Today’s reading includes Exodus 17:8-19:15, Matthew 22:34-23:12, Psalm 27:7-14, and Proverbs 6:27-35. In Exodus 17:8-15, we find the following account:
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
First, let’s reflect on the enemy they encountered? Who were the Amalakites? Remember that Esau was the unrighteous line of Isaac. Through his grandson, Amalek, came the Amalekites. These were sore enemies of God’s people and had been for a very long time. Verse sixteen tells us that the Amalekites would indeed be enemies of God’s people for a very long time.
He said, “They have raised their fist against the LORD’s throne, so nowc the LORD will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”
We will see that to be true in the coming pages of God’s Word. But we also see another revelation of Who God is when another of His names is revealed.
Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-nissi (which means “the LORD is my banner”).
According to Rabbi K.A. Schneider, “Banners are like today’s flags. They are lifted to a height where we can see as a reminder that symbolizes: security, hope, and freedom. With the Lord as our Banner we are assured victory, with the Lord as our Banner we can run and not grow weary, with the Lord as our Banner we will have peace and joy!”
Who was the most important character in this story? God was! All the secondary characters had equally important parts. They each had a role to play. Everyone had to depend on each other to have victory. And it is the same with you and me. We all have an important role to play in the kingdom of God. And no job is above or greater than any other. Even the smallest missing puzzle piece results in an unfinished puzzle.
We see Joshua fighting the battle, Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of weary Moses. And we see Moses, despite his weariness, continuing to hold up the staff of God. He did this for two reasons. First, when the people saw him on the mountain holding up the staff, it was a visual of strength and perseverance that renewed their own strength and helped them continue in their own perseverance. But he was also holding up the staff toward God, the only source of strength and victory. He was pointing toward God, the Victor, so that the people who saw him would know where their strength should come.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 36 is a song which recounts the great story we have been reading. It celebrates the victorious hand of God over the people. It celebrates the parting of the Red Sea and the defeat of kings along the way. But with each line, it acknowledges that the victory was not for the sake of display power and strength, but the victory was for love. Each line ends with a chorus of “His love endures forever.”
Moses raised his outstretched arm up to heaven. But he was human and he cannot keep his arm outstretched for long. But God can. Yes, we reach up to God. But the more important fact it that God’s mighty arm is outstretched to us. He is God, we are not.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.
After the battle, the Lord had some strict instructions for them.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’
He told Moses to write down the details of this victory so that they would remember. And he added… “and make sure Joshua hears it” Why do you think that they wanted Moses to make sure Joshua heard all of the details of battle? Because God knew what the future held for Joshua. He knew how He would use Joshua to finally lead the people into the Promise Land. He knew that Joshua would face these enemies again. He knew that this was an extraordinary job, and He knew that Joshua was ordinary. Joshua needed to remember, in order to have the courage and strength to face the days ahead. Joshua needed to remember that during that battle, God had a much bigger picture taking place. It was not just about Joshua’s role. God was putting all the pieces together for an extraordinary work. Joshua needed to remember that because God had a most important leadership role for him to play in the future. And we, too, need to remember the faithful strenght of God on our behalf so that we can walk forward confidently in the knowledge that Yahweh-nissi, our Victory Banner, covers us with His love.