Tucked away in a book about a journey to a land promised, practical parenting advice and applicable parenting strategy is given for all ages of people. Bible readers do not know if Joshua was married nor if he had children of his own, yet God uses Joshua — a military strategist — to provide vital parenting tips.
In the third chapter of Joshua God begins to move by instructing Joshua. God aligns His plan to His people in efforts to demonstrate His love, His care, and His direction. Not only does God direct where the Israelites are to go, but what they are to do as they journey, and why they are to do it.
When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.”Joshua 4:1-3
A new generation, somewhat different from the generation that crossed the Red Sea with Moses, is crossing the Jordan River with Joshua. The twelve tribes are still traveling together, representing a vast amount of people. Yet, God is instructing that twelve men, one from each tribe be chosen for this task representing the truth that all people needed to hear and follow God’s direction.
When the Israelites reached the Jordan river, the river was at flood stage according to chapter 3, verse 15. Yet, the Israelites would take notice that the same God that was with them at the Red Sea would indeed be with them now, and they would cross on dry ground once again. However, this is not the reason for the stones of memorial. God’s instruction for Joshua to gather the twelve men to carry the twelve stones was for a different purpose.
And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jorden were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.Joshua 4:5-7
The memorial stones are to teach the next generation how to fear God, by telling of how God delivered them once again and how God can be trusted for future generations.
God is building His Name among the Israelites so that He can be their God and they can be His people.
Joshua is very detailed in his account of the Jordan River crossing. The priest’s progression, the tribe’s crossing, the continual reference to the ark of the covenant location and condition of the ground are all testimonials of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites and point to the message of God.
The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”Joshua 4:19-24
The message that God is trying to convey: point your children to look to God, fear God, and trust God. God is able, is capable, is with His children, will provide dry ground in the midst of the flood season, will help them cross wherever He leads, is with them now.
God’s directive to the Israelite parents on how to parent is the purpose of the memorial stones. God required one man from each tribe. Not one tribe would be left out from knowing and understanding the parenting tutorial of the memorial stones. The nation of Israelites moving to the Promised Land must understand how to raise the children that were to dwell in the Promised Land.
Remembering Deuteronomy 6 and the guideline of parenting that Moses instructed, God uses the crossing of the Jordan River and the heap of stones to teach them how to practically apply parenting advice and fulfill Moses’ commands on child rearing. Why? God desires for His children are recorded in Deuteronomy 5:29, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!”