The Memorial I Am Building
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. A day to remember and honor those who have given their life in service to our country. Were it not for those who were willing to obey the call to serve their country, none of us would have the freedom we now enjoy and especially in our churches we honor them for our right to worship God as we see fit, was earned by the lives of those who died to protect that right. Churches in a sense have a memorial day every Sunday as we honor Jesus Christ who gave his life to pay for our sin and make possible our redemption and reconciliation with God.
There are several kinds of memorials. Some are like our service each Sunday or a special service like a national holiday. There can be great statues or sculpture like General Sam Houston along I-45 or a simple cross beside the road. And of course, perhaps the most common monument is the headstone which marks the graves of those who have gone before us. I enjoy graveyards, they are an encyclopedia of memorials and history. I also enjoy collecting epithets from those tombstones. Here are some of my favorites.
This was written by a husband after his wife died.
Here lies Mary Bly
She's at rest and so am I.
In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery:
The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna,
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the Devil sent him Anna.
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in Nova Scotia:
The Good Die Young.
in a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery:
Pardon me For not rising.
in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery:
Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas, Instead of the brake.
A lawyer's epitaph in England:
Sir John Strange
Here lies an honest lawyer,
And that is Strange.
Lester Moore was a Wells, Fargo Co. station agent for Naco, Arizona in the 1880's. He's buried in the Boot Hill Cemetry in Tombtone, Arizona:
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More.
In a Georgia cemetery:
"I told you I was sick!"
In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England:
On the 22nd of June
Went out of tune.
On a grave from the 1880's in Nantucket, Massachusetts:
Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there's only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God.
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:
Here lies an Atheist
All dressed up
And no place to go.
In a cemetery in England:
Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so shall you be,
Remember this and follow me.
To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone:
To follow you I'll not consent,
Until I know which way you went.
Or the grave of William Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist
I am in earnest... I will not retreat a single step, and I will be heard.
Or this one from the headstone of the Reverend M Reeves, who had been a sergeant in the Confederate Army buried near here in the cemetery in Leagueville, Tx next to Leagueville Baptist Church. Of all the history he had lived and seen this is how he wanted to be remembered.
He believed and preached salvation by grace.
I wonder what kind of memorial are we building with our lives? How will we be remembered and what will our actions, decisions and commitments impact those who come after us?
Turn to Joshua the fourth chapter and let us learn about building memorials.
Command for a Memorial Joshua 4:1-3
And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.
God calls for Joshua to build a memorial
God's call and command to Joshua is clear. He did not need to pray or seek a sign. He understood exactly what God wanted, for God had told him plainly.
When God calls we are to answer and when He commands we are to obey. Joshua did not question or nor hesitate or wait. He simply acted as God had commanded and he began to build a memorial.
God Commands Us to Build Memorials
We need to fully understand that what God calls us to do is not vague or difficult to find. His commands are clear and supernaturally recorded for us in scripture.
Isaiah 45:19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
Deut 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
When we hear God speak to us in His Word and determine to obey, then just like Joshua our actions begin to build a memorial, not with stones but this time with our very lives.
So what are so of those commands that God gives us today. In a sense the building material for the memorials we will build?
Assemble together Hebrew 3:13 "Forsake not...
Go Matthew 28:19-20 "Go ye therefore..."
Love one another John 13:34 " A new commandment..."
Forgive Matt 5:22, 16:15 "Be reconciled with your brother..
Scripture that tells us to Grow, to Give, to protect our children and lover our spouses. Commands that will shape our world.
God is not vague when He speak and when we hear God’s speak to us from His word, then we should undertand that His call is to be obeyed!
God tells us that He desires obedience even above sacrifice.
1Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
The Creator and Sustainer of the universe speaks, dare we not listen? Dare we not obey?
Illustration: Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
We know God has commanded us to do as New Testament believers. There is no excuse when we refuse.
Transition: When we follow God’s commands, when we do what He asks us to do then, we like Joshua, are building a memoral for others to see what God has done and what He is doing in and through us.
Cause for a Memorial Joshua 4:6-7; 21-24
That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.
21-24 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.
The Memorial Would Tell Future Generations of God
The children would ask their parents about the stones that Joshua erected on the banks of the Jordan.
The fathers and mothers would then tell the story of God delivering the children of Israel, the miracles He had done, the leaders like Moses, Joshua, Caleb and others that God had used to deliver them to the Promised Land.
By this and other memorials the future generations would be secured by the past. This memorial was vital to the future of God’s nation.
Building Our Own Memorials
Our actions, our obedience or our disobedience to God erect a memorial of our life for our children and others to see.
We need to weigh every action or inaction in the light of what will this teach others about God in my life? Especially we need to ask what will it teach my children or grandchildren about God?
God told Joshua that the children would see and ask, “What do these stones mean?” It may not be that out children will ask but whether we realize it or not they see the memorial of our life’s actions and it instructs them, for good or ill, it instructs them about us, about our heritage and about God.
They will see if we disregard God and build the wrong kind of memorial. What kind of memorial do we build by watching TV for hours a day? What kind of memorial do they see when we smoke, drink or abuse our bodies and minds with alcohol or drugs? What memorial do they hear when our words are filled with profanity, or criticism, or anger?
And what about the memorials we build if we obey God and His word.
What kind of memorial do you build by faithfully attending God’s House of Worship, by reading the Bible with your children, by acting, dressing, talking like followers of God, by abstaining from those things that destroy our bodies, our minds or our families?
1 Corintians 3:12-13 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
If you want your life to count, if you want a memorial that will stand the test of eternity and one that will teach your children what is really important in this life and in the next, then build your memorial by obeying God and be the right example for your family, friends and people in your sphere of influence.
This same Joshua at the end of his life stood before the nation he had lead and told the people to choose the kind of life they would live, the kind of memorial they would build with that life.
Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Dear God give us more Joshuas in our churches and in our families. Who will stand up and say “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!”
Transition: Now the story of the memorial at the riverside takes an unexpected turn. Go with me to verse 9, of chapter 4.
Construction of the Memorial Joshua 4:9
And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.
Joshua Builds An Extra Memorial
What just happened? Joshua, on his own initiative builds an extra memorial in the middle of the Jordan River. At the place where the priest who carried the ark of the covenant across stood and waited for the people to pass. He erects and extra memoral. Just like that he does more than God asked him to do, more than just the minimal in fulfilling the command.
Is that allowed? Why did Joshua build this extra memorial? It would seem that Joshua acted to please God beyond what was expected.
He erects both a hidden and a visible memorial. The visible memorial would be placed in Gilgal in the campground. All the people would see it there, it would be a public memorial for all. But the extra memorial that Joshua built for the Lord, would be covered by the river. It was private, between God and him.
What Kind Of Memorial Will You Build?
Will we only be concerned about the public memorials, the actions that all see and that are the minimal that God commands? Or will we, like Joshua, determine to do more than just what is expected?
Is Church attendance on Sunday morning all there is? Are privat devotions and Bible reading or prayer unnecessary options to the Christian life? Is bringing yourself enough? Are there not others who need Jesus, and need to experience the peace and encouragement of worship?
Are you willing to erect both the hidden and visible memorials, the expected and the extra, the public and the private in your commitment and devotion to God?
Illustration: The Memorial Jesus Built
Centuries later there was another Joshua who built the greatest memorial of all time and etnerity. He was named Joshua by His Father in Heaven but we know Him by the Greek equivelant of that name, Jesus. Like the Old Testament Joshua, he built both a the hidden and the visible memoral. He built the hidden memorial with his apostles and friends life Mary, Martha and Lazuras. He built the public in his peaching and miracles. The hidden in the Garden of Gethsamane and the public on the Hill of Calvary. He gave His life completely and with his vicarious death built a memorial for all mankind for all eternity.
He declared in John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
His life poured out on the cross is the ultimate memorial. When we see that memorial in the Gospel, we realize what God has truly done for us.
Can we, who have seen that eternal memorial, then only give the minimum to the One who has given us His only begotten Son? Can we give only what is seen to the One who gave us forgiveness of sin? Can we give only some of our life to the One what has given us eternal life?
This morning I want you to ask yourself, what kind of memorial are you building with your life? What will you leave behind for others to see, what will they know of God based on the memorial you build with the stones of your actions, decisions and commitments?
I started this sermon with epitaths and let me close it with one famous one.
Fanny J. Crosby was born in 1820 and died in 1915 and yet most of us her today still know who she is over 100 years after her death. Even more incredible when you consider that she was blinded at 6 weeks old when a nurse put the wrong medicine in her eyes. We know of her because she wrote almost 9000 hymns, sometimes 10 or 15 a day and because of her blindness never learned to write but had to dictate all her songs. Throughout her life in addition to writing hymns she dedicated herself to working with in homeless shelters, the Temperance Movement and speaking about the Lord wherever she could. She lived in poverty most of her life because she had the terrible habit of giving away her money to those less fortunate the herself. Because of her work among those living in the homeless shelters, she was affectionately called Aunty Fanny by those who were touched by her generosity and grace.
When she died her family by her wishes put up a small tombstone the simply reads, “Aunt Fanny, she hath done what she could.” In 1955, forty years after she had died, Friends erected a huge monument which gives more details of her life and contains the text of the hymn “Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine! Oh what a foretaste of Glory divine. Heir of salvation purchase of God. Born of His Spirit washed in His Blood.
Fanny Crosby didn’t want a big granite monument because she had already built a memorial of her life that to this day continues to tell the future generations of God’s blessing and work in her life.
What will be our memorial? We are building it with each day of our lives. We are building it with each service you attend, with each offering you give, with each missionary you prayer for, with each moment spent with your family. With each decision that means doing more and not less for God.