Memorial Stones in the Bible.
There is a biblical precedent for laying stones as a memorial to the Lord in order to remember the good things He has done for us. The Wall of Answered Prayer takes inspiration from these monuments and their significance.
There are at least three significant cases of biblical characters laying memorial stones, and these become significant locations throughout biblical history. Bethel is where Jacob memorialised his vision. Gilgal is where Joshua commemorated the Israelites’ miraculous entrance into the Promised Land. Samuel erects an Ebenezer stone after God thwarts the Philistine’s attack.
By building a landmark to Jesus we will replicate these biblical memorials which:
• Reignite faith in God
• Remind us of what He has done before
• Create an atmosphere of worship
• Increase our confidence in Jesus
The first Biblical reference to memorial stones comes in Genesis 28: 10-22, when Jacob set a pillar in Bethel to commemorate a powerful vision of God that he experienced while sleeping there. The experience was so striking that Jacob felt that it must be commemorated, so he erected the stone upon which he slept.
Jacob did not want to forget what God had given him. Bethel, meaning ‘House of God’, then became an important centre for worship. By physically remembering what God had done, Jacob increased his faith and the faith of those who later worshipped there.
In Joshua 4:1-8 God commands the Israelites to cross the Jordan River which He has stopped miraculously. Joshua leads the 12 tribes to remove boulders from the riverbed, which they erect in the Promised Land in a place called Gilgal. These 12 stones of Jordan were a memorial to God’s love and miraculous assistance.
However, these stones are appreciate not just by those who witnessed the miracle. Joshua 4:21-22 explains that ‘In the future your children will ask, “What do these stones mean?” Then you can tell them, “This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.”’ God longs for us to proclaim His goodness to future generations.
The remembrance stones in Gilgal reminded future generations of the God of miracles so that their faith would be renewed. We believe that The Wall will do this as it memorialises Jesus for centuries.
Judges 3 depicts Ehud the Judge witnessing the stones at Gilgal which help to renew his faith. He visits the oppressive King Eglon to kill him, yet after paying tribute he leaves. We are unsure why he left without completing his task, but Judges 3:19 tells us that Ehud reaches the stones at Gilgal and they inspire him to finish his mission. By killing King Eglon, Israel is afforded eighty years of peace.
Little is known about Ehud, but it is clear that by seeing a memorial to the loving and powerful God of his people his faith is restored. The monument at Gilgal was not an irrelevant relic, but a powerful tool of remembrance that God established to inspire faith and lead people to encounter Him.
In "'What do these stones mean?': Biblical Theology and a Motif in Joshua", biblical scholar Robert L. Hubbard Jr. says ‘In sum, whenever Israel saw the stones—whenever the child asked and the adult answered—Israel imagined again the might of Yahweh and rekindled their awe of that Great God’ (Hubbard 11).
These stones represented remembrance for old generations and new, the elderly and the young, for the individual and the community. And through this remembrance, their adoration and awe of God was renewed. We want to see this faith-restoring remembrance established in the 21st century church.
1 Samuel 7:7-12 depicts the Israelites under imminent attack from the Philistines. God leads them to victory, so Samuel erects a large stone and names it Ebenezer, meaning ‘the stone of help’. Samuel recognised the source of their victory and publically declared it. By commemorating God’s goodness in a permanent way, it ensured that the Israelites would not forget God’s grace. The memorial stones made sure that all glory went to God, the illustrator of Israel’s success.
What can we learn?
By studying biblical examples of building memorials, we see the importance of remembering testimony. Answered prayers are a gift that must be stewarded and treasured for eternity. By creating memorials we can remember God’s goodness and increase our faith that if He has done it once, He can do it again. We believe that generations will come to The Wall and see Jesus’ miraculous and loving nature through one million testimonies of answered prayer. We believe that this will ignite faith for prayer on a national level.
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