Posted: under Christianity, National Parks.
Tags: Acadia National Park, Aretha Franklin, Ark of the Covenant, cairn, Gilgal, how I got over, Israelites, Jordan River, Joshua, Joshua 3, Joshua 4, Mahalia Jackson, memorial, natural resources, Patti Labelle, Red Sea, rocks, Schoodic Peninsula, souvenirs, stones, The New Bible Commentary, The New York Times, Yolanda Adams
August 17, 2009
And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground’… 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 4:20-22, 24
It’s seems that rock stealing is on the rise in Maine’s Acadia National Park.
A recent article in The New York Times notes that an additional park ranger has been added to patrol the Schoodic Peninsula to crack down on the visitors taking stones from Acadia’s shoreline and trails. According to the report, the miscreants are easy to spot: they’re the ones with the bulging pockets and overloaded backpacks, or in the most brazen cases, tossing slabs of granite into their cars.
The theft of natural resources from federal lands is a misdemeanor, and punishment can range from a mere warning to a maximum fine of $5,000 and six months in jail. A dozen people have been cited so far in Acadia this year, the article notes.
I will now rat out my mother, who for a while was into taking flowers from the national parks we visited. “Can’t you see the signs telling you not to do that?” I’d say to her as she plucked another bloom. “Real good example you’re setting for your granddaughter.”
Mom would then press the flowers under a car floor mat for the rest of our trip. “Don’t forget your ill-gotten gains,” I’d remind her as we dropped off our rental car.
Later, I’d see the dried blossoms on homemade cards she’d send me. I have to admit they looked nice, and became kind of like vacation souvenirs (albeit illegal ones). I guess that’s just what the Acadia rock stealers are seeking—tangible reminders of a place they’d been.
God also used rocks to remind His people of not only where they’d been, but how they got there. Joshua chapters 3 and 4 detail the story of how God held back the Jordan River so the ark of the covenant and the entire nation of Israel could cross on dry ground.
To commemorate this miracle, God commanded Joshua to choose one man from each of Israel’s twelve tribes to get a stone from the middle of the river, and haul them over to where they were to camp that night, in Gilgal. In addition, Joshua himself took up twelve more river stones, and set them up in the middle of the Jordan, “at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing” (Joshua 4:9). Later, Joshua arranged a cairn from the stones the others had gathered (v. 20).
Why two memorials? According to The New Bible Commentary, the two sets of twelve stones “bore eloquent testimony to the fact that all twelve tribes were in the wilderness together and that all entered Canaan at the same time.”
A more specific reason for the monument at Gilgal is hinted at in Judges 3:19, which seems to indicate there was some kind of idolatrous memorial already erected there (Gilgal means “circle” or “rolling”). This cairn stood as a testimony to the living, active and powerful God, the One who worked continuously on their behalf. For it was exactly forty years from the day the previous generation had escaped their bondage in Egypt (Joshua 4:19, Exodus 12), also by God’s miraculous parting of water, in this case the Red Sea (Joshua 4:23).
All this talk about crossing over makes me think of an old gospel song:
How I got over,
How did I make it over;
You know my soul look back and wonder,
How did I make it over.
(You can find a scratchy film of the late great Mahalia Jackson’s rendition here. Patti Labelle, Yolanda Adams, Aretha Franklin and many others have covered the song, but I like Mahalia’s version best).
So while I don’t advocate taking natural resources from any parks, I do promote other souvenirs to mark what God has done in my life. For example, in addition to my regular writing, I keep my yearly prayer journals, noting how God has answered.
And I appreciate what others have left behind. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I treasure a letter my grandmother wrote on her deathbed, and Mom recently informed me that my aunt wants to pass on Grandma’s Bible to me. I’m eager to read the myriad of notes she jotted in the margins.
What about you? What “stones” are you erecting so future generations can “look back and wonder” at “how you got over?”
Comments (3) Aug 18 2009