Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

God Did That? I Forgot

Editor’s Note:  This is the second part of a two-part series on becoming dissatisfied with the blessings of God.  The part one is entitled, “Dissatisfied” and was presented last week.

In ancient time the Israelites would stand stones on their ends to commemorate a movement of God.  They did that so that when they walked by that stone they would remember that God moved in that place at one time.  It was a way of remembering what God had done.  Sometimes in the crush of life we forget what God has done for us in other times and can begin to doubt and stray away from the faith we once had. 

In this post I want to stand up some stones in your thinking and write about what can happen when we forget what God has done

Matthew 16:5-11 (NKJV)
16:5 Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread." 8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?--but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

How Easily We Forget

I think this is an interesting moment in scripture, because the disciples have just seen Jesus do two powerful miracles.  In the first he fed four thousand families with five loaves and two fishes, and in the second he feed five thousand families with seven loaves and “a few small fishes.”  These were two of Jesus’ most important miracles. 

They had two purposes.  The first is that Jesus met a simple human need.  These people had been following him all day.  They’d been sitting and listening for many hours.  One miracle was done after they had been there the whole day; the other took place after they had been following Him for three days.  They’d exhausted their food supply, they were tired and hungry and Jesus didn't want to send them away without food.  Simply, he was concerned that they were hungry.  This is His care for us; He moves to meet our needs. The second purpose is that He wanted to glorify God. 
Let’s take a moment and look at these miracles separately:

Matthew 14:16-21 (NKJV)
14:16 But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." 17 And they said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." 18 He said, "Bring them here to Me." 19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. 20 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. 21 Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

So these people had been with Him all day and they were no doubt tired and hungry.  Jesus doesn't want to send them away like that but no one has the money to buy food for so many people.  Think about how much it would cost to feed five thousand families.  How much food would be necessary to feed all of them?  So Jesus feeds them miraculously.  He turns a few loaves and fish, practically nothing, into a huge amount of food.  Now look at the second miracle:

Matthew 15:32-38 (NKJV)
15:32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way." 33 Then His disciples said to Him, "Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?" 34 Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven, and a few little fish." 35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. 37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. 38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

This takes place not too much later.  These people have followed Him for three days and he’s afraid that if he lets them leave without feeding them they’ll faint on the road.  The same thing happens, he’s brought a small amount of food and uses it to feed four thousand families.

But this is the thing that I found most interesting.  It seems that the disciples completely forgot about the last miracle.  Jesus tells them He wants to feed the people and they worry, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness?”  They recently saw Jesus feed five thousand men PLUS women and children.  Did they forget?  Doesn't it seem like something like that would stick in your mind? 

I want to mock them on the one hand, because how do you forget that?  On the other hand though, I think this is pretty common.  In my eleven years as a pastor I've preached a lot of sermons, but what is interesting is that if I asked less than a week after the sermon was preached, there are many who don’t remember what it was about.  I think we all have a tendency to forget what God has done for us.  I know some of those sermons spoke to people, I could see their reactions, I saw them at the altar, and I know God ministered to them but they seemed to have forgotten what God did.  In the stress and strain of the week we forget. 

I've seen people powerfully healed and in a few weeks they have forgotten.  I've seen God move and give them jobs, or help with a financial crisis or some other problem in their life.  A few weeks later they’re walking around like nothing happened and when they face the next crisis they have forgotten how God moved the last time. The disciples here are just like us.  God moves powerfully but when they’re faced with the next crisis they forget what God has just done in the last crisis.  Do you wonder like I do about what causes that?

The Cause of Forgetfulness

Look at our text for a moment.  The disciples are concerned because they only have one small loaf.  They forgot to bring bread.  They’re concerned because they messed up,.  The Bible specifically mentions this as if it’s a mistake. 

Matthew 16:5 (NKJV)
16:5 Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

This is a mistake, they blew it and I think they’re concerned about with their own needs here.  “Where are we going to get bread?  What will Jesus say?  Oh we’re going to get in trouble, now.”  You would think after seeing Jesus do those powerful miracles they would say, “Oh, He’ll just make enough to feed us out of what we have.”  They might even joke, “I wonder if He’ll miraculously cook it, too?”  When they focus on their current problems they forget what God has done.  I think this is human nature.

Let’s go back to the Old Testament for a moment; specifically I want to focus on the deliverance of Israel.  For four hundred years Israel was in bondage and slavery to Egypt.  The people were groaning under the oppression.  God was moved to compassion and used Moses to speak to Pharaoh, but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, so God did several powerful miracles through Moses to free Israel.  After the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh released Israel but then decides to take his army and pursue them.  He pursued them to the Red Sea and they were trapped between the mountains, the sea and the army.  Look what happensed:

Exodus 14:10-12 (NKJV)
14:10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness."

They have forgotten what God has just done.  God had just done powerful things to release them from the bondage of Egypt.  But now they're facing a new trial, a new circumstance and what happens?  They become afraid and begin to complain.  In the face of this new challenge they forgot what God had done to deliver them.  So God parts the sea and delivers them across the sea on dry land.  Then he closes the sea over the Egyptians, killing them and destroying the danger to Israel.

God once again uses a powerful miracle to deliver them.  The women sing with timbrels or tambourines, “The Lord has triumphed gloriously!”  God has done wonders for Israel, but three days later they come to Marah.  Marah is a three-day walk from Egypt. 

Exodus 15:22-24 (NKJV)
15:22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"

Three days later.  Three days after the most powerful move of God since the creation, the people are complaining again.  “Did you bring us here to die in the wilderness.”  They forgot what God had just done three days earlier.  It seems that whenever we face a new problem or trial or crisis in our lives we forget what God has already done.  We focus on the new discomfort; the new circumstances and we just forget that God has moved powerfully in our lives before.

What happens to our faith?  When we face troubles, where does our faith go?  Why is it so difficult for us to remember that God is a God of compassion and will move on our behalf?  Look at Jesus’ reasons for feeding the people:

Matthew 14:14 (NKJV)
14:14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.
 Matthew 15:32 (NKJV)
15:32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way."

God WILL move to meet our needs.  He promises this throughout the Bible.  He will help us in times of trouble if we will boldly come to the throne of Grace.  We struggle and suffer needless and there is the promise and the demonstration of that promise of help throughout His Book.

Things That Will Help You Remember

I want to close with three things that will help you to remember what God has done for you.  The first is obvious…Keep Track. One of the people in my church was telling me the other day that she's keeping a prayer journal.  What a great idea.  You write down what you're praying about and then you check it off when God answers that prayer.  You can go back and see what things you have gone through and what God has done to deliver you from that.
Doing something like keeping a journal will show you how faithful God is and will help you to build your faith. Something like this might have helped the Israelites. 
  1. We cried out for deliverance as slaves and God met us and did powerful miracles to deliver us on this day.
  2. We were trapped and facing Pharaoh’s army, we prayed and God parted the Red Sea and then closed it on the Egyptians.
  3. We cried out to God for water at Marah and God made the water sweet.
When you keep a journal like this you have a record of God’s power in your life that you can look over and see what God has done for you. 

The second thing you can do is to witness and testify about God’s provision and deliverance.  When you tell someone what God has done in your life it reinforces it in your mind.  Verbally speaking something will help to build your faith.  Remember faith comes by hearing…I use my testimony a lot in both preaching and witnessing, because every time I speak it out loud it, it reminds me of what I've been delivered from and it shows to someone else the power of God.  My faith can be imparted to them at the same time it's reinforced in me.

Finally, read your Bible.  I always read the Bible with a pen in my hand so I can make notes in the margins or on a yellow legal pad.  I make up Excel spreadsheets on things, as well.  For example, I have a spreadsheets on miracles (New Testament), the Timeline of History (Genesis 5), a comparison of the feeding of the four and five thousand.  I have lots of those, because they help me to remember what I've read. When I remember what I've read about what God has done in past history, I know that I can count on God to do those things again.  Why?  Because God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. 

Faith is our responsibility.  People pray for more faith, and that’s good, but it’s up to you to build and maintain your faith.  What are you doing to build your faith?  Most of us can’t remember what we did yesterday, so it’s hard to remember what God did last year in a crisis while we were hurting or afraid.  We have to stake steps to remember.  It will help us to be optimistic rather than pessimistic and full of faith rather than empty of faith.

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