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Jack Graham - What Do These Stones Mean?

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    Jack Graham - What Do These Stones Mean?
TOPICS: Series: Forward

I invite you to take God's Word and turn with me in your Old Testament to the book of Joshua and the third chapter. And I have a big assignment in front of me today. But to cover two great chapters in the book of Joshua. And the theme that we have in front of us is a big challenge. Defining moments are moments in our lives that we never forget. And all of us have had those kinds of moments. And when we look back those defining moments, we celebrate. But big days! And, of course, that includes the deaths and experiences in our lives, both dramatic and perhaps, normal daily experiences. People and places in your life. New beginnings in your life. The day you became a parent for the first time. The day you became a grandparent for the first time.

I can tell all of you right now that there is nothing, I'm a grandparent now eight times over, there is nothing hardly in life that compares to holding your children's children for the first time. Just get ready! Can I get a witness from all the grandparents here today. I mean holding your children's children, that is an amazing thing! So we celebrate these kinds of things. So you can begin thinking right now before we even get to our text, about some of those big moments in your life. Life changing moments. A defining moment, someone said, is a point in your life when you are urged to make a pivotal decision or when you experience something that fundamentally changes you. And not only changes you, but as followers of Jesus, changes you and your family forever.

So we talked about coming to the Jordan River. Israel has been in the desert, wandering for 40 years. An entire generation has died out, and now a new generation is ready to take the land that God has given them, the Promised Land. And remember, the promised land for us as believers today, is the promise life that God has given us. This life of abundance, this life of blessing that we've been promised in Christ. And to live a victorious Christian life. Not defeated by circumstances or conditions in our lives, but living in the abundance that is Christ.

It doesn't mean that it's always easy; that there are not battles that we fight. Certainly, Israel when they crossed over into the land of promise, there were big battles to fight and enemies to defeat. And when we cross over into this promised life in Jesus Christ, there are certain burdens we bear and battles that we fight. So it's not perfect. It won't be perfect until we get to heaven. And we do know the end of the story, as we sang earlier. Right? We do know the end of the story because in the end of the story we are going to be in His presence forever.

Now I want to talk to you about these miraculous moments in our lives, momentous moments in our lives, when we cross over into the blessing of God. The big problem that Israel was facing that day, that you could be facing, is that there was a big river right in front of them. It was the Jordan River and it was the spring season, the harvest season and so the river was swollen and it was a raging river, and they had no human way in order to get to the other side. So how is Joshua going to lead the people across this raging river? Something supernatural is about to happen. Miraculously that river is going to part and the people are going to walk over on dry ground. Just a 40 years earlier they walked through the Red Sea on dry ground, God is giving now a new generation a miracle of their own.

And so, if you're going to experience this miracle in your life and the supernatural power of God to get you where you are and into the future that God has planned for you. We discovered earlier in this text that you're going where you've never been before. You've never passed this way before. You have a past, but you have a future, and maybe you're concerned about your future. Maybe you don't know what's going to happen next. Maybe you have questions about what God is doing in your life right now. And you need the hand of God to move; you need to see God move in your life. So how do you do that? Well, we saw initially that we are to prepare our hearts; we are to prepare ourselves for what God is going to do. The Scripture says "Sanctify yourself". Joshua 3, "Dedicate yourself, consecrate yourself unto God for tomorrow the Lord is going to do wonders among you".

So get ready to move and get ready for the miracle by preparing yourself spiritually in prayer, in devotion, in dedication, and get yourself ready to go to the other side. That's what we talked about last week. But there's a second thing that we all need to do and that is to focus on Christ by following the Ark of God. Now here's where we're going to read the scripture.

Now, we're going to put it on the screen in case you need it, but I would encourage you to look at it with me in your Bibles if you have a copy of God's Word, beginning in verse 8 of Joshua 3. Here we go. "And as for you, command the priests who bear the Ark of the Covenant, 'When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan,' And Joshua said to the people of Israel, 'Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.'" Very critical that we hear from God; that we listen to God. "And Joshua said, 'Here is how you shall know that the living God...'". Don't you love that? We serve a living Lord, a risen Savior! Our God is alive! And he said you shall look to this God: "among you and the He will without fail".

How many of you know that God is faithful. That He has never failed you yet! "And without fail he will drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites" (and the termites and... No... But verse 11, "Behold, the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan". You haven't been there yet, but God is already there in your future and God is leading you forward. That's the title of this series. "Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man".

That is, these men would represent the 2-3 million people. They were unified together and going across. So twelve from each tribe, one man from each tribe. "And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap. And so when the people set out from their tents (Remember, these are Nomads living in the desert) to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the Ark (watch this!) as soon as those bearing the Ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the Ark were dipped in the brink of the water".

Now the Jordan overflows all it's banks throughout the time of harvest. So this was a courageous move of their part to step in, to move forward. "And the waters coming down from above stood up and rose in a heap from far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those blowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah (that's the Dead Sea, the Salt Sea) were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. (That is, they went through) Now the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan". That's an epic story! And they experienced this miracle, a miracle that enabled them to cross over into the land that God had given them.

Now the question is: What in the world is this about? What is it really about? It's more than the miracle; it's about something you see in front of me today. Have you been noticing that there's an Ark of the Covenant up here? Say, "What is that golden box"? Now boys and girls, when we speak about the Ark, we're not talking about Noah's ark at this point, but this is the Ark of the Covenant. And it is epic in Israel's history and it's also, I guess, epic in movie history from The Raiders of the Lost Ark and Obi-Wan Kenobi, all of that group. But that is fiction... this is fact, the children of Israel possessed this Ark and the Ark was made of wood and overlayed with gold. There are two cherubim, angels on the top, the Mercy Seat where God and man met.

And inside this box, if I opened this box right now, the elements are there that the Israelites carried from place to place in the wilderness, ultimately to place in the Tabernacle where they worshiped God, and then in the Temple in the holy place, the Holy of holies. The Ark of the Covenant went everywhere the people of God would go and led them forward. Inside the Ark of the Covenant were memories from the past, important memories from the past. One was the Law of God, the Tablets, the Ten Commandments. And then there was the rod of Aaron that budded miraculously. And then there was a pot of manna. God's children, Israel were miraculously fed in the wilderness with manna, a divine bread that God sent them for provision each day.

So what you have inside this ark are the Law of God and on top of the Ark was the mercy of God, the Mercy Seat. You have the Law of God and the love of God represented in this Ark, so you have God's precepts in the Law. Then with the rod that budded, you had God's power, a demonstration of God's power that they carried with them. And then the pot of manna, a demonstration of God's provision. And so we have all of that in Christ. In fact, you're going to discover that the Ark is all about Jesus. The Ark represents Jesus Himself. You have God's provision, God's power and God's principles or God's precepts. This Ark, by the way, beautifully done, is provided by one of our wonderful members he created this. It's half-size. The actual Ark is twice the size of this, so this is half-scale.

If you had a full Ark, it would be about the size of this pulpit. This weights, actually weighs 100 pounds, so I suppose the Ark weighed around 200 pounds. And you see the poles that are here. And people would then, would carry the Ark with the children of Israel through the desert, then through the Red, or then through the Jordan River, and then throughout the land of promise. Got it? That's what it is, but what does it mean? Jesus is the Ark. And God led the children of Israel to take that Ark on these poles and the priests to start. And it did take some courage to step into the water before it was splitting open. So these priests led the way, and as they carried the Ark, the waters began to divide. And in the midst of the Jordan River, they were separated from the people by design by about 3000 yards. And so it was about a half a mile.

Why the separation? So that everyone could see it. All these people could look and see the Ark. There was also a sense of a need to separate the Ark from the people. The Ark was going before them. You know, we need reverence for God in our generation, a fear of Almighty God. Not a fear that causes us to run from Him but that causes us to run to Him and run for Him. The fear of the Lord. And so, you know, God's not your homeboy. Jesus is not your buddy, but He's the holy God that we worship. "Hallowed be Your name". Jesus taught us to pray. And so while God is a Father who loves us in sympathy and security and holds us dear, our Father is the holy God. So when I see this Ark out separated, I realize that there is a uniqueness. In fact, there were people in the Old Testament who actually died just touching the Ark inappropriately. Because the Ark (are you listening?) the Ark represents the presence and the power of God.

And so to get to the other side of wherever we're going in our lives, we must look to the Ark. Hark, the Ark! We must keep our eyes focused on God. In the New Testament we're told in the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 1 that we are "looking unto Jesus who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith". So with all the resolutions that we make and all the dreams that we have, we really have one job as followers of Jesus and that is to keep our eyes on the Ark, to keep our eyes on God, to keep our eyes fastened and fixed on our Lord as we go forward. Because with all the distractions and things, and all the fears... Can you imagine? I mean, this has never happened before.

These children of Israel were brave and bold and they were following their commander Joshua, but ultimately, they were believing God for a miracle in their lives! And the miracle comes. Remember what a miracle is? Something that God does that you can't explain; without explanation, without human experience or effort. When God's hand moves, we know it is Him and we know it's Him because we're looking to Him and we're believing Him. He makes a way for us. I love the words that my friend Don Moen wrote years ago: "God will make a way when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see; because I know my God will make a way for me. He will be my guide and hold me closely to His side with love and strength for each new day. He will make a way; He will make a way".

So as you look at your uncharted paths right in front of you, when you look at perhaps obstacles like a big river that looks uncrossable, you need a miracle; you need God to move in your life? Get your eyes on Jesus. Keep your eyes on the power and the presence of God in your life and move forward. Just keep trusting God. You will, listen to this you will never go anywhere God has not gone before you. And He is faithful. We sang earlier "The Goodness of God". It's a great song; I love it. Most mornings I get up, get a cup of coffee and say to my friend, "Alexa, play The Goodness of God". And I start my day with those words. And I love that part of it when it says, "His goodness, His mercy is running after me".

You see, it's not only before us, but it's behind us. And we're going to get to that in just a second, but, you know, really the only reason we should be looking back is to see the goodness and the grace of God that has followed us all the days of our life. "Surely," the psalmist says, "goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever". So really, the only real good reason to look back too much is just to see those mercies of God that are chasing after us every single day and to give thanks for the faithfulness of God and the goodness of God in our life. Amen? Okay, so now, so focus on the Ark, focus on Jesus. If you want to cross over, if you want the miracle for God to move, and then when you cross over, when you get there, God says, stacks some stones. "Okay, what do you mean, Pastor"?

Well, look in chapter 4 of Joshua, and you're going to have to look and read fast because I told you 30 minutes and we're rounding third right now. All right? But I want to tell you this because it's very important. I want to show you this. So what happened when they got over to the other side when God gave them the miracle they needed: "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 (Remember, the Jordan is dry now. So He said, Go out, get twelve stones), 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".'" That place was called Gilgal which means a circle. So they were camped, they were circled up.

And Joshua, this is verse 4, "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 (this is a big 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'", okay, are you ready for this? "When your children ask in time to come, 'What do these stones mean?' when you 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".

And he said to the people of Israel, "When your children ask their fathers", Pay attention, dads! I mean, it goes for moms, too. But, dads, listen to this! When your children ask their daddies in times to come, "'What do these stones (that you have stacked up here) mean?' then you shall let your children know, 'Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.' For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over". And then, watch this.

Verse 24, "so that all the peoples of the earth", tell your family, tell your children 'till the whole world hears, "so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of God is mighty so that you may fear the Lord your God forever". Hallelujah! That is our calling now because we have come through to the other side, we have followed Jesus. We have safely arrived to a place that God has promised us, and now God says, "Stack up some stones" It's a monument, it's a memory. We do this in America, of course. Go to Washington D.C. This is president's week, look at the Lincoln Monument and the Washington Monument. The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument. There's the Jefferson and many other memorials that you see there, in Washington D.C. and other places.

We have statues, we have symbols, we have stationed various kinds of symbols and memorials all over this building and around this building as markers and memories of what God has done. You see it in the stain glass, you see it in the statues out front, you see it in what has happened in the past and is memorialized. You see miracles turn to memories, and memories to memorials. What's He saying to us? "Stack some stones". Always testify what God has done in your life. Never forget to point out blessings of God upon you and your family. And dads and moms, we have this incredible opportunity to raise up another generation so that when our children ask us, "Why do you follow Jesus"? Or "What is God done in your life"? "Why are we here"?

When your children ask you the big questions of life, you can point them to Jesus and you can tell them of the One who saved you, the One who's changed you. You know, it's important that we have markers and memories. We even keep them around our house. You know, things that happened in the past. Maybe some are trophies. Well, God has given us trophies from the heart, victories that we have won in Christ. And, yes, let's share the good times; let's share the joy with our children of all the victories that we have, the successes in life and all the rest. But God has called every man and every woman in this place to tell their children, and then ultimately, our children's children of the God who is to be loved and followed.

This is on us, dear people! This is on you and me. We are only one generation away from the end of Christianity as we know it unless we tell our families and teach our children well. And then beyond our families, as I read that last verse, so that the whole world will know. This is what we do, because He said, "Go into all the world and make disciples". Go everywhere, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We've seen miracles. I've seen many miracles in my life and so have you, when God answered that prayer; when God gave you that open door and opportunity, when God took you places you never imagined you would go, when God blessed you with those children, when God blessed you with a family, when God moved in you in your life and brought you back to Him.

You were, maybe you were away from God, a long way away. You were a prodigal, living far from God. But He chased you down and His mercy and His love wouldn't let you go, and it was a miracle and yet a new beginning in your life. Stacks of stones tell the story. Let people know what Jesus has done in your life. So you want a miracle in your life? When your children ask, "What do these stones mean"? you tell them about the Ark, you tell them about Jesus, tell them about what He's done in your life so that in God's plan and God's purposes for them, they will carry the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ from generation to generation.
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