And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night
Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:
That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel forever.
And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.
We in the United States celebrate Memorial Day today. It is right and fitting that we should honor those who have paid the ultimate price for our liberties. This is a day when the fathers of our nation, especially those who have served in our armed forces, should sit down with their children and explain to them, this “Pile of Stones”.
In the account of Joshua chapter 4 we have a great story of how Joshua would ensure that the efforts of conquering the land and ultimately bringing in a full and free existence for the nation of Israel, would be memorialized. Each tribe would appoint a man to locate chose and carry a stone upon their shoulder across the Jordan at the place where the priests had stepped into the water and stopped the flow of that river. These stones would be assembled in a simple pile. As the years passed by children would see this pile of stones and it would occur to them that these stones did not happen to pile up by themselves, so they would ask their fathers; “What mean ye by these stones.” In so doing, the heritage and the remembrance of the work of the generation of Joshua would be preserved. This is why we celebrate Memorial Day today. We will often focus on our departed, courageous warriors who did the actual work of freedom on the battle fields. We will gather around local and national monuments and commemorate the lives and deeds of these brave men and women. But I think we fall short in all of this when we do not take the time to answer that simple childlike question, even if that question is not asked out loud.
“What mean ye by these stones.”
Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, today is the day for you to step forward and instill in our up and coming generation the reason for this day, for this pile of stones. Why do we not go to work as we normally do on this last Monday in May? Why all the hoopla, bar-b-ques, trips to the beach, or the lake? “Why daddy”, “What mean ye by these stones?”
I served 21 years on active duty in our countries military. My wife’s father served in the Pacific in World War II, and then in the occupation forces in Germany after the war, and then in the Korean War. We must not forget!!
My Grandfather served as a Lieutenant as a researcher under the cover of the Top Secret mission called “The Manhattan Project”. He was on a team of scientists and engineers that developed the detonation device for the atomic weapon that ultimately ended the war in the Pacific and potentially saved upwards of a million lives. My grandfather never liked to talk about his contribution, but he told me once that he was both proud and ashamed of his contribution at the same time. Most of his reluctance to talk about it was the fact that most of his work was still not declassified during his lifetime and he honored the vow he made to keep his lips shut.
These stories must be told to our children and our grandchildren.
My son is celebrating Memorial Day in Afghanistan. Our country continues to call upon its patriots, and our freedom loving people continue to answer that call. How can we best explain to the next generation, why we take the time today in late May to celebrate? Is it just because school is out and summer is upon us? Is it merely the ceremonial opening pitch to a lazy summer vacation? Or is there a more serious and somber, loving memory we must perpetuate to our young folks?
How will you answer that innocent question today? “What mean ye by these stones.”