Several years ago my wife and I had the awesome privilege, along with some dear Filipino friends, of visiting the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines. There 17,202 of our WWII soldiers, fallen heroes, are laid to rest in a peaceful and tranquil setting. We were there to express our gratitude to one soldier who had given his life, not only in service to his country, but so that another soldier, my father, might live. It was a tribute more than 50 years late, but sincere nevertheless.
One of the most moving aspects of the American Memorial is the walls inscribed with the names of soldiers who never came back. Missing in action, they are remembered on wall after wall after wall – the Tablets of the Missing. 36,385 brave soldiers with no graves, no markers, but with their names emblazoned in limestone for future generations.
Most cultures have memorials that remind them of great events or great individuals who have helped to shape their nation. In our nation’s capital the Washington Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Viet Nam Memorial, among others remind us of those who have made our country what it is today. And we remember them with honor and respect.
Ancient Israel often set up memorials, sometimes called Stones of Remembrance, to help them remember, not just the great events of their history, but the God who was involved in those events. When Israel first entered the Promise Land, Joshua instructed them to build a memorial with twelve stones, one representing each tribe, to commemorate God’s goodness in bringing them into the land. There was the very real possibility that in the years to come, when future generations were born who had not experienced the wilderness wandering; who had not see the waters of the Jordan River divided, they would fail to grasp all that God in His grace had done for their fathers. Joshua told the people that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, “what do these stones mean to you?” Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever (Joshua 4:6-7). For generations to come, Israel could point to those stones and retell the story of God’s provision.
In later years the prophet Samuel set up a memorial to the Lord for His deliverance of Israel from their enemy. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). That Stone of Remembrance would stand in silent witness to God’s protection, yet its story would be told and retold whenever an Israelite looked on the “stone of help” and remembered that day of deliverance.
It’s good to remember, especially in a spiritual sense. It’s good to remember what God has done for us in our lives. It gives us confidence that He will be there for us, today and in the future. That’s where memorials come in; they help us remember. Spiritual memorials are even more important than the monuments we erect honoring our fallen heroes because they point us to the God of history. They remind us in days of discouragement that God is still there. They remind our children and our grandchildren of God’s provision, His protection and His grace.
As Christians we need to erect Stones of Remembrance so that we never forget.
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