“Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner, saying, ‘A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’” Exodus 17:8-16
The Israelites have just come out of Egypt (Exodus 14) and in spite of the miraculous circumstances it took to bring them out from under the yoke of slavery, they’ve already resorted to complaining and doubt – wondering if God is really in their midst or if He really will provide for their needs. They can’t see what’s ahead, they aren’t sure where He is leading, and they’re only focused on what is or is not in front of them at any given moment (ouch – I’ve certainly been there, too. Anyone else?).
Their latest complaint is about water, and it’s a dramatic one, to say the least: “But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst? . . . . because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (vs. 3, 7b) As if that’s exactly why God had Moses lead His people out of Egypt! What kind of response did they expect? “Yes, I’ve brought you here to kill you with thirst.” They’re ignoring the bigger picture, forgetting where they’ve come from!
God graciously provides water for them when Moses strikes the rock, and it’s just in time, because Israel is about to encounter their first battle in the desert. Amalek comes to fight while the people are at Rephidim. Moses gives Joshua instructions about how the battle will work and they’re really quite simple: “Go get some men and go fight. I’ll stand on the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
Um…. okay? I love what it says about Joshua’s response: “So Joshua did as Moses told him…” No questions, no “what ifs”, no hesitation. He just gets after following Moses’ directions. And Moses does what he said he would do. He climbs to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur and he holds up the staff of God. This staff has already been a powerful tool of God in Moses’ hand and he is completely confident in the power of God to work through it again. So up they climb. And it really does work as simply as Moses said it would. When he holds up the staff in his hand, Israel prevails. When he lowers the staff in his hand, Amalek begins to defeat the Israelites. A simple solution to battle, right? But, even as he is a conduit for God’s power, Moses own weakness and human frailty show up and complicate the situation.
His arms grew weary.
Thankfully, there is provision even for Moses’ weakness in trusting the Lord – Aaron and Hur. They bring Moses a stone to sit on and they literally hold his arms up, one on either side. And in doing so, Moses’ arms are steady until the sun goes down. Israel prevails and Amalek is defeated. And the Lord instructs Moses to build an altar of remembrance and he calls it, “The Lord is My Banner.”
This battle has always both intrigued and encouraged me for a few reasons:
1. God didn’t need Moses arms to be raised to defeat Amalek on behalf of Israel. So, what’s up with that? Why does Moses need to be involved in the process at all? …I think it’s for you and I. For the Israelites. Because in Moses’ cooperation with God, we see God show up in big ways. God uses Moses, but it’s clear that Israel will not win because of Moses’ power – only God’s.
2. Even as he exercised faith in holding up the staff, Moses’ effort was not enough. He couldn’t do it, but God provided for his weakness in the form of two friends. He didn’t speed up the battle, hurry the victory along, or end it when Moses’s hands grew weary. He simply provided for the next phase of the battle.
3. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes wrestle with sin in that I tend to be fiercely independent… but not as a strength. I convince myself that I can handle any situation that comes along because I’m an excellent planner. Organized. Thoughtful. Over-confident in my own abilities. And sometimes when help is offered, I’m hesitant to take it because I think, “It’s okay, I can do this. I’ve got it.” And here is Moses, who has no other options but to take the help that’s offered, for the good of his people.
So, what do you think? Do you see any connections to today? Do you see God at work? Do you see Him fighting for you? Providing for your weakness? Sending help? Meeting you when you complain and doubt? Answer the question, “Is the Lord among us or not?” See Him, friends. And declare, “The Lord is my Banner” over His victory.