Piles of Stones

Piles of Stones in the Wilderness

Piles of Stones in the Wilderness

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” 

Ephesians 3:20-21

Have you ever noticed that the Old Testament is full of episodes where God’s people built piles of stones, at various locations, in their travels to the Promised Land? Remember, they passed by some locations more than once, on their 40 year adventure. Have you ever wondered what the point was?

Some years ago, I was so struck by this theme, that I did a study on this subject and God impressed upon me, the need for me and my family to create piles of stones along our journey, to remember all the times that God was our protection, provision, healing, Father, Husband, etc.

There are several ways in which we pile up stones:

  •  I keep a journal of gratitude, that tells each story, and when it happened.
  • I keep a personal scrapbook, with pictures, note cards, and other memorabilia
  • We physically make a pile of stones in the location that means something to us, and speak of His faithfulness, as we do it, as we look at the pictures of it later, and as we pass by that way, another time.

Looking through Joshua 1-5, we read an engaging story about Joshua and God’s people. We see the way God raised him up to service, and how no man could stand against him and his work in his physical lifetime. What an anointed man of honor!

Joshua – 1: 5-9 “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Did you ever notice how many times God instructed Joshua to be “Strong and Courageous”? Three times, right in a row! Wow, that is a strong message, with a strong promise to go with it. I take this to be an instruction to me and my family, as well. Obviously, walking this journey out is NOT an easy thing. Aren’t there days, weeks, months, and even years, when we are so weary, and in need of the Balm of Gilead? Isn’t the cultural, educational, political war enough to break you down, and leave you a beleaguered soul, wasting away, for want of a small word of encouragement? I think this story is warning enough, that it will take supernatural strength, and courage, to make our way through life with the kind of honor we see in Joshua. Are you tapped into that Source? The one true God is the only source for this life-giving energy. I hope you have a relationship with Him, and are daily tapping into a FULL measure of His grace, for your journey!

But, back to stones…

The story continues, as they approach the River Jordan, in their final quest for the Promised Land, in Joshua 1:10-18. Here, of course, God did another miracle! He had a knack for getting His Chosen People across great bodies of water, on dry ground. Remember the story of the crossing of the Red Sea on their exit from Egypt in Exodus 14? Seems as though God is faithful to give us the repetition we need, even over several generations. What the first generation witnessed, and then forgot, He made sure to repeat for their children, and grandchildren.

So, there they are, at the banks of the Jordan, ready to cross at its largest part, where it enters the Dead Sea. Do you see what they saw: the swollen, raging waters of the Jordon at flood stage? They are supposed to carry the ark into the water and stand there. Really? Seriously?  If you have ever been near a river in the mountains after the spring thaw, you know what I am talking about; too dangerous, even with modern equipment, but with the Ark of the Covenant, above water, not touching anything? This is why God chose Joshua to lead, and told him to be courageous. He had to convince the men under him to do be sold out for God and do things that require lots of faith and obedience. So, there are the Priests, carrying the Ark, and God caused the water to be stopped upstream from them. I don’t know what their faces looked like, seeing all that water in a pile, up-stream. Mine would have made America’s Funniest Home Videos!

Back to the story. When all the people had crossed the Jordan safely, God spoke to Joshua with instructions about the memorials they were to make. Twelve chosen men, one from each tribe, were to follow some more of God’s instructions, by going into the river where the feet of the priests stood. There, each man was to take a stone from the riverbed, and carry it to the place where they would camp that night. Did you catch that? These stones came from the bottom of the riverbed. They would look unique as water-worn and slightly polished river-rocks appear. This whole time, God was holding back the waters, as long as the priests and the ark stayed in the river. I am wondering if the arms of the Priests got a little shaky and weary, holding that Ark the whole time. Do you ever feel like you are a little shaky, from exerted effort, and from waiting upon God to finish up a process in your life? Those men would appreciate your feelings.

So, they got the stones across the river to their camp, and the ark and the people made it safely across on dry ground. The men put the stones into a pile there. Phew! We can all stop holding our breath, right? Nope, not yet. Joshua set up a second memorial. This one also consisted of twelve stones, but it was set up in the midst of the Jordan River, in the place where the priests had stood while holding the ark. Okay, so the water had not started flowing again yet. This would serve as a further confirmation that God had held back the river. Can you imagine? A pile of stones, sitting right there, in the middle of the Jordan River? What talk this must have elicited amongst the travelers of that day. I love to think of God’s sense of humor, in making the locals wag their tongues, and try to figure out how that could have happened. Obviously, it was His way of proclaiming His Glory and Might to the region. That stood the Chosen People in good stead, as the fear of the Lord preceded their travels and dealings in the area. This demonstrates the two purposes of these miracles. They served to convince people to believe in God and that the God of the Bible is the true God. Are you convinced yet?

So, the moral of this story is that God is pleased when we memorialize His good works toward us. You see, those stones of old would be a memorial sign to future generations to help them remember the miracle of safe crossing. When future generations asked about the stones, the people would explain how the waters of the river were cut off so the ark (and the people) were enabled to cross over on dry ground. The stones would be a memorial to the people forever.

Calvin, making a pile of stones in the wilderness.

My son, making a pile of stones in the wilderness.

People tend to forget what God has done, if they are not reminded. And so, I encourage you this day, that you start building piles of stones with your family, so that as you walk by the way, and see the piles, you and your children are encouraged once again to know that God is the God of All, and that He keeps His word to us; and that in this place and in this hour, the Lord, Our God, saved us and dealt with us kindly.

Let me know how you are creating piles of stones with your family!

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8 Responses to Piles of Stones

  1. Jennifer says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for the reminder to be strong and of good courage, build piles of stones, and keep moving forward, knowing that He is always with me!

    • Holly Nelson says:

      It is always good to remind myself of these things, as well. Love digging in to these passages in Scripture, and finding the golden nuggets waiting there for me!! Praying for you!

  2. Pingback: Encouragement and Inspiration | Jennifer A. Janes

  3. HOLLY! Is this you? I was looking up the verses for piling up stones for making some jewelry with a “pile of stones” and found you! When you wrote it I wasn’t even reading blogs & here in the middle of the night I found you! Wow! Isn’t God good to us. What a small little world we really live in!

  4. Kim says:

    Holly, thank you for writing this. You put your lovely thoughts so clearly on paper, and your words are an encouragement as a New Year begins. “People tend to forget what God has done, if they are not reminded. And so, I encourage you this day, that you start building piles of stones with your family, so that as you walk by the way, and see the piles, you and your children are encouraged once again …”
    I am taking time today to remember, and think about where to put our pile of rocks 🙂

  5. Jennifer Cardenas says:

    This is beautiful and scriptural. I’m native and Christian, married and have seen these all my life. My husband seems to think these are evil and have to do with witchcraft. I believe there are many things that are evil and can be used for evil but doesn’t mean it is evil in and of itself. When I came across in finding scriptures. I wanted more than just in building alters to God out of stones as a reference for him. This is perfect and never like to argue about the word of God but I like it when it’s evident and explanatory. Thanks so much for this. Praise the Lord.

    • Holly Nelson says:

      Thank you very much for commenting. We cannot know the heart of the people who built every pile of stones. Only God knows. What matters is if we ascribe the glory to God in what we find along our path. If the pile of stones directs your view to our Lord and you stand in praise of Him who is above all and in all, it really doesn’t matter what those stones represented before. God redeems ALL, including any alters made to false gods. Keep looking for God in all that you see.

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