Gazing upon Memorials
by Fia Curley
A lot can be said about Washington, DC—about its busy streets, its neighborhoods, the politics and endless traffic, the demonstrations, the food, the jazz, and the people. In this city, everyone seems to have a side, and everyone has an opinion. But regardless of all the opinions, one fact is indisputable: like all national capitals, the District is a place of history. Any given night of the week, a leisurely stroll down Constitution Avenue toward 15th Street gives a strong reminder of the humble beginnings of this city and the reality of the past, despite the flurry of the current events of today.
On the right stands a reminder of the old, a stone memorial of the unexpected foray into the experiment that would become known as the United States of America and the man who would lead it.
The obelisk stands 555 feet in the air on a foundation that has been driven 37 feet into the ground to sustain its weight and height. The base of the monument is surrounded by flags, but from its pinnacle you can see not just the White House but dozens of monuments detailing a history of war and triumph, of struggle and the threat of defeat.
During the day, if it weren’t for the crowds of tourists, it would be easy for each monument to fade into the background, to simply serve as the backdrop to a city that thrives on the rush of important tasks. But at night, when life slows to a moderate pace and the majority of people populating the area are armed guards, the monuments stand out, apparent and arresting. A stark contrast to the darkened night sky, lights wash the memorials from every angle. Whether it’s the stalwart expression of soldiers raising an American flag, the solemn look of Martin Luther King Jr., or the unwavering focus of Abraham Lincoln, each monument is hard to miss.
Each and every one speaks to history, to a time gone by that still impacts present day, decades, if not centuries, later.
A memorial is a structure that serves to commemorate a person or past event so that when it’s looked upon people are reminded of what has happened. More than stone and architectural prowess, each creation helps strengthen the memory of what has been accomplished, a visual reminder of historic events.
In Joshua’s day, the freedom the Israelites had prayed about, walked toward, and ached for seemed to be an elusive promise. In the crushing bondage of Egypt, hope was fleeting. At the high banks of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s best men in pursuit, hope was giving way to panic.
Yet God remained faithful. His power, character, and covenant were meant to be the foundation for the Israelites’ hope. He would sustain them throughout their journey. He knew the way that was best for them. The things He had done in Abraham’s day weren’t the epilogue to the story. The exploits they had seen through Moses were barely scratching the surface of His goodness. And still they doubted.
A generation that had succumbed to the plagues of internal doubt and grumbling had seen death. And yet, standing at the banks of the flooded Jordan river, God asserted the reality of the source of this new generation’s hope—the God of all gods, the I Am that I Am, the One who sees the end from the beginning.
And it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying: “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.'”
Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.” (Joshua 4:1–9)
The middle of a miracle may not always feel like the best place to stop and create a memorial, but that’s exactly what God calls the Israelites to do—and not just for themselves but for those who would come after them. God wanted His people to have a visual reminder of what He had done for them, of how He had practically moved and fulfilled His word spoken about His people generations earlier.Instead of questions, complaints, or resistance, the response is submission through trust.
So the priests who bore the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua; and the people hurried and crossed over. Then it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over, that the ark of the Lord and the priests crossed over in the presence of the people. And the men of Reuben, the men of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them. About forty thousand prepared for war crossed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho. On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they had feared Moses, all the days of his life.
Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Command the priests who bear the ark of the Testimony to come up from the Jordan.” Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” And it came to pass, when the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet touched the dry land, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks as before.
Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
Not only would this memorial speak to the generations of the descendants the Lord promised to Abraham, but it would serve to let “all the peoples of the earth” know of His greatness.The same still happens in our day and age. We may not always cross literal rivers, but times of crossing and transition—as we move with boldness and faith into what the Lord has called us to—are times to commemorate the greatness of the Lord. He fulfills His word in our lives so that future generations and even unbelievers would know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not just a god who hears prayer but He is the God who answers prayers by following through on His word.
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10–11)
It was true for Joshua. It was reality for Abraham and Sarah. And it was the means by which Jesus maintained His focus as His body hung, ravaged and bleeding on the cross. God always follows through on His promises, because He is holy and a good father.
“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)
Nothing is too hard for God to accomplish. And nothing is too small for His attention. As this new generation of Israelites finally moved toward what God had promised long ago, His mandate for a visual cue set forth an example that would serve us well in times of accusation. When the enemy breathes lies of “What if?” and “Did God really say?” we can look at the past exploits of God throughout the Word and in our own lives and recount His faithful hand.When pressure was mounting and solutions seemed nonexistent, God came through. When forgiveness seemed impossible and unwarranted, His power was there. When everyone around us seemed to echo the word “impossible,” God showed His strength and ability. These are the moments that cause us to be in awe of our Father. And these are the moments that are handed down from one generation to the next so that all would know that the God of the Bible is also the God of today.
He still does miracles, regardless of the circumstances.
He still rules over the affairs of man, and He never grows tired of doing so.
He is still the Lord God gracious who will receive all glory.
And He is still on His throne.
When we submit to Him and trust that the One who is the “servant of all” actually delights in serving us and bringing us into the Father’s good plans, we, too, can move with confidence into a God-ordained destiny. Even when all may seem daunting and feel uncomfortable or overwhelming, we can take a moment, despite the chaos and pressure, to lift our hands and worship the One whose power is made perfect in our weakness.
In those moments of advancement into the unknown and unfamiliar, the memorials we raise to God can be driven into the proverbial ground of our circumstances to declare to those around us that we, too, “have come this far by faith.”
Despite the taunts of infertility or the whispers of lack, the mocking of impossibility and the nagging words of defeat, we have hope. Not only can we look at what God has done in our lives, we can look at the lives of believers who have gone before us, trusting God and His ability, His faithfulness and character.
In the momentary apparent darkness of life’s trying times, the Spirit reminds us of what we’ve been taught. He shines light on those moments of breakthrough, turnaround, and shifts that caused us to marvel at God and His nature. He reminds us that those answers weren’t fleeting moments of the past, but our inheritance in the day-to-day.
Parting an overflowing sea is easy for Him. Strengthening weak bodies is simple. He is the One who does not shy away from declaring that absolutely nothing is too hard for Him to accomplish. This is God who delights in working in our lives and always invites us to come to Him. Because the impossible is where He delights in meeting us and displaying His extravagant kindness and love.
When we look on the past and see how the Lord has moved, we are fueled to thank Him again for all He has done and to expect to see Him move again. He is the inexhaustible God, always ready to back His word with power and meet our faith. This is our God.
And every memorial reminds us of this truth: He has never failed and He never will.
What from your past gives you faith for the future?
Watch our History of IHOPKC video series on YouTube to learn more about God’s faithfulness to His word and purposes displayed through our own journey!
Fia Curley served on the NightWatch at IHOPKC for many years, participating in prayer, worship, and intercession from midnight to 6am. Currently attending college in New York, she enjoys blending her passion for prayer, worship, and journalism as she labors with the Lord to see His goodness revealed to families, government leaders, and immigrants from non-Christian nations.