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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hey, What's This Pile of Stones?

I was reading in Joshua and came across this very beginning part of the story, before the conquering of Jericho. Before the marching and the trumpets, the whole multitude of the people of Israel had to cross the Jordan River. Now, we already know that God can part any river or sea. No problem for Him! So, here’s the second crossing on firm, dry ground—totally orchestrated by our Great God.

God has parted and dried up the Jordan River. All the people have passed over. The priests with the Ark of God stand in the middle of the river until all the people pass.

Now, God commands twelve of them to do something unique. They’re to go half of the way back into the riverbed. Let’s read: Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.

Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

The twelve men don’t hesitate. And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.

The leader, Joshua, went with them. He had his own memorial to build. In fact, he set up his own twelve stones. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.

The other stones are carried to Gilgal and put up (KJV pitched) as a memorial. And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever (Joshua 4:2-9, 20-24).

The purpose of this whole stone carrying and piling exercise? It’s a memorial to God’s power and greatness!

But it’s a lot more than that; it’s a teaching opportunity for generations to come. When a child asks, “What’s this pile of rocks?” the parent can say, “Our God is so great. These stones were taken from the middle of the Jordan River, just before God gave us the Promised Land. God parted the river and everyone walked over on dry land. Not only that, but God parted the Red Sea for us, too!” And so, the stories of God’s deliverance and greatness are passed from generation to generation.

There are other memorial stones in the Bible:
  • Jacob erected his pillow stone, anointed it with oil, and renamed the place Bethel, “house of God.” (Genesis 28:18-19)
  • On Mount Ebal, the place of cursing, stones bore the Law of God as a memorial and to provide an altar for sacrifice. (Deuteronomy 27:4-8)
  • Joshua put a stone of witness up under the oak tree by the sanctuary of the LORD. (Joshua 24:26-27)
  • Samuel raised his Ebenezer. It was a testimony of God’s help and leadership. (1 Samuel 7:12)


I’m wondering what’s my pile of stones?

What’s my memorial to God’s greatness in my life?

What's a witness to my children and grandchildren that God has blessed me, that He's provided for me, that He has led me and helped me?

“Hey, Grandma, what’s this pile of stones?”

“Well, it’s a long story. . . .”

And I tell my grandson how God has blessed my life and how good He is. I tell him how God led Grandpa and me to Spain and confirmed it to us. I tell him about God’s leadership and deliverance and blessing. I tell him the stories of his heritage.

And the story always ends the same way: praising God for His greatness.

Do you have a pile of stones? I hope so.

Share your story today.


  1. Lou Ann, thank you for posting this. This Bible story has always fascinated me. As a land surveyor, I still encounter stone cairns today which mark boundary corner of large tracts of land. Whether for memorials, or for altars, or for markers, stone piles are always established with a purpose. When Sharon and I work in Awanas with K-2 graders, we held annual Saturday hikes at our church's camp (Hidden Meadows). On one particular year, we asked all the 30 or so kids to bring a rock from home. They did - some small, some big, and a few very large (one Dad brought one in his pickup truck which his son couldn't possibly have lifted). We assembled them all into a pile and reviewed this very Bible passage with them. The idea was that we hoped to find the stone pile still intact the following year. The very next year, we found the stone pile flattened and many stones scattered, but it still gave us cause to remember why they were there, and of course to remember the story of Joshua leading Israel across the Jordan River. Your post reminded me of that fun memory. So, as you can see, I have a literal pile of rocks to tell of, which in turn I hope was a spiritual pile of rocks for the kids. Thanks for the post which gives me good memories!

    1. How very fascinating! What a great idea, especially at a Christian camp! Thank you so much for sharing! God bless you, Dave.


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