207.  Gather the stones

It is all about the stones, the rocks of remembrance.  We do so easily forget what God has done for us.  Is mankind any different from the characters in the gory stories of blood and sex in the Book of Judges?  The reproach of the writer of Judges comes early in the narrative:

 When all that generation [talking about Joshua’s generation] had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10)

Really?  How could they forget?  They had their seven annual feasts to remind them of the great works of the Lord, liberating them from slavery in Egypt, bringing them into a land of plenty, already established in the Blood Covenant with Abraham as well as the worship-celebrations linked to his provision through the harvest.  They had the Tabernacle and the whole tribe of Levi to serve their spiritual needs and lead them in the moral  guidance of Jehovah.  They were abundantly warned of the blessings and curses connected to their choices. (Deuteronomy 28 and 30 – lovely chapters to read and rejoice in the extent of God’s blessing while noting the curses as enlightenment in our world and its evil.) 

They had the altar.  The altar that Joshua built on the banks of the Jordan to celebrate and observe the great miracle that brought them triumphantly  into Canaan.  The stones that they gathered from the river floor were clean, soft and round and looked different from the bank stones.  Twelve stones to remember the miracle.  Joshua instructed them well according to the word of the Lord.  

God gave a direct command: Gather the stones, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’   Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:6,7)

What is your memorial, your altar for the time to come?  What happened when the Jordan flooded in 2020, spilling over into 2021?  

Could you run with the horses and cross the flood on dry ground? (Jeremiah 12:5)

Every day we are inundated with information; international news,  community news and worldwide events.  Most of what is presented, is carefully selected to serve the public debate of the day.  It is refined and distilled to support the zeitgeist, the burning agenda of the influencers.  In the process it loses objectivity and sometimes even relevance to the problems in society.  Problems and predicaments are identified and labelled; then magnified to a hysterical screaming anger that is vented in the streets and the halls of democracy to be pressed and pushed on lawmakers and leaders.

We forget ourselves.  In our daily existence, we are so involved in the pressure of having an opinion on various issues that we cannot change or do not concern us.  Are we surrounded by “fools who have no delight in understanding, but in expressing their own hearts?”  (Proverbs 18:2)  It could be that we fall into the trap of voicing an opinion.  Is that not what our vast news sources suggest?

It is that step up, that will make a difference.   A step into a heavenly perspective and a healthy aloofness to the gritty grime of street politics.  Come to the high places with the feet of a deer. (Habakkuk 3:19)  I know I have always interpreted the high places as difficult places, but with more insight I see the high places as a calling up to an elevated lifestyle of excellence – high above the flood on the ancient paths.

“Because My people have forgotten Me, They have burned incense to worthless idols. And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways, From the ancient paths, To walk in pathways and not on a highway, (Jeremiah 18:15)

Proverbs advise further:

When the wicked comes, contempt comes also;
And with dishonor comes reproach.

The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters;
The wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook. 
(18:3,4)

In the Old Testament water is associated with the work of the Holy  Spirit.  Could we rely on him for our words every day?  God promises that He will pour water on him who is thirsty and floods on the dry ground. (Isaiah 44:3)  The dry ground of our thinking and the thirst for wisdom could only be remedied by receiving the glorious peace of mind when the Holy Spirit interprets our daily flood from the outside world.  He will draw us into the intimate circle of life, sustained by the love and presence of our Most High Father.

But still, we forget and feel overwhelmed.  The flood looks threatening and fear arises like the beast out of the sea.  What can we do to remind ourselves?

We can build an altar.  An altar was built to commemorate life-changing events.  The examples are numerous.  There are a few things to keep in mind when we think upon the miracles that kept us safe through the flood. 

When Noah built the altar upon exiting the ark, God made a covenant with the earth and mankind.  Read with me:

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

 “While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease
.”  (Genesis 8:20-22)

God emphasized the covenant that He made at creation.  Here he confirms his covenant with nature.  He is as unchanging and faithful, as the seasons that govern our times.  Keep that in mind when we celebrate the covenant of creation.

God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:5)
 

God makes covenants and God keeps covenants.  Jeremiah describes God’s activity at creation as acts of covenant (Jeremiah 33:20).  He calls it God’s “covenant with the day” and “covenant with the night.”  

God’s character is resounding every day as surely as the day breaks and the sun rises and sets.  God never breaches his covenant  with nature.  We see it every day and we build our lives on it.  Do you worry whether the day will come tomorrow?  Was there ever a time when the day did not break, so that you have reason to doubt God’s promise? 

God made a covenant  of redemption with all who accept, believe in, and confess at the Cross of Jesus.  Jesus is the guarantee of all God’s promises.  They cannot fail.  

Make sure to build your altar with what you received from him and not with your own prideful accomplishments.  

An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. (Exodus 20:24,25)

Build with what was freely given to you by the Lord, not your hewn stones.   Cain sacrificed his own efforts.  Abel took the lamb, as prescribed, that was given life by God, to sacrifice to the Lord.

Sacrifice your desert-walk, your pressure-corner, your stressed and rushed efforts to provide upon the altar of thanksgiving and testimony, to worship God for his very present help in your time of need, when you trusted him; when you cried out for his presence and mighty intervention.

Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.

 O my soul, you have said to the Lord,
“You are my Lord,
my goodness is nothing apart from You.”
  (Psalms 16:1,2)

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