1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight. 4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
This passage illustrates the marking of a new chapter for the Israelites. After 40 years of wandering in a barren desert, Joshua led the twelve tribes across the Jordan River to the fulfilled promised land of Israel. The 12 stones symbolize the location where the river was dried for the Israelites from 12 different tribes to cross together. It also is a memorial of this miracle from God who allowed them to cross safely.
For this Advent season of 2020, we could make a micro-analogy of this passage to our current pandemic which has completely isolated us into a virtual new reality, waiting for a vaccine to allow the world as we knew it to open up again. For most of us now, our daily lives consist of one virtual meeting after another. All in-person interactions with anyone outside of your immediate household should be made with the barrier of face coverings and at least 6 feet distance, and constant hand washing. While 9 months and counting of this virtual existence feels long, we have hope to see a vaccine develop within a year, which is far less than the Israelites’ wait lasting a whole generation.
So as we await the development of effective vaccines-and for the post-Covid era to start-I am humbled and mindful that it is not ourself-sufficiency carrying us through the barren desert or dried river during this pandemic, it is hopefully God’s grace. Whether we experience uncharted territories of trials or good fortune, by clinging to His Word alone we do so during this pandemic, and beyond, by His grace. Reading further on to the last verse of the chapter, vs 24, we are exhorted that the stones poking out of the Jordan are our reminder of God’s hand and timing “so that we might always fear the Lord our God.”
He gives us our own drying of the river and Jordan crossing stories in our lives for His glory- and to further His Kingdom. What story is God preparing to use from your life during this pandemic that enables people to see Him reflected in you and enables you to give whatever glory comes from it back to Him?
One of our favorite holiday traditions involves our whole neighborhood. Every year one designated family hosts the great luminary neighborhood project collecting donations, supplies, & sending out reminders. On Christmas Eve in the afternoon all the neighborhood kids clamor to the host home for hot chocolate or cider bringing their bike baskets and wagons to load up with paper bags, sand and votives. The children joyously place the bags up and down all the streets in our neighborhood and then each family comes out as the sun sets to light them all simultaneously. It is a beautiful sight and heartwarming experience that brings the whole community together.