Keaton Smith – Family Pastor
Sometimes, I want to forget. In the moment, I feel I would be better off if I didn’t have to remember all the pain and the hurt — the doubt and the anger.
Where was He? Why would He allow this to happen? What kind of a loving God places burden and heartache on His people like this? Why would God leave His people? How am I supposed to answer all the questions?
It was 5:30am. I was in the shower listening to the radio on the morning of September 11, 2001. My radio broadcast was interrupted by breaking news of a devastating attack on American soil. The rest of my day was followed by eyes glued to TV’s, images of lives lost, report after report of brokenness and despair. Heroes risking their lives. Good people losing their loved ones. Mothers frantically calling for their children. Husbands and wives desperately searching for their lost spouse. All day long.
Sometimes… I want to forget.
God’s chosen people, the Israelites, know a thing or two about brokenness and despair. After years and years of wandering in the wilderness, they finally come upon the land promised to their father, Abraham. They can see the land just ahead — they can almost taste the fruit and the honey, it’s so close.
But there’s a problem. The Jordan River is raging at high tide and would be impossible to cross. They came all this way, suffering in the wilderness for all those years, only to be stopped by a river. I can imagine many of them shaking their fist at God, their anger brewing. And then, amidst the frustration, something happens.
The massive crowd of people grows silent. A small boy is hoisted onto the shoulders of his young father so he can see what’s going on. Off in the distance, near the shore, a group of priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant is walking into the raging river! As their feet step in, the water splits and an invisible force pushes it to the sides. A clear path of dry land has formed reaching to the other side! The entire nation of Israel crosses the Jordan safely, passing the Priests whose feet are firmly planted in the river.
After each man, woman and child crosses the raging river, Joshua does something amazing. He recruits 12 men and asks them to do something unusual.
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and 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, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell 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.”
Sometimes, I want to forget — but when tragedy and uncertainty slam us, we must remember the stones. When pain and suffering enters our lives, we must remember the stones. We must remember that the Ark of the Covenant went before God’s people, and followed behind them.
The world is a broken mess. Perhaps, you’re feeling stuck in the wilderness. Maybe, you’re facing a raging river that seems impossible to cross. You feel that God has left your side, and so has your trust in Him.
This true story in the history of God’s people is just a prelude to the bigger story. In the midst of your raging river, your pain and your suffering, there is a God who sent His one and only son, Jesus Christ to go before you and provide safe passage. Rest assured, that when you cross your river, He will be following behind you every step of the way.
Let us never forget the lives sacrificed on September 11th, 2001 — and let us never forget the life sacrificed for us by Jesus Christ, God’s one and only son.