The flowers fell to the earth that spring day long ago, resting on the tombs of men dressed in blue, others in grey. These countrymen shot rifles, fired cannons and charged at one another with bayonets affixed. Now, they were buried together.
On May 30, 1868, three years after the U.S. Civil War ended, thousands of Americans walked a somber path through Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, decorating the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers interred there. The event was part of Decoration Day, one of the first official precursors to what is now known as Memorial Day. On that solemn occasion nearly 150 years ago, Union Army Major Gen. John A. Logan said, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
As Americans, we love to memorialize special moments in our nation’s history. This is good. Remembering the past helps shape our future. But this mindset does not just spring from cultural tradition; there is biblical precedent.
When Jacob awoke from his marvelous ladder dream in Genesis 28, he built a stone pillar to commemorate the event. After God led Israel out of Egyptian bondage, Moses commanded the people to “remember this day in which you came out from Egypt” by celebrating the annual Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 13:3). When the Lord miraculously led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Joshua built a 12-stone memorial as a witness to God’s mighty act (Joshua 4:20-24).
God has always wanted his people to remember his greet deeds and saving works. Psalm 78:4, one of my favorite verses, says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” This is why I wrote the Heroes of the Bible Devotional.
Heroes, a 90-day devotional for kids, shines a spotlight on the glorious deeds of the Lord through his work in the lives of biblical heroes. God’s wonders started in eternity past—that mysterious, timeless period before Genesis 1:1—when the Creator foresaw humanity’s future sinful rebellion against him and commissioned his Son to be the reconciling Savior we so desperately needed. As Ephesians 1:4-5 says, God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
Romans 8:29-30 provides another beautiful window into the inner workings of God’s age-old plan of salvation: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Incredible!
Because of his great love for his creation, God unfolded this astounding salvation strategy in very personal ways here on earth—person by person, year by year, generation by generation—and recorded it for us in Holy Scripture. Ever since Genesis 1:1, he has been weaving his master plan into the tapestry of human life through people such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Ruth, David, Daniel, Esther, John the Baptist, Mary, Peter, Paul and many others.
Through divine power, these biblical heroes accomplished great things for the Lord. The Heroes of the Bible Devotional tells their stories, using their experiences, triumphs and failures to ultimately point to the God who loves and saves us.
Today’s children—“the coming generation” of Psalm 78:4—need to hear about the glorious deeds of the Lord. They need to stand in awe of God’s mighty works throughout history. And above all, they need to put their faith in Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God and the culmination of the Lord’s eternal rescue plan. Based on his finished work on the cross, Jesus Christ is the greatest hero of all!
As you pause this week to remember the great sacrifices made for your national freedom, I encourage you to spend much more time reflecting on the great sacrifice Christ made to purchase your eternal freedom. Pick up a copy of the Heroes of the Bible Devotional and tell the coming generation the wonders that God has done!
Josh’s newest book, One Year Devotions With Jesus, a 365-day devotional for pre-teens and teens, will be available through Tyndale on October 1. You can learn more about Josh and his writing on his website, www.joshuacooleyauthor.com, or follow him on Twitter.