”Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Exodus 17:8-13)
How often do you feel that your life is a battle and that you are in the battle alone? This is a common feeling, but one that we never need have. The battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites is one that we can look to, to see God’s sovereignty, His place in those battles we face each day, and what it is truly that we are fighting.
As we find ourselves in this passage in Exodus, the Israelites have left the bondage of Egypt and are traveling through the wilderness. They are struggling to understand, to know, and to follow a God that has been part of their tradition and their society throughout their captivity in Egypt, but has now called them into the wilderness and called them to be a faithful and holy people for Himself. Let’s stop here for a minute.
Does that sound familiar? It’s pretty easy for us to walk through life acting the part of a faithful Christian. We show up at church every Sunday morning and evening, attend church on Wednesday nights, hang out with our Christian friends, share Christ with our friends who don’t know Him, and yet even with all that, we can act our way through each day. Yet God doesn’t call us to act a part or fake our faith. He calls us to true and genuine faith. He calls us to holiness. He calls us to a relationship with Him, not just to be a member of His club. This is what the Israelites are facing as they begin their 40 years in the desert. They are walking with a faith that rests in tradition and society passed down from their parents, but God is now going to do a work in their lives that they might see that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, also calls them to a relationship and a true faith. But back to our passage .
Our passage begins with Amalek coming to fight the Israelites. Exodus tells us that he came to fight with Israel, but Deuteronomy 25:17-18 gives us some more background. ”Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.” Amalek came to fight the Israelites, but he didn’t come to them head on, he came at them from behind. Amalek came and, ”smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary;” He came up behind the Israelites and got them at their weakest link – by hurting those who were weak, sick, and feeble. How awful! And yet think for a moment? What does this sound like? It sounds like just how the devil attacks us each day, doesn’t it? "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil never comes up in front of us and says, “Hey, Erika, want to come play me and hurt God’s feelings?” If it were that obvious, we would recognize satan and turn our backs on him every time. But much like Amalek, the devil sneaks up behind us to get us at our weakest point. Perhaps your weak spot is bad language, or bad thoughts, or jealousy. Well, the devil is going to make sure that you are surrounded by those who use bad language to tempt you to participate; he’s going to place things on your TV that will invade your thoughts; and he’s going to place things in front of you that you desire to make you jealous. The devil is cunning and sneaky and smart. Remember what He did with Eve? He didn’t just hand her the apple, but he told her all that she was missing. He made her see all the she didn’t have and not what she did. He made her question God’s place and then, BOOM, the apple is eaten and humanity is forever changed. The devil is sneaky and just like Amalek, he’s always going to try to get us at our weakest point and when we’re not looking. Therefore, we must be vigilant and ever watchful to prevent that from happening. But back to our passage.
Amalek comes to fight the Israelites and soon they find themselves in the midst of a fierce battle. Moses has sent Joshua and their choice men to do the hands-on battling, but Moses tells them, ” to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand ” (Exodus 17:9). Moses knew that the battle was not on the battlefield, but that the battle belonged to God. Is this a common response for you? Probably not, if you’re like most people. A situation arises in our lives, we assess it, decide what to do, and we charge into battle. We have the Joshua part, i.e. we’ve run down the hill into battle, but we don’t have the Moses part – no one is at the top of the hill giving the battle to the Lord. So what was Moses doing on the top of the hill? "Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed” (Exodus 17:10-11). Moses’ part in the battle was to give the battle to the Lord. He held his hands up – signifying giving the battle up to the Lord and also in worship of God. His simple act of raising His hands was a gesture of submission, worship, and acceptance. And God responded to this gesture in kind. When Moses’ hands were raised, the battle went the way of the Israelites, when they fell, the Amalekites were victorious. What was really happening with the hands? Well, the hands were a reflection of Moses’ heart. When He trusted God and God’s chosen outcome, the Israelites won. And when his faith faltered and he trusted the strength of his own arms and in the power of Joshua and his men, the Amalekites won. The battle had nothing to do with what was going on down the hill from Moses and everything to do with what was going on in Moses’ heart. Isn’t this true for us each day? When we take matters into our own hands, we are destined to fail, but when we trust in God, we are victorious. For, "the battle is the LORD’S," and "greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Samuel 17:47 and 1 John 4:4). Remember what Jesus told us,
– "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
– "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
– "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
Without God we are nothing and can do nothing, but with God, "all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). What is the application here? Well, when problems arise in your life, come to God first. Don’t go charging down the mountain to fight, but stop and talk to God. Then, when you are called to face your challenge, walk in God’s strength, for ”My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:26).
Now, don’t think that we’re done here. We’ve still got some more in our Exodus passage. ”But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (Exodus 17:12-13). Now, in spite of Moses’ worship of God, his earthly arms began to tire. So, what happened to prevent this? Well, two things happened. First, Moses’ friends, put a stone under Moses for him to sit upon and then they held up his hands together. Oh, what a beautiful picture we have here!
First off, when Moses began to tire, the answer was a stone. It’s the same with us, isn’t it? When we begin to tire, it is our rock and our deliverer that is our answer. ”He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4). ”He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psalm 62:2). Jesus is the rock of truth and of strength and when our strength begins to fail, it is to Him we must turn. He promises that we can, ”do all things through Christ which strengtheneth” us (Philippians 4:13).
Secondly, where does Moses’ aid come from? His friends. Even though Moses was sent to the top of the mountain, Aaron and Hur were sent alongside him. As his friends, their job was to see him through the task that God had called him to. Are you this kind of friend? Are your friends supporting you as they should? So often in the busy world we live in, we strive to do everything on our own. Even when we are trusting God and living faithfully, we think that we need to operate solely out of our relationship with Him. But that isn’t true. God calls us to community and to walk with others. We are called to pray with each other, to support each other, and to minister with each other. We are even called to community to usher in God’s presence, for He tells us, ”where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). We cannot ever forget that we are called to live this Christian life alongside others, whether it be our family or our friends, we are all responsible for those around us. Take some time to look around and see if there is anyone whose arm you need to be holding up.
"And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (Exodus 17:13). As we once again come back to our passage, we see our end result. Amalek was defeated. Yay! The Israelites were defeated through the power of God. But we can’t just sit on the results because the process was so very important. What did we learn today?
1. The devil is always going to try to get us. Satan is smart and cunning and he knows our weaknesses. We can’t let our guard down. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8)
2. The battles we face are not our own, but belong to God. When we face trials our first steps must bring us to God and not into the heat of battle. In supplication and worship of Him is our strength. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5)
3. We are not called to live this life alone or to walk through this life in our own strength. Jesus, our Rock, is our strength. ”He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psalm 62:2)
4. Lastly, we need to support those God calls into our lives. There is strength in numbers and our job as friends is to bring those we love into the presence of God – whether that be in prayer or literally holding their hand – our purpose is to support the walk of those we love. ” For we are labourers together with God ” (1 Corinthians 3:9).
Friends, I hope this passage blesses you as it has blessed me to study it. Remember the battle with the Amalekites as you face battles in your own life. Apply the lessons of Moses, and God will be victorious!