There is a scene in Disney’s The Lion King where Rafiki, a baboon, swats Simba, a lion, on the head. When Simba asks what it was for, Rafiki responds, “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” He goes on to say that you can either run from the past or learn from it. In Joshua, Israel chooses to set up a memorial so that the generations to follow could learn from the past.
These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.
Joshua 4:7b (NIV)
On significant occasions, Israel would often build landmarks or altars to commemorate what God had done for them. These stones would serve as a reminder to future generations of their rich heritage.
He did this so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God
Joshua 4:24 (NIV)
Simba had to leave some things in his past, but he also had to remember the past so that he could lay hold of his inheritance—an entire kingdom. Sound familiar? Even after Israel took the Promised Land, they needed perpetual reminders of the fact that they were God’s chosen people, and of how they got to be where they were. Even the painful reminders of past sin would prove to be helpful for generations to come.
Like Israel setting up stones and Simba facing the hurt of the past, we can’t turn our backs entirely on our own history. In many cases, we need to celebrate it. If you needed to be rescued, celebrate and talk about the fact that God brought you out! If you were healed, speak of the Lord’s faithfulness. If you have been made whole, share it with the world.
I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness know through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
Psalm 89:1-2 (NIV)
How is the present generation to know of God’s goodness and faithfulness if the previous generation never speaks of it? Our sin is in the past, but God’s love, mercy, and grace endure forever—through all generations. We need to speak of these things and celebrate them as well.
How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Romans 10:14-15 (NIV)
If you need to erect a monument to commemorate God’s goodness, go for it. If you need to share your story, do it. If you want to sing a song of praise, go ahead. Just don’t keep it to yourself!
Read: Joshua 4-6, Luke 2:1-24