And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying,…
1. They were stones of witness, for in after-years they powerfully proclaimed that the miracle of dividing the water of the Jordan was true, since they were raised at the very time; they were erected publicly in the sight of the people, and no one would have dared to make such a monument, and to declare that it commemorated such an event, had the miracle never taken place. Scripture miracles are attested by witnesses, which attestation distinguishes them from the so-called miracles of the heathen world.
2. And the stones of Gilgal were stones of encouragement, for when Israel looked on them, and recollected that they recalled God's power, no doubt could be felt that God was able to make their enterprise a success. When the great cities, vast wealth, and mighty armies of the Canaanites were considered, many a Hebrew might feel his heart sink within him as he looked on the rude and undisciplined host which Joshua had led across the Jordan. But a glance at the stones of the circle of Gilgal would dispel all such fears, and he would think — "The mighty Jehovah who divided the waters of Jordan is on our side; and against the power that cleft asunder the waves of that river what can the might of the Amorites avail? Jehovah is with us, and against Him whose word divided Jordan vain is the power of the Canaanite, and our victory is absolutely sure."
3. But while these stones gave encouragement to Israel, they bore witness in a different manner to their enemies, for to the Canaanites they were stones of warning. How could Amorite or Hittite withstand invaders whose God possessed the power of dividing the waters of Jordan? They had run riot in sin; they had stifled conscience: they had despised warning; and now the day of mercy was past, and the avengers were upon them, and who could hope to resist their power and to escape their swords, when their God made the waters of Jordan to stand as a heap in the day when His people passed over? Sin will not go for ever unpunished; God's Spirit shall not always strive with man, and corruption shall not with impunity defile the fairest portions of a groaning creation: but when the day of grace has passed, the day of vengeance shall certainly follow. The stones in Gilgal are gone, the circle is destroyed, and the stony witness of encouragement and warning is no longer borne; but there are stones around us now which give their witness, and our ears must be heavy if we do not hear, and our minds dull if we do not understand, the testimony that they deliver. "What mean these stones?"
1. They show God's power; for who could make such mighty foundation rocks, and after their formation could heave them up into their present lofty heights, but a Being possessed of almighty power?
2. What wisdom, too, is exhibited in their formation! What a wonderful skill is shown in the selection of their constituent elements, and in their combination according to a fixed design!
3. And what goodness also do these stones of the hills manifest? for how useful they are to man, and how it stimulates his inventive faculty to quarry, shape, and erect them as monuments to beautify the creations of his genius! Man puts up milestones to measure the length of his journey, and God also erects milestones to mark how man himself is advancing on that journey which we are all travelling. What is our life but a journey? ever advancing and ceaselessly progressing day by day, month by month, and year by year. Life's journey is to many painful and wearisome. The morning of life, with its freshness, is gone; the noonday sun beats fiercely on our heads; the novelty of changing experiences has passed away; and as we slowly advance along the highway of daily life, our hearts begin to get weary, and we too become discouraged "because of the way." God puts up His milestones to mark our progress on life's journey, and as we pass them successively, it is solemn to notice their witness and their character. The eyesight begins to grow dim: slowly, indeed, but surely; and we treat the fact almost with indifference. It is a mere common event, but it is another milestone on the road of life, to show that the end will before long draw near. The hearing is dulled. Pleasant sounds can no more be enjoyed, and the harmonies of nature's and of human music gratify us no longer. We quietly accept the inevitable, perhaps with sigh, but at all events with resignation, knowing that it must be so; and in the heavy ear we recognise another of God's milestones. Memory now begins to fail. We cannot trust it as formerly, and do not attempt to tax its power for fear that it should prove treacherous. Failing, capricious memory! what is it but another milestone placed by God by the side of the road of life to tell us that we have passed over the greater part of our journey and are drawing near to home? The milestones of the way, how differently they affect different people! Here is a man going away from his country, seeking his place of abode in a distant land, and leaving behind him all he holds dear in this world: his lands, his treasures, and his friends. Milestones are sad things to him, for they tell him that his time in the land in which all his pleasure is found is rapidly passing away. But here is another man, returning to his home. He has been in a foreign land; has made his fortune: has landed on his return at the well-known port, and is journeying rapidly along the highroad to his loved and long-expected home. He knows a welcome is there: dear ones are all looking out for his arrival, and his greeting will be joyous, while he will not merely meet them, but will never leave them again. How quickly he walks! How slowly the milestones seem to pass! The heat of the sun, the length of the way, the ups and downs of the road, are all nothing to him, for the thought of the home ever drawing nearer and nearer makes him take no notice of them whatever. So it should be with us. We have had, perhaps, our morning of life, and it may be that the journey is beginning to grow wearisome; but let us think less of the road and more of the home.
(D. G. Whitley.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,