being with her chin turned toward heaven.
Here's what we can say. Doesn't do any good to generalize, "It was awful", "It was fabulous". So it was over the course of even a year it was probably a whole lot of things. For a woman in the course of a month it was opposite things. Opposite things. But what we can say is this. It was a ride. It was a ride. Up and down and around the cul-de-sac 14 times. Broken down on the side of the road, out of gas, going full speed with the top down, hair blowing in the wind. It was a ride.
Recently I had a really, really, really, really, really bad day. And the thing about being an older woman, it's a strange thing to be an older woman, it is. It is. I mean, sometimes, like, you're just, like, minding your own business and you walk in front of a mirror and go... I mean, it's just like... and sometimes I look at my hand on the top of my husband's and I think, "This is my mother and father". It's disturbing. It's disturbing. Sometimes, I just scream at the mirror, "What have you done with my neck? I just want my neck. I want my neck". Anybody know what I just want my neck. I just want it to start there. I want my old neck.
But one of the things that is odd about it, like, at my church, there are only a few people older than me and Keith. I mean, we are the old people at the church. And so when I'm having a really rough time, these are my spiritual daughters and my spiritual little sisters and all. I don't necessarily go to them and say, "Man, I'm having the worst day," but I thought of someone. There was still someone alive on earth that was older than me. And quite a bit. So I was really struggling. I needed somebody to enter in with me and so I texted her and said, "I'm really having a terrible day. I'm deeply discouraged. And I went through this whole thing and everything just feels like it's crashing in on me at the same time," and you know what she wrote me back? "Enjoy the journey". I'm not enjoying the journey! I'm not enjoying the journey! You know, the thing about it was I knew she was right. I knew she was. What she was saying is when you get over here and you're looking back at it, just enjoy it coming. She was absolutely right. But right then, "I am not enjoying the journey"! Does anybody know what I'm talking about? 'Cause right then, it was hard. But on this side, looking back, it's been a thrill.