There are many things, in the woods, that cause a man to ponder. But finding a “cairn” ranks among the highest. A “cairn” is a pile of stones used as a marker. Usually these “cairns” are found at trail heads, water crossings, property lines, or strictly for ornamental reasons. But when these cairns are found in the middle of nowhere, they take on a different context. When I decide to exit the trail, and follow a series of twisty-turny game trails which run up-down an all-around…finding a stone cairn is always a surprise. It causes me to turn a slow circle and look around. My mind forms the questions, “Why is that here? Am I standing on somebody’s grave? Is this the corner of somebody’s property? Am I on private property? What is this marking?”
Cairns are markers…which means they are anchor points. They anchor the builder of the cairn back to a particular place at a particular time. In the Old Testament, we read about various different characters building an alter to offer sacrifices to the Lord. These alters were often times in the middle of nowhere, as the character was on a journey from here to there. Along the way, they had an experience with the Almighty which caused them to build an alter to offer sacrifice and worship. These alters marked a moment in their lives when God spoke to them, when God renewed them, when God personalized His relationship with them. These experiences served as anchor points to their continued relationship with the Almighty. We have many spiritual cairns in our own lives as well. Times we remember as special because of the closeness of God at that moment.
Sometimes…an anchor point is intended by God to be corporate. The story in Joshua 4: 1-7 is an example of this:
Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “ Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”
The 12 stones were to become an anchor point for remembrance to the whole nation of Israel. These stones will cause future generations to question their presence. The stones provide a memorial to the time God entered in to the natural and enacted the super-natural. I like this thought process about “anchoring” the times God entered into the natural. When we think back to the times God found us on our knees crying out to Him…or the moment we broke the waters of baptism with a life giving gulp of air…or the times when revelation and direction from God was overwhelming…we remember the super-natural touch of the Ancient of Days. These events become marked in our minds, they become anchor points for our spiritual walk, they are stone cairns of a spiritual sense. These memories give us strength because they are a constant reminder that God can…when the world says He can’t.
When I find a cairn…curiosity blossoms. I suppose, given 2 billion years of natural process, stones can stack themselves. However, standing in the forest, miles from anywhere, my mind tells me that somebody stacked those stones. Therefore, there is a purpose behind the stacking. I wonder, if those stones were actually stacked for my benefit? Meaning…the person who stacked them…stacked them with discovery in mind. Whoever finds the cairn…finds the first clue to whatever the event was… which precipitated the stacking of stones. That thought process is why I look around and ask questions of the landscape.
1 Peter 2: 4-10 says, And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture:
“ Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“ The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,”
“ A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
I love this passage because it paints the image of Christian believers becoming “living stone cairns” because of the example of Jesus Christ. Whom was a stumbling block to some but a choice corner stone to God the Father and thus…a living stone to us. To offer up ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God’…we are being built up into a ‘spiritual house’…fit for a ‘royal priesthood’…placed in ‘a holy nation’… because we are God’s own possession and He has chosen to show us mercy.
To what end…?
“so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”
When the lost are walking through life and they stumble upon the “living stone cairn” that is, the Christian devoted to following Christ. It should cause them to pause and ponder…look around…ask questions of the landscape…to wonder, “Who stacked these living stones? Are they here for my benefit? Why can’t I take my eyes off of them?” Our cairn of “living stone” is a marker to the super-natural replacing the natural. Which gives us ample opportunity to answer the questions of pause and ponder with ‘proclaiming the excellencies of Him’.