Summary: STONES AND BONES is a sermon directed toward encouraging people to establish mnemonic devices that will help them prepare for church services & stay focused on their personal covenant with God. A secondary purpose is to serve as an encouragement to not di
STONES AND BONES is directed toward encouraging us to establish mnemonic devices that will help us prepare for church services & stay focused on our personal covenant with God. A secondary purpose is to serve as an encouragement to not dispose of our hope in God’s promises.
THE STONE OF SHECHEM
The stone of witness
The massive crowd had arrived, the culmination of many days of journeying. One more trip for many who had traveled under the cloud and the pillar of fire. This time they had to pack food, the angel manna wasn’t along this time. The weariness of war was for many displaced by the joy of finally having a home. They did not know the details, but were very keenly aware of what would happen soon, the day of convocation. The day when their loved and venerated leader for over two decades, Joshua, would perform his final act as leader of the new nation.
It could have been a day to pay homage to Joshua, perhaps in part should have been, but it was not. The aged warrior champion who had begun his career with God as a water boy had one more challenge to face. Somehow he must instill into the hearts of the entire population the motivation to stay true to God. He had been among the first of his people to see this land flowing with milk and honey, had endured the rigors of the wilderness along with them, and the demands of being Moses’ lieutenant. Joshua had convinced the people to use the most outlandish war strategy of all time to topple Jericho, and had wept with them at the shocking sin-based defeat near Ai. He had comforted them in the loss of the larger than life Moses, kept them together crossing the Jordan, and had been their military guru in conquering the land. How now would he conquer this last stronghold of the true enemy of Israel, and win the real war? The enemy of idolatry must be attacked. What put the ‘Promise’ in Promised Land was staying true to their God.
Joshua renewed the covenant, rehearsed their history, and gave a stirring message, these would be expected. But then,
He did the un-obvious. He set up a stone.
Joshua 24: 26 And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. 27 "See!" he said to all the people. "This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God."
Joshua chose a stone, something that would not change over time, something that would endure, and give the same message each time it is seen to each passer by. The Tent of Meeting and the trappings of the Tabernacle would have to be refreshed or replaced, Even the great oak mentioned would eventually die, but the Stone- and the stone altar near by-- would be perpetually there.
With the stone, the details were set, ‘set in concrete’, if you’ll endure my pun. We have a saying used when all our details have not yet been worked out, or when the agreement has not quite been reached, “it is not set in stone”. For Joshua and the people that day, it was literally set in stone. He had the renewed covenant written in ‘the Book’. Then, the bible says, he set up this one great stone. Certainly massive in size, and possibly unique in shape, yet the stone’s physical appearance was not what made it great. The greatness came by the symbol it was, the message it conveyed, and the significance it held for the ‘other’ witnesses.
DO YOU HAVE WITNESS STONES IN YOUR LIFE? PERHAPS YOU SHOULD.
Notice from the passage where the stone was set, near the entrance to the Holy Place- the place where they met with God, the place of His Presence. One purpose of the stone was to be a tool to remind people on their way to the Tent of Meeting of just Who it is with whom they are meeting. A thing to prepare them before going into the Presence.
Do you have any witness stones in your life?
Something to remind you of your covenant with God, to prepare you before you go into His Presence?
Something bigger than you, that won’t change with the seasons, the styles and fads? Something that will outlast the ‘stages’ of your life, or even the whims and moods of your emotions? Perhaps you should re-visit the altar place where you first knelt and poured your heart out to God. Some of us need to just go, sit and have devotional in the baptismal tank-where you were baptized, and remember that this was a covenant with God. It is a witness stone in your life.