Joshua made a memorial by the banks of the River Jordan. The memorial was made of twelve stones—one for each of the twelve tribes. The stones were taken from the dried bed of the river. God had created a dry way for the people to cross the flooding river. So the memorial was in place so that the people could teach their children about this event.
Reminders of deliverance
Joshua spoke to the children of Israel: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Joshua 4:21-24)
The stones were there so that the people could teach their children that God saved them across the Jordan and across the Red Sea. Notice also that this memorial was erected on the tenth day of the first month (Joshua 4:19). This day always speaks of salvation, because it was the day of the Passover (Exodus 12:3).
A previous event—more global in nature—also involved water and spoke of the power of God in salvation. I am referring to the Flood. During the Flood, the entire world was covered with water. Humanity was saved only in the persons of Noah and his family—eight souls in all.
Evidence of sin
A worldwide Flood would create large amounts of sediment. This in turn would have trapped many creatures, killing them quickly, and enabling them to become fossilized. It is our contention, therefore, that the majority of the world’s fossils were formed during the Flood. No fossils at all could have been formed before Adam sinned—because it was Adam’s sin that brought death into the world. Fossils are evidence of death, and death is the result of sin. So fossils could not have preceded Adam’s sin.
Fossils are endlessly fascinating to children and adults alike, and are very easy to find. But next time your son or daughter brings you a fossil, listen carefully to what they are asking. Are they asking you: “What are these stones?” What is your reply? Too many Christian parents answer: “I don’t know. Ask your science teacher at school.”
You can give a better answer than that. You don’t need to know the scientific mechanism of fossil formation to answer your children. Try this:
I’ll tell you what the stones mean, my son. They were once living creatures, but they are now dead and trapped in the rock. They died very quickly during the Flood. The Flood came because of the wickedness of people’s hearts. But Noah was saved by God. He was saved by grace through faith. He was saved by being aboard a large wooden ark. Jesus is our Ark of Salvation. This stone reminds us that death is in the world because of sin—for the wages of sin are death.
Gospel tracts from the Flood
When your children bring you a fossil, tell them that the organism [plant or animal] died as part of God’s judgment on a sinful world. Tell them also that they are there in the rock to remind us that God punishes sin and that God saves those who trust in Him from their sins. That is what the stones mean, and that is why it is so important to remember them. They are Gospel tracts from the Flood.