So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” (Joshua 24:25-27)
The Stone Of Joshua
Monuments have been a common means to bear witness of an event, a person, or establish a covenant. When Joshua brought the people across the Jordan River to begin the conquest of Canaan, the Lord told him to take twelve stones and set them up as a sign of the covenant made between God and Israel. This memorial would constantly remind how the Lord delivered Israel from Egypt and brought them to the promised land crossing the Jordan River on dry land. The unknown author of the book of Joshua notes the twelve stones remained visible as a memorial.
At the end of Joshua’s life, he challenges the people to affirm their covenant with the Lord by writing their words in the Book of the Law of God and taking a large stone as a witness to their covenant. Joshua places the stone under the oak that was the sanctuary of the Lord to serve as a testimony of the fidelity of the people. It would be a constant reminder of the promises they made that day. They had promised to serve God and to obey His voice. The stone of remembrance would be a testimony of their oath. Joshua told the people the stone had heard their words of the Lord given that day and their promise. It would be a witness to the people lest they deny God and turn away to the gods around them.
Following the covenant made at Shechem, the people returned to their homes. Israel was faithful to the word of the Lord all the days of Joshua and the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which had been done for Israel. After the death of Joshua, a period of chaos characterized the story of Israel. For three hundred years, Israel was ruled by Judges who delivered the people from the oppression of foreign armies sent to punish the rebellious nation. There was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. The stone of Joshua remained in its place, crying out the words of the covenant made in the days of Joshua, but no one was listening.
Israel was granted a king and then David and Solomon ruled the kingdom. After the death of Solomon, Israel fell into civil war with a divided kingdom of Israel to the north and Judah in the south. It only took two hundred years for the northern ten tribes of Israel to be destroyed by the Assyrians and 130 years later, Jerusalem would be burned and the temple destroyed. What had happened to the glorious nation of God’s people who proclaimed allegiance to the word of God? They forgot the stone of Joshua. It remained unmoved but no one cared. It was ignored, neglected and covered with weeds. The word of the Lord cried out from the stone and no one listened. Joshua’s memorial was forgotten.
God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son and Jesus established a covenant to remember His sacrifice. Few know about the memorial stone of Jesus that was written in blood on a wooden cross. The cross of Christ remains a memorial and the world ignores it. Sadly, many who have made a covenant with Christ do not see the importance of the supper of the Lord. Jesus instituted the supper as a memorial to be remembered each first day of the week. If work gets in the way, the supper is ignored. Assembling on the first day of the week is a matter of convenience. Like the Israel of old, people turn their hearts away from the memorial of God in time.
The twelve stones set up by Joshua when the people crossed the Jordan and the memorial stone placed by Joshua under the tree will be a testimony to all Israel. Jesus established a memorial to be remembered. The Bible is a memorial to the word of God. God has given humanity every reminder to know Him and to obey Him. The choice of obedience is whether men want to listen to a stone. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.