Look at the account in Joshua 4:4-7 where the Lord directs the people after they have crossed over the Jordan.
“Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them, ‘Cross over before the ark of the Lord your GOD into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, “What do these stones mean to you?” Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, when it crossed over the Jordan, the water of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever”.
The nation of Israel was going across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. As a part of looking to and planning for that future GOD wanted the men to take time to make a memorial to a great and wonderful event, for the purpose of drawing their children’s attention and questions. He wanted the children to ask, “What do these stones mean to you?” And he wanted the grownups to have time for the question as well as the wisdom and knowledge for the answer. This would be an opportunity to tell them of the things that are most important in life. It is easier to say things like “Wait until you are older” or “Go ask your mother” or “Not right now” but if such things are said today it surely does not look like what Joshua brought from the Lord to Israel.
Observations: What would happen to the children if, over time, the story was altered? What if, instead of stating the proper reason for the stones another version (from memory at best) was told (even if innocently) to the children? What would be the effect? Then, to spread it out further, what if those children who had been told an altered story, related only what they had been told? What if this kept happening over a period of generations…? Let us go on down in time and see what the story might be like in comparison to the original. Say for instance that, over time, a child was told that some river other than the Jordan, or a different number of stones other than twelve were used; perhaps more than twelve men were involved or something other than the Ark of the Covenant was involved. What, in time, would happen to the significance of the event? What if the story in years to come was:
Never miss a local story.
‘A long time back, Joshua had some of the people get some rocks out of a river and built an altar like they did when they crossed the Red Sea years earlier. I forget exactly where they are, and why they did this, but it had something to do with how they worshipped back then. That is why we have an altar today in our worship, because that’s the way mom and dad and grandma and grandpa did.’
I believe you know what would happen. In time the truth would be forgotten. The substitute would replace the actual and the significance of the truth would be lost. Failure to take the time to learn and tell the Bible stories accurately happened following Joshua’s death. It only took one generation. Read what happened because the same thing has happened repeatedly. Thus as Hosea said “there is no faithfulness…no knowledge of God…” (Hosea 4:1).
Assembling habits of religious people reflect this more than anything else, and of many who assemble, they worship in ignorance (Acts 17:23).
By the way, here’s what happened following Joshua's death: “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
Has history repeated itself in regard to you?