In Joshua 4, God commanded Joshua to build an Altar of Remembrance to physically mark when God held back the Jordan’s waters so the Israelites could safely cross over. Knowing the propensity of human nature to quickly forget even the miraculous, God said, “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later saying ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off’.”(4:6-7)
The action of the altar of remembrance was two-fold: it reset the focus of the Israelites which had just come through a rather harrowing experience. They were focused on their circumstance – getting across the mighty Jordan before those rushing waters started to flow again. However, the purpose for remembering was not to immortalize the circumstance, but rather to remember God’s provision in the midst of that circumstance. When God becomes the focus of the memory, the second function of the altar of remembrance is also fulfilled – “all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you fear the Lord your God forever. (4:24)
With that in mind, we will be looking at some of those altars of remembrances constructed in the Old Testament and how we can apply this principle to help us keep our focus on God and not our circumstance. We will also consider what a modern-day altar of remembrance might look like and how that might help us share about God’s faithfulness in our own lives.