March 21 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’” ~Joshua, Joshua 4:21-22

Israel makes two grand gestures to their God as they enter the land of promise. The first, the ritual of circumcision, is done en masse to ensure that all of God’s people are marked as He intended.[1] Their second gesture is to create a national memorial at the place where they entered the land. It is both simple and natural, this small monument of 12 river stones taken from the Jordan during the crossing. This was Israel’s Stonehenge. (It appears from verse 9 that another 12 stones were placed where the priests stood in the middle of the Jordan, thus providing an underwater memorial of sorts.)

Why was this place, this pile, important? Imagine having no memory. What if you did not know your name, your place of birth, your parents, or any of the formative events of your life? You would feel completely and utterly lost. In the same way, communities need “memories”, they need to know their name, their place of birth, their forefathers, and the important events that shaped them. American monuments like the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mount Rushmore, and even the Santa Monica Pier all create a sense of cultural memory that give Americans a sense of shared identity. These physical things, along with more abstract things like music, art, sport, entertainment, and the national anthem, help us remember who we are.

It is vitally important for the worshipping community to have memorials in place. Over the centuries the church has used a variety of media, art, music, architecture, etc., to help people remember what God has done so that they will remain devoted to Him. (I think that many of our local churches, stripped as they are of all but the bare essentials, are less than helpful in this regard.) Even our rituals, gathering, communion, singing, and preaching, are monuments of a kind. These things remind us of who we are, where we came from, and the important events that shaped our identity. We can also mark special days in our lives as times for remembering God’s gracious provision. On birthdays, celebrate God who gave the gift of life. On anniversaries, celebrate God who gave the marriage covenant and your husband or wife. Or celebrate the date of your salvation or baptism. Capture (through photography or some other memorial) special times of blessing so you can remember and give praise. We need to remember what God has done so that we do not forget the God we love.

[1] Why God chose circumcision, which predates Israel, as a symbol for His people is a puzzle for scholars. Some have suggested that circumcision’s association with cleanliness was a natural fit with Israel’s emphasis on ritual purity. Others think that the practice was associated with male virility in ancient Middle-Eastern cultures due to its prevention of diseases. Still others have put forward the idea that circumcision had no symbolic connotations in Israel but was instead a purely religious act. Whatever God’s reason, the mark of circumcision reminded His people that they belonged Him.

Lectio Divina  is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of  Calvary Church  in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of  A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.