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Memorials of Jordan

John Ritchie

The passage of Israel across the Jordan was not to be forgotten. Twelve chosen men, one from each tribe, returned to the emptied bed of the river where the feet of the priests stood still, and then from thence, each lifted a stone which he carried on his shoulder to the Canaan side, and set it up on the Promised Land (Josh 4.1-8). These stones were the memorials of the Lord's power in cutting off the waters of the Jordan and in bringing His people into the land. They were to be witnesses to generations, yet to come, of the power of the Lord's right hand. These memorial stones, raised up from the place of death, and borne by a power outside themselves to a new position in which they were to bear witness for God, remind us of the present place of those who are risen and seated with Christ. Once, like these stones, they lay in death, under judgment, but by the grace and power of God, they have been raised and seated together in heavenly places in Christ. Believers living in the power of this position, and showing by a daily life for God that their affection is set up in things above, will attract the world's attention. The question will be asked, "What mean ye by these stones?". Gilgal, where Israel's "reproach" was washed away, was a continual witness to "all the people of the earth" (Josh 4.24) of that which the hand of the Lord had done for His people Israel.

However, another memorial in a different place must also be erected. In the deep bed of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests stood, Joshua set up twelve more stones to be overflowed and buried by the waters of Jordan when they returned to their place (Josh 4.9). Here we have the other side of the picture. The twelve stones lifted out of the Jordan, and set in Canaan, tell of the new standing of the believer as risen with Christ. The twelve stones buried in Jordan, never more to be seen by human eyes, tell of the believer's death and burial with Christ.

Baptism, the divinely appointed figure of the believer's death, burial and resurrection with Christ is the New Testament answer to the two sets of memorial stones in and beyond the Jordan. To those who know, and hence by faith appropriate and experience, the reality, the likeness and memorial will be grateful and precious. To others it will be a stumbling block and an offence.



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