The practice of setting up memorials to remind us and future generations of certain acts has been around for millennia.
We have set up memorials in Western culture such as the Arc de Triumphe in Paris, France. This keeps the memory of heroic acts of individuals and of nations before our collective memory.
The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is an illustration of a memorial that is dedicated to one individual who had a particularly important role in shaping our country and its founding documents.
Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb in Springfield, Illinois honors the life and memory of a president whose life represented a desire for elimination of slavery and the drive to have a unified country where people could work but not be in bondage to anyone.
In ancient days in the Middle East, people would erect sacred stones to honor their gods, to confirm covenants between persons and even between cities.
According to Biblicaltraining.org, there is a term used by archeologists to identify a “sacred pillar”, that is a stone monument set up as a memorial or as an object of worship, also known as “standing stones”. The technical term for such an object is MASSEBAH măs’ ə bə (מַצֵּבָ֖ה).
The Hebrews set up “standing stones” or “massebah” that would serve as a reminder of God’s covenant and of His supernatural acts that He extended on their behalf. When members of the community would see a stone, the story surrounding it would be passed on orally from generation to generation. In other words, the stone would serve as a sort of “lesson book” which was “read” by the parents, grandparents and relatives as they taught their children throughout future generations.
For example, Jacob set up standing stones at Bethel where he had his incredible dream in which God reaffirmed His covenant with him. Read about it in Genesis chapters 28 and 35.
Another example is found in the book of Exodus:
Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
One of my favorite men of the Old Testament is Joshua. When the people were going to cross the Jordan River, God told him to take twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan to use as standing stones for later generations.
And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the LORD told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there. … And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
Joshua 4:8, 20-24.
The people were to keep the story of God’s miraculous acts before the eyes and hearts of their children by way of oral tradition, which would be triggered by seeing the standing stones that were a testament to God’s acts on their behalf.
This practice is also raised in the New Testament where Peter describes believers as “living stones” in 1 Peter 2:5. In all likelihood, Peter was using the standing stones concept so that the hearers would live out their faith so boldly that the people around them would take notice. Indeed, they were not mute standing stones that relied on the memories of the people for telling the story of God. They were living stones who could tell of God’s acts in their own lives; they could personally tell of the difference in their own lives because of the Lord Jesus, and they could describe the power given by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
It is likely that Stonehenge is an illustration of standing stones to be used in calling people to the worship of their god. The problem, though, is that no one knows with certainty what the stones mean … they are certainly standing stones, but there is no one who can speak positively to their significance.
What does this have to do with us in 2016?
We need to live in contrast to Stonehenge. We are not to merely be silent stones standing up without any relevance to anyone. We are to be living stones who tell of God and of His mercies to anyone we come in contact with, to anyone who will listen, to any … period!
We are to be the living stones for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are to be ready to tell others of Jesus and His love, of His saving grace and atoning sacrifice, of His presence in our lives and of the comfort and encouragement that the Holy Spirit provides to us through all of life’s ups and downs.
Who is going to tell your children of God’s grace and mercy? Who is going to illustrate the love of God to your grandchildren? Who is going to testify to the ongoing presence of God in your life? Who is going to repeat the stories of God’s protection, of His providential provision for your needs, of His deliverance from tragedy, of His surrounding mercy and grace during times of grief?
I pray that we each would be living stones for our God. I pray that we would live lives that illustrate God’s presence in us and with us on a daily basis. When people see us, our marriages, our families, our homes, our witness to others, I pray that what they will see is the image of our Lord and Savior as we seek to do His will in our communities, nation and world.
Father, help me to be a living stone for You. Enable me to witness of your love, care, mercy and grace. Give me Godly wisdom as I speak to others so that the words will be yours and the power of your Word will speak through me. Thank You for the gift of life, now and for eternity, through your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior.