What Do These Stones Mean?

The people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. Then they camped at Gilgal, just east of Jericho. It was there at Gilgal that Joshua piled up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River. Then Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘In the future your children will ask, “What do these stones mean?” Then you can tell them, “This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.”  For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”—Joshua 4:19–24 (NLT, emphasis added)

“Watch this!” Has anyone ever said these words to you? Have you ever said them to someone? With certainty, I can say, “Yes” to both. My son and daughter constantly get my attention by saying, “Daddy, watch this!” And what usually follows is something they consider an awesome accomplishment, like a sweet lightsaber technique or a mega jump over a pillow. 

Why do we do this stuff? Because we want people to respect and admire us. Sometimes we do these things to show people that we are well-equipped to meet their needs. It’s the reason people hang degrees on the walls of their office. In the same way, a demonstration of one’s vast abilities is sometimes used to intimidate an opponent or competitor. Every once in a while, I’ll see a dude at the gym benching 500+ pounds and I find myself both impressed and intimidated. 

In today’s passage, Joshua tells the Israelites what to say to future generations about the stones on the west bank of the Jordan. Basically, this is where God showed the entire world, like He did with the Red Sea, just how powerful and incomparable He is. 

Word travels, friends. When amazing things take place, people talk. And as we’ll see later in Joshua, neighboring countries and even nations from far away heard the awe-inspiring stories “of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan” (Joshua 9:9–10 NIV). 

But there was more to it . . . As the JFB commentary states, “The pile was designed to serve a double purpose—that of impressing the heathen with a sense of the omnipotence of God, while at the same time it would teach an important lesson in religion to the young and rising Israelites in after ages.” That lesson? Live in fear and reverence of the Lord—the One who is “majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders” (Exodus 15:11 NIV), whose loving devotion and faithfulness endure forever, whose power has no equal, who is most high over all the earth. The lesson was to always remember who the Lord is, what He did for His people, and to worship Him for all time. 
Friends, the lesson is the same for us, only more amazing and miraculous than parting a body of water. Our God parted the sea of judgment through the work of Jesus so we could cross the great divide, be spared of His righteous judgment, and enter into His kingdom, the eternal Promised Land. May we never forget this; may we always live in fear and reverence of the God who saved us from sin and death.

DIG: What was the two-fold reason given by Joshua for the 12-stone memorial?

DISCOVER: How is God using your life to say to the non-believer, “Watch this”? How is your life serving as a monument to His saving power? 

DO: Do two things today . . . 1. Evaluate your witness. Do people see you as a monument to the power of God to save? Is the light of Christ shining through you or have you hidden your lamp under a basket (Matthew 5:15 NIV)? If so, consider ways you can bring that light out from under the basket and display it for people to see Christ through you. 2. Offer prayers and praises of thanksgiving today to the Lord for who He is and what He’s done for you.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.