"When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 'Choose twelve men from amount he people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put the down at the place where you stay tonight'." (Joshua 4:1-3)
God told Joshua to build an altar out of stones from the middle of the Jordan river. The same river they had been able to cross because God had stopped the river from flowing to give Israel safe passage.
"So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, 'Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, What do these stones mean? tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever'." (Joshua 4:4-7)
God wanted Joshua and the Israelites to build the altar as a reminder of what He had done for them. For them to see the altar in the future and remember. It served a purpose.
We need these reminders in our lives as well. We need those things we can look back on and be reminded of what God did in that situation.
We may not be building physical altars of stone, but we need to create these reminders in our own lives. These are the things that keep us going in the hard times. Our ability to look back on how God has moved and worked in the past in our lives. Those times gives us hope that God is at work in the current situation as well.
What are those times for you? What are those instances when you look back and see how God has worked on your behalf? How God has met you in the midst of what was going on?
We need to become intentional about these things - about remembering them. God had the Israelites build this altar on purpose after they crossed the Jordan on dry land to remember what God had done for them. We need to build altars at these same times in our own lives. Not to worship them - but so they can point us to the God Who stepped in at that moment.