On Memorial Stones

I just recently wrote up my story of how God reached down and pulled me out of a miry pit. While I have told my salvation story on various occasions in the past, I had never actually gotten around to writing it down. The posting of some pics of myself from my BC days (Before Christ) resulted in many asking me to give my testimony.

So after a mere 41 years since my conversion I finally spent some time and wrote it up. After around ten hours I managed to do a four-part article of some 9000 words. The story of how I was transformed from a very messed up leftist radical to a disciple of Christ can be found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/06/27/coming-home-my-testimony-part-1/

I did this not just to satisfy the pleas of a few friends, but because it is important to tell everyone about the great things God has done in our lives. This is quite biblical in fact. For example, Scripture speaks of memorial stones – markers to remind people of God’s great saving acts in the past.

A classic example of this can be found in Joshua 3-4. In chapter three we have the famous story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership. And in chapter four we have the story of how Yahweh commanded his people to take 12 memorial stones from the river bed and set them up as memorials. Joshua 4:19-24 puts it this way:

On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

As M. H. Woudstra comments, “To symbol-oriented easterners the action commanded would hardly need further elucidation. Nevertheless, the account adds an immediate explanation, thereby showing the great significance it would have for future generations. The stones will be a sign among you…. its function will be active, not remote or inoperative. Its primary purpose is for the future, when later your children ask you. The language is reminiscent of Exod. 12:26-27; Deut. 6:20-25. God’s acts of salvation on his people’s behalf must be perpetuated in the memory of coming generations.”

Indeed, the idea of parents passing on stories of what God has done to their children is a common one in the Old Testament, with Deuteronomy 6 being a main instance of this. We are to pass on our faith to the next generation, especially our children, and what Joshua was commanded to do is a great illustration of this.

Consider especially Deut 6:1-2, 6-7: “These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life…. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

The memorial stones from the Jordan River certainly serve this purpose well. And we have similar things elsewhere in the Old Testament, as in Gen 28:10-22, where we read of Jacob’s dream and the memorial pillar which he erected (see also Gen 31:10-13). Again, these memorials are there to remind both the person and his offspring about the great deeds of God as he acted on his behalf.

We all have stories to tell about God and his goodness and greatness, and obviously our salvation testimonies are a big part of this. Whether we had a dramatic conversion experience or a less pronounced one, we all can tell our stories. Everyone should record their own story, even if it does not seem as dramatic or spectacular as that of others.

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones rightly said, “We tend to think that some conversions are more remarkable than others. But they are not. It takes the same grace of God to save the most respectable person in the world as the most lawless person in the world. Nothing but the grace of God can save anybody, and it takes the same grace to save all.”

Whether it is an account of how we first came to Christ, or some story of God moving mightily in our lives as a believer, we all have important stories to tell. And one’s testimony can never be fully argued with or denied. Sure, sceptics can try to dismiss it, belittle it, or seek to explain it away, but it stands nonetheless. We have this very truth illustrated in John 9, with the blind man healed by Jesus.

The Pharisees are giving him a hard time and seeking to discredit Jesus. In vv. 24-25 we read this neat exchange between the two: “A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth,’ they said. “We know this man is a sinner.’  He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’”

We can all say that: all I know is I once was blind, but now I see. That is true of all of us who come to faith in Christ, and find our spiritual blindness cured by the work of Jesus. So I encourage you to start writing down what God has done for you, as a memorial stone.

It will encourage you during times of doubt or discouragement, and it will encourage others along the way. But you will also be leaving a legacy for your children and grandchildren. So get those pens out, or keyboards, or camcorders, and start putting into a more permanent form your testimony of God’s grace.

[1116 words]

4 Replies to “On Memorial Stones”

  1. Thank you Bill
    Yes I like this post; it has warmness about it.
    I wrote mine 3 years after my conversion so that’s 7 years ago.
    Here’s the crunch, I’ve never let anybody read it. It’s no big deal to God what I’ve done before as long as I come to him in with a completely repentant heart He will accept anyone. It sad though to think over the years I have once or twice, shared with a fellow brother or sister at church that I in fact came to know the Lord in prison. Usually I wish I hadn’t known everyone’s not like that, but in this PC world people in the church are much like the world.
    But again thanks Bill for all your work.
    Daniel Kempton

  2. Psalm 78:4
    We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
    the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.

    John Angelico

  3. I am grateful for my mother who always brought me to Church with her when she went and as a result I was able to be saved at a young age, I was 6 years old when I came to know Christ as my personal saviour. Some day I will meet her again, hopefully when the Lord comes and not when I die.
    Ian Nairn

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