Chuck Allen, Lead Pastor
I would imagine that like me, there have been times in your life that you just couldn’t grasp hold of and cling to the promises of God. There have been seasons in my life…and I feel like I’ve been living one of those seasons…Where I feel the desperate need to take control. To get er done and just through sheer willpower make it happen. And in those seasons, I seem to descend backwards in my faith and life as if I had been shoved off the Empire State Building with no parachute. This must have been the ongoing saga of the Israelites post plagues and exodus of Egypt.
Forty years of wandering, doubting, then believing again, running back to idols only to return to the God that had parted the Red Sea for them, provided manna for them, protected and guided them…over and over and over. If they had held elections for their national leader, one might hear the phrase “Make Israel Great Again”.
This is one of the climactic events in all of biblical history. The Israelites had waited forty years, but now the time had come. It must have been a powerful moment as they stride across the riverbed of the Jordan, opened for them by the miraculous power of God. Behind them, they leave the wearying decades of wandering around in a barren wilderness and the tragic memories of countless funerals for an entire generation of people who would not trust God’s promises. Slavery in Egypt and the bare survival of nomadic life are bygone experiences now.
It is time…
A new and welcome chapter opens before them! Before them lay a land richer than their dreams, more fruitful than their hopes, and more beautiful than their imagination. Now it is theirs by God’s steadfast promise.
It must have felt surreal to finally stand in Canaan, kind of like when you unlock the door to your first home or you crank up your first brand new car. You’ve envisioned it, planned for it, imagined what you will do with it…but when you step in that front door, or sit in that new car – your emotions soar! To be the fulfillment of an ancient promise to Father Abraham must have been overwhelming to these people.
Imagine the promise of this day had been a distant story to share around the tables and campfires for 4 decades and then some!.
Their joy had been challenged by recent events. When they arrived at the Jordan, they found it is flood stage, menacing in its speed and dangerous for what it concealed. The jungle-like growth covered by the rapid current left Israel stalled out and in need of a miracle once again. The river was impassible, its crossing impossible.
But God stepped into their story and writes a narrative, just as He wants to in our lives!
They’re so close – There would have to be a miracle that paralleled the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt. And indeed God showed up once again and rolled back the waters of the Jordan River, just as He had done with the Red Sea.
God meant what He had said through Moses years before. Here was His signature again, in the same way, to assure His people that He was good to His word.
So today…what do you need God to do in your life? What river do you need God to part for you?
I imagine there were songs and shouts as God’s people worshiped and praised Him. But there was also one important act that calls for our attention this morning. After Israel crossed, God gave Joshua some very specific instructions, recorded in Joshua 4:1-3: After the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, “Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them, ‘Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests’ feet are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.’ “
Joshua did exactly what he was told, sending these select 12 men back to the riverbed of the Jordan where they were to bring back 12 stones—stones that at one point were buried, unreachable, covered by a challenge to the faith of God’s people, but were now divinely accessible.
Twelve men hoisted those stones to their shoulders from Jordan’s floor and then piled them together in the Promised Land, by God’s command. They were stacked there as a sign, an unmistakable marker at the very place where God had demonstrated His power to overcome any obstacle to His will.
Because stones don’t naturally stack, there would come a day when Israel’s children would ask for an explanation for this phenomenon. Here’s the answer God wants the next generation to know: “Tell them the story,” says God in v. 7, “of how the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.”
Verses 23-24 add, For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.”
This is what happens when the impossible meets the promises of God. This is the outcome when the implausible comes up against the power of God found only in our personal relationship and community with Jesus, the Lord!
Maybe we wander and doubt and forget the promises of God because we have chosen to walk away from His desired plan for our life and we couldn’t find our way back because we never built a memorial – an altar – to help us remember the power and promises of God. Maybe we need to take a journey back to our point of Faith and build a altar to walk by everyday reminding us to return to God, our Heavenly Father and take Him at His word…But – What do these stones mean?
Altars are Not About Us – Seeing that rock pile and hearing the story, the people of Israel would know clearly that they had not crossed Jordan on their own. Those stones cried out, “God did this! By His hand we have forded this river. By His power and faithfulness we have accomplished this!”
So might this memorial stand to speak to us all. Let it remind us that Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor over it in vain Psalms 127:1. Let the act of our devotion – the building of an altar come back to strengthen us that it truly is “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,” says the LORD of hosts. Zechariah 4:6.
From start to finish, from every dollar given to every child baptized into faith – From every song that is sung to every student receiving a backpack full of food – From every Group that meets to grow spiritually to every Haitian orphan that will sleep with a full belly tonight – From every Man at Man Church to every Woman in a Bible Study or Simply Christmas – From every school that needs our help to Refuge Coffee in Clarkston – let God be all in this place!
Let us never forget that this is all about HIM!
God Has a Purpose for Us – Joshua told Israel that the stones would serve as a reminder that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, “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 4:24
Let no one be confused. We have no mission here but Jesus crucified, Risen, Coming Again and about His Work to Serve every single day!. These buildings aren’t memorials to us, but to Him! We exist to love and worship God and make Him known by all means available to us. Sugar Hill Church exists, not to make us comfortable or proud, but for the Glory of God and the sharing of the life giving message of Jesus!!!!!
And these stones are to remind us that…
We must change if we want to go with God
The stones out of the Jordan marked the movements of God among His people. They speak of the willingness of a people to leave what they had known in order to go with God, to face challenges to their faith, to step into the water, to believe in what they could not see.
Yeah, they messed up, they doubted,they wandered, they blew it…Just like us!
Hear me, Church: Between the reality of the dream God has planted in our hearts and where we are now, there stands some daunting boundaries. We can’t humanly see how God will do it, but we believe He is faithful. It’s time to venture with God into His future for us.
We must not slow up or slow down. This world is a mess and God has assignments for us. Assignments that matter and are eternal – Look to this memorial in the days ahead and hear the message they preach: This is all about God and His glory; it is about the Gospel purpose for which we exist; it is about the challenge to change so that God can use His church – This Church. I know we can reach more, serve more, love more through the power of Jesus, the question is will we?
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