That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean you by these stones?…
The crossing the Jordan dry shod was tile first miracle which marked the entrance of the people of Israel into the land of Canaan. It was God's purpose that this should be held in perpetual remembrance. Hence the erection of the twelve stones in the bed of the river, to remind the twelve tribes of that which the Almighty hand had wrought for them, in fulfilment of the promise made to their fathers. The material monument would, however, be insufficient of itself to preserve this memory. The story it commemorated must be told from generation to generation. Joshua, as the representative of the people of Israel, speaks thus to the twelve men chosen to carry the twelve stones: "This shall be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, when it passed over Jordan" (vers. 6, 7). After the crossing of the river the same precept is repeated, and now not only to the twelve representatives of the people, but to the entire nation. "And Joshua spake unto the children of Israel, saying, Ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land." This narrative shows us the way in which the memory of the Divine story of salvation should be handed down.
I. THERE NEEDS TO BE AN INDESTRUCTIBLE MONUMENT OF THE FACTS OF REDEMPTION, not liable, like a mere verbal tradition, to human additions and interpolations. The twelve stones here represent this character of immutability, by which the truth of God is preserved from misrepresentation. We ourselves have more than one memorial graven by God's own hand in the rock forever. We have a Divine Book - the Holy Scripture - which has preserved for us the great and glorious facts of revelation in their integrity and purity. We must never suffer this sacred monument either to be altered or added to.
II. The twelve stones, commemorative of the passage of the Jordan, WERE PLACED THERE BY THE HANDS OF THOSE WHO HAD THEMSELVES BEEN WITNESSES OF THE GREAT MIRACLE. The twelve men who reared this monument marched at the head of Israel when the waters of the river were driven back. So was it also with the sacred writers of the Old Testament. So was it with the Apostles — the first twelve representatives of the new people of God. Their testimony is at once irrefragable and of primary authority, for those who reared the monument of the Scriptures can say with St. John, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you" (1 John 1:1). Our first duty, as those who are concerned for the preservation of the truth of God, is fidelity to this original and sacred testimony. Let us carefully separate from it all which is merely fabulous - the creation of our own imagination or reason.
III. IT IS NOT ENOUGH, HOWEVER, TO PRESERVE THE LETTER OF SCRIPTURE UNIMPAIRED, and to fence it round with our respect and veneration, as it would not have been enough for the children of Israel to have simply guarded against destructive forces the twelve stones of commemoration. It was needful, further, that the story of the great miracle should be repeated day by day, not only in the solemnities of the altar, but also at the domestic hearth. No other priesthood can be a substitute for the priesthood of every man in his own household. Let every Christian father himself tell to his children the story of salvation, taking it from the pure source of Holy Scripture; and so let this history form part of that spiritual heritage which is the best legacy to succeeding generations. Let the altar of remembrance - the Book of God - be set up in the midst of the house; thus will the sacred tradition be handed down in all its purity. Let the story of salvation be told by the lips of father and mother, familiar to the child from its very cradle; and thus preserved in its purity, the gospel tradition will become an element of vital power in the heart of the rising race. - E.DE.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?