Joshua 22:28 “Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.”
Today I am 59. It marks the beginning of my sixtieth year of life. I remember as a child thinking how ‘old’ that was and how far away that felt. Now that it is here, it doesn’t feel old – that is, until I try to run, jump or do anything that would require agility and quickness. My pace is decidedly slower, more deliberate. It seems to come under the heading – “Hang on tight!” because it is speeding along so quickly.
Almost every week, we will Skype with my son and daughter-in-law and their family to keep up with the events and make sure that the grandkids know who Papa and Grandma are from Wisconsin. But even as we will see family that live closer as well, the significance of those meetings are becoming more poignant all the time. I ask myself, “Will I regret not deciding to meet, spend time, blocking my calendar and making them a priority?”
Often, I will have to step back and think about decisions with eternity in mind. My Dad is 82 years old. He lives about thirty minutes away and I try to call him every week and see him at least twice a month. Even this year, I have failed to keep that decision for at least one of the three months that are passing by so quickly. What brings me back is the fact that I will ever regret having chosen so selfishly regarding my time.
The passage here, at the end of Joshua, is when the tribe of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, built an altar so soon after having settled in their land of inheritance. The rest of the tribes of Israel saw this and asked themselves; “Are they so soon removed from us to go and serve other gods with sacrifice?”
When they came and confronted them, they found their assumptions were wrong. These, on the other side of the Jordan knew that they would be separated from the rest and wanted their children to know their God; the God of their fathers and the God that delivered them from Egypt and gave them this very land in which they now dwell.
So, they set set up an altar – an altar of witness to remind them of the altar of God on which they sacrificed and the God to whom they worshipped.
As a child now grown, there are certain landmarks, events and significant milestones enough to remind me, my children and to tell my grandchildren. Oh, they may get tired of Papa’s stories, but I do not tell them to bore them; I tell them for a remembrance.
My Dad has arranged a trip for himself and as many of his children to come with him on a family vacation this summer. Where we go won’t matter as much as those who will be going. We will share stories and laugh at the funny things we have said and done. We will cry remembering my Mom. And probably more important, we are laying another stone of witness on a pile high with memories.
It is even more significant in the Christian life that we never, ever forget those milestones and significant events that have made us who we are and have forged our destiny.
For over 28 years, I was able to walk past the very spot I received the Lord Jesus Christ ass my Savior every day at work. Some days, I would arrive early and kneel and pray at that spot; thanking God for saving not only my soul but my life. There’s the church where I was married, the hospital where our children were born and the home of my childhood.
But even more important are the milestones of the relationships I have had over those many years as well. Each rock on the pile of my life has a person and a memory attached to it. Some of those stones are associated with joy and remembrance of a good kind. Others bring heartache and shame. Altogether, that is MY pile; it represents who I am; what makes up who I am. Each stone has a story to tell.
I can take you the place where I surrendered my life to preach the gospel. I can take you to places where the power of God was so evident; those who were with us still talk of those days many years later. This last trip with our quartet was one such landmark.
There are so many details to tell that I could take up pages and not capture it all.
We use Christian colloquialisms such as “God met with us”, or “The power of God fell on that meeting”. It is true. God did meet with us and the power of God was evident. But the landmark of that special meeting is the change in the lives of those still there.
The pastor started our Sunday meeting by asking those who were saved, baptized or joined the church as a result of the revival meetings held last year to stand. He brought out the fact that we, in the quartet, often do not get to see the results of the blessing once we leave and he wanted to share with us the landmarks in which we had a small part.
Yes, tears flowed. Tears of joy. Tears from a heart overflowing with humility; overwhelmed by the impact of our ministry and a church that will never be the same. I think it can be summed up in this illustration.
One of the men in the church who has a significant role, shared this testimony with us. He said that he had invited some friends who go to a neighboring church to their revival meetings. Their friends said, “We wouldn’t miss it – we know that God is there!”. Choking back the emotion he said, “They’re saying that about MY church!”
I would say that there is a stone of witness that has been placed at Bethel Baptist Church of Simcoe Ontario, Canada that will last into eternity. But it will not carry on unless those who were a part, testify to whoever will listen of just how good God is and has been and will be in the future.
We all have landmarks in our life – But the stones will not tell the story as to why they are there… That is our job; our responsibility.