Exodus Devotional | A Hand Against the Throne and a Raised Staff, Day 1
The Book of Exodus
The Greatness of God to His People in Need
A Hand Against the Throne and a Raised Staff, Day 1
“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)
I have an opportunity this week to lead us through a part of Exodus in our devotionals that I won’t be able to get to in the upcoming sermon--the battle with the Amalekites. If you’re familiar with this battle, it’s the one where Moses has to keep his hands raised, staff in hand, in order for the Israelites to win. It’s a strange moment and we’re going to need to learn just a bit of history here.
The Amalekites were a tribe descended from a man named Amalek. Who is he and why does he matter? You can refer back to Genesis chapter 25 to get the full backstory, but here’s some genealogy: Abraham was a man chosen by God, hundreds and hundreds of years before all of this--chosen to be the father of God’s people. He had a son named Isaac. Isaac had two sons, one named Esau (the elder brother) and Jacob (later renamed Israel). Can you see where this is going? Jacob/Israel became the son God used to extend the lineage of his people. Esau was not chosen--and he had a son named...you guess it: Amalek.
It was from those days to this day in Exodus 17 (and far beyond) that Amalek and his descendants hated, not only Jacob and his family--they hated God for not choosing them. So, at every opportunity they had, they sought to decimate every Israelite they could, hoping to wipe out God’s people, punishing God. Clearly, the Amalekites had heard that Israel was now free--to any worldly view, they were ripe for destruction. They’d been slaves for centuries, never been taught warfare, in the middle of the desert, burdened by their wives and children and livestock, and had no city to retreat to. This would be an easy one-and-done victory for the Amalekites. Or, so they thought…
It appears they hadn’t really taken seriously the stories of just how the Israelites had been liberated. Perhaps they didn’t really believe that Yahweh, the Lord, had done everything on behalf of his people. Plague after plague that laid Egypt low; an ocean split apart and then sewn back together, drowning Pharaoh’s army; water from rocks and food from the sky. A hard heart, once again, is the downfall of God’s enemies--all they could see was an opportunity to kill God’s people, thereby punishing God himself.
That’s where I want us to stop and meditate today: those who oppose Christians are definitely opposed to us. But every single one of our enemies are more deeply and truly opposed to God. The Israelites, no matter how hard or intelligently they fought, never won a fight for themselves. It was always God who won it. Victory always belonged to Yahweh. Like a father whose kids are being bullied, the Lord wades into battle on behalf of his beloved. The bully, once strong and mighty, standing over the kid, now gets wrecked by the father.
Who opposes you in this life--especially those who oppose you because you’re a Christian? Who mocks or lies about or hurts you because of your faith?
With all your worry, tears, and even anger at them, how ought you to talk to God about them? Are you believing and trusting the Lord to win for you, or are you taking these matters into your own hands?
What do you, as a Christian, want the “victory” to look like? What do you think God wants it to look like?