Joshua 4:8-9 (ESV)
8 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. 9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.
Today, thousands of American flags dot Arlington National Cemetery—one for each grave marker. Red, white and blue dominate the green landscape.
Memorial Day is a day to remember those who’ve died serving in the U.S. military. Civil War veteran General John A. Logan called in 1868 for Americans to decorate the graves of those who fell during the “War Between the States;” the holiday has grown in scope since then and now commemorates the fallen from each of America’s wars.
Though Memorial Day is an American holiday, nations across the world have their own traditions for remembering the sacrifices of their soldiers. There’s something uniquely powerful about communal remembrance—gathering together as a family or nation to reflect on significant people and events of the past. It’s no surprise that memorial celebrations—military and otherwise—are common to many cultures throughout history, including the people of the Bible.
We see a famous example of a memorial celebration in our Bible verse today. God commanded the Israelite leader Joshua to set up a memorial to mark the event of the Ark of the Covenant crossing the Jordan River, to remind future generations of what had happened there:
In this case, God wanted the Israelites to remember his deliverance. The stone memorial served as a physical reminder of a shaping event in their history. Sometimes the memorial took the form not of a physical monument, but a shared activity, as in the case of the Israelite’s commemoration of their escape from Egypt.
Christians observe their own memorial celebrations; most notably in the “breaking of bread” that recalls Christ’s sacrifice.
Reminders, bitter or sweet, are important to our culture and our history. They remind us where we’ve come from, and whose work got us to where we are.
It’s important that we remember who we are and where we’ve come from. Americans make a point of remembering on Memorial Day. And as Christians, every day is a good day to remember, reflect on, and give thanks for what the Lord has done for us.
Dear Lord, we are thankful for those that have given their life so that we can enjoy our freedom. Thank You also for laying down Your life so that we may live with You eternally. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.