For most followers of Jesus, their first trip to Israel will include visits to numerous biblical sites. If you are in Jerusalem, you will see the Old City or the Mount of Olives. Similarly, traveling through the Galilee, you will likely visit Capernaum.
It would be hard to forego at least getting a glimpse of the Jordan River or the Valley of Armageddon. The list of significant locations goes on and on, as the land of Israel overflows with history!
But just as there appears to be no end to ancient sites, similarly there seems to be no limit to how many chapels and shrines can be raised in these locations. Although great craft and talent were invested in them, Christians today often wish the momentous settings of biblical narratives were left untouched.
Can visiting these sanctuaries be of benefit to us or should we look past them? Put matter-of-factly, the Word of God can make us consider the many church buildings to be an impulse to glorify God.
When Joshua and the Israelites were entering the Promised Land, they had to cross the Jordan River. God did a miracle by cutting off the river so that the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped forward on dry land. Consequently, the whole people crossed the river without touching water. God instructed Joshua to have a man from each tribe pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan in order to build a monument at Gilgal. This Hebrew name stands for “circle of standing stones.”
This directive is accompanied by a very important explanation of its purpose: “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 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.” (Joshua 4:6-7)
Although we cannot be sure that every chapel built in Israel was raised following God’s specific instructions to do so, we can turn our attention to the biblical events they commemorate. So much of the Jewish land speaks of God’s faithfulness! Looking at the monuments honoring Jesus’ life on earth, we can follow the commandment voiced by Joshua at Gilgal and answer the question “What do these stones mean?” with a powerful confession: God did a miracle!
We are given an opportunity to testify of God’s goodness whenever we are asked about the “standing stones” in our lives. Every commemoration of every blessing – a wedding anniversary, holiday celebrations, even birthdays – is a monument to God’s faithfulness. What do these stones mean to you? May we always remember to seize this opportunity to proclaim: God did a miracle!