Reminder to Remember

Following up on yesterday’s post, sometimes we need reminders to remember. Yesterday we explored a little history as the Hebrew people were rescued from their bondage in Egypt by the mighty and outstretched hand of God. God had moved mightily on their behalf. He not only  rescued them from their enslavement, but He also delivered  them from their enemy as the Egyptians and Pharaoh pursued them in their escape.  God parted the sea, His people escaped on dry ground and the sea swallowed up their enemy before they were able to catch up with God’s people! Things were looking up but one thing is sure. In this world we will have difficulties, trials and testing. The next forty years were just that for the Hebrew people. They would wander in the wilderness for 40 years to reach the Promised Land which by direct route was only an eleven day journey.

So, why the extended travel time for such a short trip?  I will let you read the story or travel notes yourself. I suspect from reading the stories and from putting together sermons I have heard, studies I have done, that the people were not so different from you or me. God has a purpose and plan for all of us and it is usually far better than anything we can even imagine. However, just like a baby is ill-equipped at birth to become an adult right away, we as believers are also not ready to immediately step into all God has planned for us.  As you are probably aware, there was an attempt at entering the promised land before the 40 year mark. Ten spies were sent in to scope out the land. They went in, explored, and even brought back produce from the land. The Promised Land was confirmed to be a beautiful land flowing with milk and honey, yet despite what they found eight of the ten spies had a negative report. Only Joshua and Caleb came back with the attitude that we are well able to take the land. They were the only of the spies that were certain that with God’s promise and outstretched arm and mighty hand this could be done. The opinion of the eight won out and the wandering continued. By the end of forty years most of those who had doubted and forgotten what God had already had done for them had died. Many could not see past their doubts and remember how God had delivered them. Many could not remember that God had provided food for their hunger, water for their thirst, that He prevented their clothing and shoes from wearing out during those years.

At last, in the book of Joshua we can read the account of Israel finally going into the Promised Land. They are told that God is among them and He will dispossess the inhabitants of the land. The priest will go first and enter the Jordan River, the waters will be cut off and held back despite it being at flood stage. The priests carrying the ark stood firmly on dry ground as the entire nation crossed. Once the people were across, Joshua sent twelve men, one from each tribe back to remove twelve stones to set up where they would camp that night as a memorial to what God had done. Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan  and placed them where the priests were standing as a memorial. Once this was accomplished the priests finished crossing and when they stepped out of the Jordan River, it resumed its course. That night they camped at Gilgal and set up the other twelve stones as a reminder to remember and to tell their children what they had experienced, what God had done for them and to teach them about the Lord’s mighty hand so they would reverence their God.

Just as Israel need to be reminded to remember, we also need to remember. When distractions and trials come into our life, when difficulty is here and it is hard to see past the immediate demands of our circumstances, we need to remember, turn to God remembering all He has seen us through. We need to remember His great love and His faithfulness and believe beyond human reason that He will once again act on our behalf and see us through whatever is the current circumstance or difficulty we face.  In order to do this, we must know what the Word says; we must have some grasp of His Word and His promises; and above all we must exercise our faith. The more we exercise faith the more faith grows in our life.

Full Circle= (Remember. Reflect, Recuperate,Rededicate, Redirect)

This morning after my S.O.A.P. reading, I found myself looking ahead to tomorrows passage just to see what was coming up and to ask the Lord to prepare my heart for what He would have me learn from it. I skimmed over the chapter and not once but twice a word jumped out at me. That word was Gilgal.  I began to think back to a time in my life when this word or maybe I should say the significance of this word became very real in my life and quite significant as well.

Gilgal is first mentioned in the Bible in Deuteronomy 11 where God is describing the Promised land that He will be giving His people. Interestingly enough, it is contains the declaration of God to the Israelites, 26 Today I’m giving you the choice of a blessing or a curse. 27 You’ll be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I’m giving you today. 28 You’ll be cursed if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God, if you turn from the way I’m commanding you to live today, and if you worship other gods you never knew. 29 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you’re about to enter, recite the blessing from Mount Gerizim and the curse from Mount Ebal. 

I find that very interesting, considering the topic of my last entry was about choosing blessing or cursing, life or death, so this is the result of something I believe the Lord is trying to say to me or teach me. If it is helpful to someone else that is great, but most of the things I write about are things that I am learning or that I feel the Holy Spirit is teaching me.  This is my outlet and if you will since we are talking about Gilgal…my memorial stone to help me remember.

Back to Gilgal.  One of the most known and important times in Gilgal is found in Joshua when the Israelites have been instructed to cross the Jordan River to enter the promised land. Here the Lord parts the waters of the river for all the people following cross the river on dry ground while the priests stand in the middle with the ark of the covenant . God instructed Joshua that one man from each tribe be assigned to select one stone from the middle of the river where the priests had stood and take it to the place the Israelites would camp that night. As they did what God asked, Joshua explained, “4:21 He said to the people of Israel, “In the future when children ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 the children should be told that Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.23 The Lord your God dried up the Jordan ahead of you until you had crossed, as he did to the Red Sea until we had crossed. 24 The Lord did this so that everyone in the world would know his mighty power and that you would fear the Lord your God every day of your life.”  

In chapter 5, at this same time, all the men who were born in the wilderness were circumcised at Gilgal. Circumcision was a sign to them that they were set apart unto the Lord.  Here they remained in this new land until they were healed.  Also, at Gilgal, the Lord declared in Joshua 5:

The Lord then said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.” Therefore, that place is called Gilgal to this day.

What does all this mean?  For me, I am sensing that Gilgal is the place where Israel has come full circle, it is a reminder of God’s salvation of Israel from Egyptian slavery, from the wrath of the Egyptians who were chasing them and were swallowed by the Red Sea; a reminder of His protection and provision for their 40 years of wandering in the desert, where they always had food and water and their clothes and shoes never wore out; it was a place of laying aside the flesh and consecrating themselves to God; laying down false beliefs and false gods that they were exposed to during slavery and being rededicated to the one True God. I believe Gilgal was a fresh start, a clean slate. It was also a great monument and reminder because of the twelve memorial stones. Human beings tend to over time forget or allow all that our God has done for us become a distant memory. These stones stood and still stand as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites, we would do well to note and remember all God has done for us! What a stabalizing factor and comforting peace we could enjoy when the storms of life come blowing us over, if we take time to set up remembrances of the times He has seen us through hardships and difficulties or rescued us from them. When we regularly celebrate His presence and provision in our lives we are much calmer and peaceful when the storms of life blow over us, sometimes blowing us over.  I want to come full circle, celebrating fresh starts, rededicating myself to Him, remembering His presence and provision in my life, letting go of the difficulties and pain of the past but remembering His faithfulness and love as a reminder not to return there; choosing life and blessing over death and the curse!