From Egypt to Canaan – XIV

September 26, 2016

Image result for photo Holding up Moses' armsExodus 17:8-13

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

There is an interesting episode during the journey From Egypt To Canaan, and it is recorded in Exodus 17:8 through 13:

      Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.  And Moses said
      to Joshua, “Choose us some men, and…fight with Amalek.  Tomorrow I
      will stand on top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.”  So Joshua
      …fought with Amalek.  And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up…the hill….
      when Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed.  And when he let down
      his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they
      took a stone…and he sat on it.  And Aaron and Hur supported his hands
      …until the going of the sun.  So Joshua defeated Amalek….

Who was Amalek?  In this Scripture Amalek refers to a nomadic Sinai Desert tribe.  They were also known as the Amalekites – descended from Esau’s grandson Amalek (see Genesis 36:12).  Why did they attack the Israelites?  It involves a spiritual problem that goes back to Esau and Jacob.  God said in Malachi 1:2 and 3, “…Jacob have I loved; but Esau I have hated….”  Why?  Because, basically, Jacob was open to God and His ways, and Esau was not!  He despised his birthright, which he ‘sold’ to his younger brother Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup! (See Genesis 25:29-34).  The birthright was God’s way to make sure a Hebrew family continued in a strong and godly manner, because the eldest son was to take the position of spiritual, relational, and financial leader.

Not only did Esau despise his birthright, but by doing so, he was despising God!  It is written into the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:5 that, “…the iniquity of the fathers [are visited] on the children to the third and fourth generations….”  Apparently, Esau’s grandson, Amalek, inherited his grandfather’s disposition towards God!  And the tribe he founded – the Amalekites – were hostile to Israel, and Israel’s God!  They were a thorn in the Hebrews’ side for centuries thereafter!

And so “…Amalek came and fought with Israel….” (Exodus 17:8).  Moses gave more pertinent details concerning the attack in Deuteronomy 25:17 and 18:

      Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out
      of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all
      the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did
      not fear God.

It was not a bold frontal attack!  It was a cowardly raid from behind – on the old, the young, the sick, and those who were just wearied by the demanding journey out of Egypt.  It is no wonder, then, that Moses reminded the Israelites in Deuteronomy 25:19:

      Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest
      from all your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your
      God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out
      the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.  You shall not forget.

They made a half-hearted attempt to fulfill this command under the leadership of King Saul (see I Samuel 15:1-26).  But Saul left alive “…Agag the king of the Amalekites…” (I Samuel 15:20), whom Samuel the prophet then killed (see I Samuel 15:32, 33).  Apparently, Saul and the fighting men spared others of the Amalekites also.  For, centuries later, “…Haman, the Agagite…” (Esther 3:1) – descended from Agag, king of the Amalekites tried to eliminate all the Jews of the Persian Empire! (See Esther 3:6).

What can we learn from this?  When God says to go and do something, partial obedience can be as bad as disobedience!  As Samuel told King Saul in I Samuel 15:22 and 23:

      Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in
      obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
      and to heed than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witch-
      craft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry

But back to Moses, Aaron, and Hur :  Somehow (according to our featured Scripture, verse 11) victory over the Amalekites depended on Moses holding the rod of God high above his head!  But try holding your hands above your head for just a few minutes. You will get fatigued, and your arms will begin to drop.  Moses had to hold the rod of God over his head for most of the day!  So Aaron (Moses brother) and Hur (Jewish tradition has it that he was Moses brother-in-law) got a large stone for Moses to sit on, and – one on each side – held up his arms…until the going down of the sun…” (Exodus 17:12).  At the end of the day, the battle was over, and victory belonged to Israel!

Christian leaders – no matter how talented and gifted they are – cannot do the job alone!  God calls us to help, to hold up their arms, as it were, so victory can be won!  Think of your pastor.  He is called and gifted by God (see Ephesians 4:11; II Timothy 2:24, 25), but he needs the support of his congregation to get the job done! (See Philippans 4:10-19; I Thessalonians 5:11-13; Hebrews 13:7).

You may not be called as a pastor, deacon, teacher, or other Christian leader.  But you do have a God-given gift – because everyone does! (see Romans 10:6-8).  And that gift may be one that keeps you in the background as someone who provides assistance to a leader.  And that position is extremely important to the mission of God’s kingdom – as important as any leadership position!

Moses couldn’t do it without the help of Aaron and Hur.  Are you holding up the arms of Christian leaders?

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