Twelve Stones

SERMON SUMMARY     
This message discusses the twelve stones that were placed in the Jordan River and the twelve stones that were taken to Gilgal. They were both set up as memorials to help the people of Israel remember God’s miracle of backing up the flood waters of the Jordan River so they could walk through on dry land and enter the promised land. Just as God worked a miracle for the Israelites to enter the promised land, God has also worked miracles for us to enter into a new life in Christ! While the Cross of Christ symbolizes the presence, the provision, the power and the principles of God in much the same way the Ark of the Covenant did, our memorial to God’s miracle of salvation is the life we live. Our alter is our heart and our life lived for the Glory of God is our sacrifice.

Small Group Discussion Guide

1. Ice Breaker Questions: See if you can answer these trivia questions from Sunday’s message. (They really aren’t so trivial!)
When did the Israelites set up the memorial stones? Was it before or after they had crossed the Jordan River? Why did they set up the stones? Was it to secure God's deliverance or because God had delivered them? How many memorials were there? One or two? Where did they set up the stone memorials? At the river or at their camp?

2. God wanted the Israelites to remember His willingness to do extraordinary things on behalf of His children. Can you share a time when God has done something extra special in your life?

3. The Israelites set up the stones in two places. In the river Jordan and at Gilgal where they first camped in the promised land. God didn't want the only memorial to be at the river, but also where they lived! What are some ways we can memorialize the amazing things God has done in our lives?  
Hebrews 13:15 (NIV) Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Hebrews 13:16 (NIV) And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

4. The Israelites set the stones up because God had already worked on their behalf. It was a way to remember God’s love and provision already given them. We don’t work for our salvation, yet we desire to remember with gratitude all that God has done for us. Explain the difference between someone who is trying to work their way to God and someone who has accepted God’s Grace and lives for God out of a thankful heart?
Eph 2:4  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
Eph 2:5  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.
Eph 2:6  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
Eph 2:7  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
Eph 2:9  not by works, so that no one can boast.
Eph 2:10  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

5. God desired at least three results from the memorial. Future generations would remember what God had done, the world would remember the powerful hand of God and those who were the beneficiaries of God’s miracle would never forget God’s love for them. How can these three things also be accomplished in a life of faithful worship and service?
1 Pet 4:10  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
1 Pet 4:11  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 5:1 (NIV) Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
Ephesians 5:2 (NIV) and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.





Sermon Notes:

We learned last week how God made a way for the Israelites to cross the flood swollen Jordan River and make it into the promised land. Using the Ark of the Covenant as a symbol of His presence, His provision, His power and His principles, He had the priest carrying the Ark step into the water. When they did, the waters were piled up some 16 miles up stream, at the city of Adam.  

An amazing story of God's mercy, His grace, His deliverance, and His willingness to go to extreme lengths to provide for the people He loved!!
God did not want the people to ever forget His love for them!!

God instructed Joshua to do several things to make sure the children of Israel remembered the day God worked such an amazing miracle on their behalf!
Joshua told each of the twelve tribes to choose a representative. They would be given a task to do.
Let's read the story…

1When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua,
Joshua 4:1 (NIV)

2“Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe,
Joshua 4:2 (NIV)

3and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight. ”
Joshua 4:3 (NIV)

These guys were obviously granted a reprieve from the 1,000 foot distance they were to maintain between themselves and the Ark.

4So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe,
Joshua 4:4 (NIV)

5and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites,
Joshua 4:5 (NIV)

6to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’
Joshua 4:6 (NIV)

7tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:7 (NIV)

8So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.
Joshua 4:8 (NIV)

9Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.
Joshua 4:9 (NIV)

10Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the LORD had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over,
Joshua 4:10 (NIV)

11and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the LORD and the priests came to the other side while the people watched.
Joshua 4:11 (NIV)

12The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, armed, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them.
Joshua 4:12 (NIV)

13About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the LORD to the plains of Jericho for war.
Joshua 4:13 (NIV)

You may not remember, but these three tribes had been given permission to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan, but God wanted the 12 tribes to remain united, so He told them to make sure the other tribes were safe and secure in their new home in the promised land before they went back to their home.

Here's the deal…these guys were able to leave their families and possession on the eastern side of the Jordan so they were free to carry arms and secure protection for the other tribes as they sought to get their women and children across and into the promised land.
Let's read on...

14That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses.
Joshua 4:14 (NIV)

15Then the LORD said to Joshua,
Joshua 4:15 (NIV)

16“Command the priests carrying the ark of the Testimony to come up out of the Jordan.”
Joshua 4:16 (NIV)

17So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.”
Joshua 4:17 (NIV)

18And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.
Joshua 4:18 (NIV)

19On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho.
Joshua 4:19 (NIV)

20And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.
Joshua 4:20 (NIV)

21He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’
Joshua 4:21 (NIV)

22tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’
Joshua 4:22 (NIV)

23For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.
Joshua 4:23 (NIV)

24He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God. ”
Joshua 4:24 (NIV)

Several questions will start our discussion today.


1. When did they set up the stones? Was it before or after they had crossed the Jordan River?

It was after they had crossed the river. This is significant and is tied in with the next question.

2. Why did they set up the stones? Was it to secure God's deliverance or because God had delivered them?


They set them up after they had crossed the Jordan, so obviously it was done not in order to secure God's deliverance but because God had delivered them.  

3. How many memorials were there? One or two?


Biblical scholars and historians debate this, but I, along with such commentators as Matthew Henry, believe there were two. The answer is tied into our next question…

4.Where did they set up the stone memorials? Where they were delivered or where they camped?


Scripture says both...

8So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.
Joshua 4:8 (NIV)

9Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.
Joshua 4:9 (NIV)

5. What was the purpose of the memorials? Was it just for them to remember, or was it also to be a witness to others of God's presence, provision, power, and principles?


Again, according to Scripture, it was both!

24He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God. ”
Joshua 4:24 (NIV)

Okay, Pastor Larry, we've got a question or two for you! That was then, but what about now? How does this story apply to my life in the year 2013?
I'm so glad you asked!!!

THEN

The Israelites set up the stone memorials after God had worked the miracle of holding back the waters of the Jordan and let them walk through on dry ground! They did not set up the stones in order to procure God's blessing, but because God had blessed them.  

NOW

It should be exactly the same with us!
We don't worship God or serve Him in order to get Him to deliver us or to save us. On the contrary, we worship and serve Him because He has saved us, delivered us, loved us, and provided for us! Listen...

4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
Ephesians 2:4 (NIV)

5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:5 (NIV)

6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
Ephesians 2:6 (NIV)

7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:7 (NIV)

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

9not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:9 (NIV)

10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Wow, don't you just love that. We don't do good works in order to be saved, but because we have been saved. We serve God out of gratitude and thankfulness for all He's done for us.


And let me clarify something. If you are saved by grace you stay saved by grace. Some people think you get saved by grace but stay saved by works. That's not at all what God's Word says.
Remember the stone memorials were set up after God had delivered the Israelites into the promised land.
Oh, one more verse on this...

19We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19 (NIV)

THEN

The Israelites set up two memorials. One where they were delivered and one at Gilgal. Gilgal literally meant "circle". It may have referred to a circle of stones or a circular alter. Gilgal became Israel's first worship place in the new land and also the base for their military operations. God didn't want the only memorial to be at the river. He wanted it to also be where they lived!

NOW

I believe God wants us to remember His work in our lives, His presence, His provision, His power and His principles, His deliverance every day of our lives. Not just on Sunday. Not just at church. Not just when we gather for a religious gathering. I guess you could say God wants us to take some stones from the river and carry them with us.

Of course, I don't mean literally, but I think we need to find ways to remember everyday of our lives the miracles God has wrought on our behalf! We talked last week about how God used The Ark as a symbol of His presence, His provision, His power and His principles. We also talked about how the Cross symbolizes the same for things for us as Christians.

In many ways the Cross serves as a reminder to us of the amazing grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and power God has poured out on our lives.

Did you know when we take up our Cross to follow Jesus, that Cross should remind us not only of what Jesus did for us, but it should remind us of what we are to do for Him. Again, not what we do to be saved, but what we do because we are saved!

Every day we should memorialize our deliverance from the power of sin, and the awesome privilege of living in the power of The Holy Spirit! The writer of Romans put it this way...

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1 (NIV)

 Those who were under the Old Covenant had stone alters and made regular sacrifices to God. Under the New Covenant, our alter is our heart and our sacrifice is the way we live our life.
Remember, we don't make that living sacrifice in order to be saved, but because we have been saved!

Being a living sacrifice is our spiritual act of worship!!
How so?
When we serve The Lord, we are showing our gratitude for all He has already done for us.

 When we serve The Lord we are worshipping God in one of the most powerful ways possible! Coming to church to worship is important, but if we only come to sing and to listen, but never act on what we've heard, we miss out on the greatest form of worship there is. What would that be?

 Worship Service!!

We come to worship, but we commit to worship through our service to God and to others...

10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11 (NIV)

 Want to praise God? Want to worship God? Want to show Him your gratitude for all He has done for you?
Serve Him!!
Not because you have to, but because you want to. Not because you must, but because you desire to show Him and others your thankful heart!

THEN

God wanted the memorial to do at least three things. Listen...

21He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’
Joshua 4:21 (NIV)

22tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’
Joshua 4:22 (NIV)

23For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.
Joshua 4:23 (NIV)

24He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God. ”
Joshua 4:24 (NIV)

The memorial was for future decedents.
The memorial was a testimony to the world.
The memorial was for the people who had been delivered!

NOW

Our service to God should also do at least three things...

First, your children and eventually your children's children should see you worshipping God through your service. At some point they will ask you why you spend time serving the Lord and you will have the opportunity to share with them the story of Jesus' sacrifice and how He changed your life!!

Secondly, people in the world should see you worshipping God through your service. Let me say this, the world is not impressed when they see you get in the car and drive to a worship service, but they are impressed when they see you worship by serving! People notice when you live a lifestyle of serving God and others!

15Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)

16And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

Thirdly, your sacrifice of worship through service should be a constant reminder to you personally of the sacrifice Jesus gave for you and just as Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for the joy that was set before Him, we too will find great joy in serving God and others.

Paul put it like this to the church at Ephesus...

1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
Ephesians 5:1 (NIV)

2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:2 (NIV)