When I was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and other places like it, I noticed stones stacked up into little towers along the way. I now know that those collections of rocks are called cairns and they are placed there by hikers to guide future hikers along the path to show them where to go. Over the centuries, cairns have also been used as landmarks and memorials.
I got to thinking that cairns of sorts were used in the Bible by Abraham, Moses and Jacob as altars. Check out these verses:
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. —Genesis 22:9
Abraham built this altar to acknowledge that God is God on his journey through his life, and he was saying through this cairn that he would obey God’s will. Of course, God would send an angel to stop Abraham from sacrificing his son. But later, God would sacrifice his own Son, Jesus, on the altar, the cairn, if you will, of the cross, which was erected on a rock hill called Golgotha.
And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner. —Exodus 17:15
Moses erected this altar to God after the Israelites defeated the army of Amalek. This was the battle in which Aaron held up the tired arms of his brother Moses through the final part of the ordeal in order that the power of God might allow the Israelites to prevail through the raised hands of the prophet. Therefore, Moses had much to be grateful for: the power of God made manifest through him, the victory of his people, and the help of his brother in his time of need. We have moments in our lives after making it through a trial or tragedy, when we, too, like Moses, need to step back and honor in some special way the God who got us through.
So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel (which means “house of God”). —Genesis 28:18-19
The morning after Jacob had his dream of angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven, he used the stone he used as a pillow to make a cairn that would announce to anyone who hiked by that this was a dwelling place of God. Jacob at the time was running for his life after stealing his brother’s birthright. But Jacob experienced through his dream that God was still merciful to him despite what he had done and was still with him. We in our lives need to remember, too, that though we are sinners, God still loves us and has a plan of salvation for us to take us to heaven to be with him forever.
Find some stones and make a cairn of your own to honor the one who is the Rock on your journey through life, especially in this new year. And think of things that you can put in people’s paths to show them the way to Jesus, our stairway to heaven.