Because societies have a need to remember, we fill our world with monuments. The Statue of Liberty reminds us about the beauty and grace of freedom. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier helps us never to forget the countless numbers of soldiers who gave their life for that freedom. Take a walk through your city or town and I imagine you’ll find monuments and historical plaques placed there by your city officials.
Naturally, we like monuments that inspire us — the general on his stallion, sword in the air, his horse rearing backwards; the pioneer’s open hand raised to the heavens. Our statues commemorate larger-than-life heroes — or, in one case, a smaller-then small insect. Enterprise, Alabama, United States of America, has on its main street a tall statue of a boll weevil. Of all creatures, an insect; and of all insects, a particularly destructive one. Why would the town want to commemorate a six-legged parasite? The answer is that those who erected the statue were not celebrating the insect but the God whom they believes used the small beetle.
Like much of the south of the United States, this part of the state of Alabama was once cotton country. The region was totally dependent upon King Cotton. But then in 1915 came a pestilence from the direction of Mexico — the little insect that averages one-quarter of an inch in length but can destroy thousands of acres of cotton by puncturing the boll, or pod, of the cotton to lay its eggs. In no time, the region lost its ability to bring its crop to maturity. The city of Enterprise was looking economic distastes in the face.
But necessity is the mother of invention, and a number of scientists were roused to investigate alternative crops. The peanut, it was discovered, could be planted and harvested very efficiently. Farmers diversified in many other directions, and the economy was better off than ever before.
Many people saw the hand of God in this trial. They felt that God had used the little boll weevil to guide them towards the demands of a modern economy. And in 1919 the monument was placed in the town’s central location so that people might never forger — a towering statue of a woman holding a large boll weevil over her head.
Monuments are important not only to us but to God. Without the lessons of history, we are helpless to face the challenges of the future. Throughout the Bible, God led His people to memorialize the great moments. Here are some of the highlights of biblical monuments:
- Offerings and sacrifices, which were tangible reminders of an element of God’s relationship with the people of Israel.
- Blue tassels, placed on the corners of the people’s garments at the Lord’s command that they might “remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them” (Numbers 15:39).
- National festivals, such as Passover. These celebrations reenacted God’s miraculous activity in Israel’s history (see Exodus 1:26-27).
- A riverside monument upon crossing the Jordan River into Canaan, built with stones pulled from the dry riverbed. It was to help people remember how God dried up the river, facilitating the invasion into The Promised Land (see Joshua 4:4-7).
Perhaps the most significant memorial of all was instituted by Jesus in the Upper Room the night before He was crucified. Jesus served His disciples bread and wine, representing His broken body and shed blood, commanding them to partake “in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). The apostle Paul instructed the Church to continue this practice to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). Communion in worship, the Lord’s Supper, is a living memorial to pass the Upper Room experience from generation to generation.
God knows that our life is “but vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). If our life is a vapour, our memories are misty at best. Our Lord works patiently to remind us, because in the wealth of experience comes the wealth of wisdom. When we forget, we are like children prone to every poor decision imaginable.
That kind of stumbling, fumbling life without memory drains us of all passion. To put the pedal to the metal and live life wide open with passion, enthusiasm, anticipation, and excitement, we need good rearview mirrors — and to remember, as those mirrors tell us, that “reflected objects are larger than they appear.”