30 years. Depending on the context, this can seem like a very short amount of time, like when you compare it to the length of time it took for humans to get to outer space. Thirty years can also seem like a very long amount of time if you are talking to ten-year-olds about what their life may look like in 30 years. To me, 30 years seems both short and long. I was married to the man of my dreams 30 years ago! (Hurray and hallelujah!) It seems like just yesterday, but also forever ago.
Anniversaries of any kind are a time of remembrance for notable things that took place in the past. For my husband and me, our wedding anniversary is a marvelous celebration of something that God set in motion years ago and is faithfully continuing to carry on. While the years have been filled with much adventure, fun and beauty, it hasn’t always been roses and sunshine. There have been bumps and hurdles along the way. While those were not easy to navigate, they have served to increase our dependence on God, as well as the strength, depth and authenticity of our relationship.
There are many icons used to commemorate events we want to remember. For example, 30 years of marriage is represented by: the pearl – representing purity, faith and honesty; and the lily – to which is attributed devotion, beauty, magnificence and majesty.
In the Bible’s Old Testament, altars were built to commemorate iconic events where God interacted with people in powerful, life-altering ways. They were a symbol of worship and a marker for future generations to remember a specific display of His faithfulness, holiness and/or fulfillment of a promise.
In the book of Genesis, Noah built the first altar. On it he offered sacrifices to God when he and his small family emerged from the ark after the Great Flood. He celebrated God’s mercy in sparing his family, and honored God’s sovereignty as ruler over man and nature.
Abram, who would become Abraham, was a man called by God to step out in faith to go where the Lord led. Abram obeyed. In three different geographic locations, the Lord appeared to Abram and promised
him land and descendants. In each place, Abram built an altar to the Lord as a sign of his trust in the Lord’s promises. (Gen 12:7, Gen 12:8, 13:17-18)
Abraham’s most significant altar to the Lord was built when God asked him to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac. Abraham’s obedience continued his pattern of remarkable faith and deference to God. Abraham prepared an altar on which to sacrifice Isaac, but the Lord intervened and provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice for Isaac. Abraham named the place where he built the altar “The Lord Will Provide.” (Gen 22:14) This story also foreshadowed when God would offer His one and only Son, Jesus, as a substitute sacrifice for the sins of all of humanity.
Throughout the Old Testament, there are many incredible stories for each altar or symbol that was made to honor the Lord. The purpose of the altars was to trigger remembrance for the event’s significance and how God was glorified. In Joshua 4:3-7, the Lord miraculously stopped the flow of the Jordan River so that His people could cross. Regarding this, Joshua relayed God’s instructions to the Israelites: “Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them…These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
We remember anniversaries and other special moments in a variety of ways. However, when it comes to the cross, we remember that Jesus took our punishment. We remember that He defeated death and hell through the power of His resurrection! We remember His offer to those who believe in Him: we too will be resurrected to eternal life. Through the cross, we remember God’s love. His faithfulness. His grace. His forgiveness. These remembrances should spark gratitude and an outpouring of love for our Savior. Thanks be to God!