1Sa 7:12 Then Samuel took a rock and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer [Rock of Help] and said, "Until now the LORD has helped us."
For me, this has always meant that when I hit those low, struggling points in life, to look back at what has gone before- how God has helped me through bad times now passed. But there is more to memorials than just a marker to remember the past. I'm going to present to you three verses that will open us up to what that second component is.
First, from Joshua 4, the crossing of the Jordan by Israel:
Jos 4:1 The whole nation finished crossing the Jordan River. The LORD had told Joshua,
Jos 4:2 "Choose one man from each of the 12 tribes.
Jos 4:3 Order them to pick up 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan, where the priests' feet stood firmly. Take the stones along with you, and set them down where you will camp tonight."
Jos 4:4 Joshua called the 12 men whom he had selected (one from each tribe).
Jos 4:5 He said to them, "Go to the middle of the Jordan River in front of the ark of the LORD your God. Each man must take a stone on his shoulder, one for each tribe of Israel.
Jos 4:6 This will be a sign for you. In the future your children will ask, 'What do these stones mean to you?'
Jos 4:7 You should answer, 'The water of the Jordan River was cut off in front of the ark of the LORD'S promise. When the ark crossed the Jordan, the river stopped flowing. These stones are a permanent reminder for the people of Israel.'"
Jos 4:8 The people of Israel did as Joshua had ordered. They took 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel. They took them from the middle of the Jordan as the LORD had told Joshua. They carried them to the camp and set them down there.
Second, from Matthew 26:
Mat 26:6 And when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
Mat 26:7 a woman came to Him, having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on His head as He reclined.
Mat 26:8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
Mat 26:9 For this ointment might have been sold for very much and given to the poor.
Mat 26:10 When Jesus understood it, He said to them, Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work on Me.
Mat 26:11 For you have the poor with you always, but you do not always have Me.
Mat 26:12 For in putting ointment on My body, she did it for My burial.
Mat 26:13 Truly I say to you, Wherever this gospel shall be proclaimed in the whole world, that which this woman has done shall be spoken of also, for a memorial of her.
And finally, that which will tie it all together, from Philippians 3:
Php 3:13 My brothers, I do not count myself to have taken possession, but one thing I do, forgetting the things behind and reaching forward to the things before,
Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
In the first passage, we see that the physical symbol was to remind them to DO A FUTURE ACT. To teach the next generation the WHY of the memorial.
In the second, the action BECAME the memorial. Certain of the disciples were getting too attached to the works, to the here and now. Jesus saluted her for acting for the future, for the bigger picture.
And in the third, Paul went a step beyond, realizing that any memorial he set himself was just a step on the way to the TRUE GOAL which lie ahead.
Memorials can be a tricky thing if used improperly. I wonder if Elijah thought the victory over the prophets of Baal would be HIS memorial; but when Jezebel ignored it, he was made to flee, depressed and seemingly alone. And when God had restored his strength and calmed his fears, He didn't say anything about resting on his laurels- He gave Elijah NEW tasks to do.
Think about taking a trip to see, say, Gettysburg. You go through a lot to go and observe the memorial, but it's not the whole goal. When you plan such a trip, you don't generally plan to stay; you plan to go there, do all that vacation-y stuff, AND come back home. That's what a memorial has to be for us- a waystation, where we do the things we came there to do, AND continue on to the final goal. And the verses above each contain a facet of that. The memorial reminds of us of an action, our action in response becomes the memorial, and the string of memorials remind us the goal is still ahead. The memorial should never tell us, "I have accomplished"; it should teach us TO accomplish, encourage us to do the next thing. And if the Lord has blessed it, maybe we'll get to set up the NEXT memorial- before moving on.