The Lord instructed Joshua to build a memorial so the children of Israel might look back and be reminded of their miraculous entry into the Promised Land. The memorial was a reminder to look back, not to go back. So often, we get those two things confused.
Consider gravestones. They are markers, memorials, for the purpose of looking back and honoring a life. But you can’t live there at that marker; there’s no room there for the living. Nor can you dig up that past and carry it with you.
On this Memorial Day, we pause to look back and honor all of the American service men and women who have given their lives for the cause of liberty. We acknowledge their sacrifice, understanding that we owe a debt of gratitude to them. But at the same time, we celebrate those who remain. In celebrating the living heroes in our midst, we draw from their wisdom and experience.
Likewise, we recognize that we have a great heritage of faith in the Body of Christ, the foundation of which has been laid by those who have gone before us. We look back and honor the saints who laid down their lives so that we can possess the territory God has called us to. It is what they died for, but it is what we live for.
So we look back; we don’t go back. There is no room back there for the living. We build the Kingdom from here, not stuck where they were, but moving forward. We honor those saints who are part of our great cloud of witnesses, but we run our race, pressing on towards our prize. And how do we press? Through praise! Yes, we acknowledge the victories of the past, but we don’t hang around the memorial stones and live there. We praise God for what He is doing in our lives today! We praise Him for His goodness and mercy, for His glory and presence. We praise Him because He is good to us…all the time!
So, we give honor to whom honor is due. We pause to remember the lives that they gave. And through praise, we lay hold the victory that has already been appropriated to us and we keep pressing on!