Holy holes, modern monument

Joshua 4:21-24; Malachi 3:16

I was doing some touch-up painting around the house, when I encountered it: the small cluster of holes in the yellowish paint and drywall. Tucked away behind the mixer and the fishbowl in the kitchen, it is nearly imperceptible to all but the most knowing eyes.

I was about to perform my spackle and paint wizardry when my wife stopped me. “You don’t want to paint over that,” she reminded me gently. “That’s our reminder of the hand of God.” As usual, she was right.

I had almost forgotten how, several years earlier, when we were completing construction of our home and kitchen, the massive double cupboard above that space had come detached from its moorings and crashed – glass doors, ceramic dinner plates, decorative teapots, and all – onto the counter and over my head. It created the garish gouges in the wall, but the providential part of it was, it narrowly missed our infant daughter, whom I was preparing to bathe in just minutes on that very spot.

For us, that moment of God’s protection over her little life is frozen in time, commemorated, as it were, by those “holy holes” in our wall. Those cracks are more than blemishes to be caulked and painted: they are a monument to the faithfulness of our heavenly Father who protects.

The story of the children of Israel throughout the Old Testament is a similar story of protection and provision. Yahweh guides and goads, restores and forgives, pleads and delivers. And yet, then as now, his miraculous works are so easily and quickly forgotten!

Perhaps that is why God gives the Israelites a tangible strategy for jogging their collective memory. When they walk through the Jordan on dry land, for example, Joshua instructs one member from each tribe to pick up a stone and place it on the river’s edge as a memorial to God’s providence.

He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24)

The act of connecting memory to an object or place is very powerful. I have a friend who returns almost yearly to the summer camp where he grew up to hang another ornament on an evergreen deep in the woods – a hood ornament from the car accident where God spared his life, photos and ribbons from his wedding day, mementoes and trinkets from life-changing cross-cultural
experiences. If strangers came upon Bob’s tree, they would think it was the most unsightly Christmas experiment ever. But to him, that little patch of forest is holy ground.

Monuments like this jar our sensibilities from the predictable and expected, and call us back to fidelity with our heavenly Father. They mark holy, high water moments when repentance and humility governed instead of the usual skepticism and indifference.

When the voice of God thunders to the people of Judah upon their return from exile that they have yet again lost their way and wearied him with their words, a repentant remnant responds – not merely with pious proclamations, but with a physical monument of mercy.

Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. (Malachi 3:16)

Twelve stones. One scroll. Three dents where a backsplash should be. Monuments of memory to a God who is faithful.

There they sit, those chunky little holes in our kitchen wall. When I see them, I remember what they mean and I thank God.

Brad Sumner is lead pastor of Jericho Ridge Church, Langley, B.C. 
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Joshua 4:21-24 (link to BibleGateway.com)

He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God”

Malachi 3:16 (link to BibleGateway.com)

Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

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