(This was originally published as an audio podcast in the Handfuls of Purpose Podcast at the Dallas Primitive Baptist Church website)
Did you know that the Old Testament is full of memorials? In Exodus 3, when God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses wanted to know who he should say had sent him. In verse 14, God told Moses that he should tell them that “I AM hath sent me unto you.” In verse 15, God expanded on that and told Moses to tell the people that “The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” So, God’s name is a memorial to all generations. In Exodus 12:14, in the story of the initial Passover where God passed over Egypt, the children of Israel are told “this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” And so it was, every year the children of Israel would observe the Passover, and yet today, Jesus is our Passover; and we keep the Lord’s table as a memorial of what was done for us on the cross.
We could continue working our way through the Old Testament and talk about different memorials that were established, but recently, I was preaching a series of messages from the book of Joshua and was reminded of a particular memorial. When the children of Israel crossed over the Jordan River, God commanded them to take stones and build a memorial. In Joshua 4:1-7, the word of the Lord says “1 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying, 2 Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, 3 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. 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: 5 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: 6 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? 7 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.” See, the children of Israel were instructed to erect a stack of large stones on the west side of Jordan that would be a memorial. This memorial had a specific purpose. The purpose of this memorial was for the generations to come. It was meant to create questions so that the story of the miraculous events that accompanied their crossing of the Jordan could be repeated through the generations. Imagine a set of parents walking with their children near the banks of the Jordan when they happen upon this stack of stones. One of the children asks, “Why are these stones here and what do they mean?” Can you see the power in this image as it opens the door to the opportunity for those parents to tell what great things had been done by the hand of God for his people? I wonder how many times that scene occurred. Given that it was God’s purpose, I imagine it was many.
What about the New Testament? Are there memorials in it? In Matthew 26 (along with Mark 14) we find that that Jesus was at Simon of Bethany’s home. There was a lady that came along that had a very expensive box of ointment that she used to anoint the head of Jesus. Upon seeing this, Jesus’ disciples were a bit unhappy. They thought the ointment could have been sold for a significant amount of money and that money could have been used to feed many of the poor to which they were ministering. But Jesus reminded them that, though their compassion was noble, the poor would be around as long as the world exists, but having the Son of God in the flesh dwelling among them was a unique moment in time. In verse 13, Jesus goes on to tell them that “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” And Jesus was absolutely correct. To this day, we still hear sermons where the act of this woman is declared to all the world.
Acts chapter 10 introduces us to a man named Cornelius. Cornelius is described as a devout man, one who loves God and gives alms. However, he is a Gentile! As a Gentile, he was outside the family of God, and as far as the Jews were concerned, he was unclean. However, God had taken notice of Cornelius and tells us of his faith, and in verse 4, God talks to Cornelius and tells him “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” Cornelius’ prayers were a memorial unto Cornelius and to those around him. They were even a memorial to Peter and reassured him when he was called to preach to this Gentile.
Are you establishing memorials today? Parents should be looking at the lessons of these memorials in scripture and using what they learn to set up memorials in their home. However, this is not just a good lesson for parents, but any child of Grace that is committed to following the Lord should be looking for opportunities to set up memorials. Let us consider the purpose of the memorial in Joshua 4 where God instructed them to set up a memorial for the purpose of causing future generations of Israelites to ask questions providing an opportunity for them to share what God had done for them. Our acts of faith and obedience are a memorial to those around us, but especially to our children, our grandchildren, or the young people that attend our church and, sometimes, even to other adults that observe our actions and want to know why we do what we do or why we are different than those around us. Even more so, with our children and grandchildren, when they see us pray in our homes or choose to study God’s word, then those prayers and that study time can become a memorial that generates questions and provides an opportunity for us to share what God has done for us and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I want to encourage you to see if you can find ways to set up memorials in your life today.
And that is todays Handful of Purpose!!