Exodus Devotional | Day 4: When We Rebel
The Book of Exodus
The Greatness of God to His People in Need
A Hand Against the Throne and a Raised Staff, Day 4
“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 17:13-16)
“A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” That does not sound good for the Amalekites. Imagine God saying, “I will have war with insert your family name here from generation to generation.” Yahweh, Creator God, whose voice is like that of many rushing waters, who speaks universes into being with his voice, and puts an end to his enemies...is now lined up against you.
A few days ago, I offered you a little bit of history behind who the Amalekites were. I want to fill you in just a bit more. After this battle in Exodus 17, the Amalekites will show up several times more in the Old Testament scriptures. In Numbers 14 (that’s another book of the Bible!), they’ll defeat Israel in another battle because God’s people don’t trust him, disobey him, and fail. God will tell the first Israelite king, Saul, to fight and destroy the Amalekite tribe in 1 Samuel 15, but though Saul fights and defeats them, he doesn’t destroy them, thinking that leaving a remnant behind, he can receive tribute from them. King David fights and defeats them in 1 Samuel 30, but many run from the battle and David can’t catch them. It was King Hezekiah who finally drove all Amalekites from the lands of Israel. The final descendants of Amalek were rooted out and destroyed by the Persians in the time of Queen Esther (Esther 2:5, 8-10).
Okay...got all of that? So why does God say and then act upon his declaration to end the Amalekites? In short--and there are books written on this--it’s because they have the same spirit of sin and rebellion that we all have. That the Israelites had. What makes them unique, in that God doesn’t intend to forgive them, but destroy them?
I think it’s plausible that individual Amalekites turned from their rebellion and found God’s grace. But, as a people, they were unique because their cultural, societal, philosophical, and spiritual DNA was founded on hating God and wanting to destroy God’s people. They constantly and only sought revenge against God for his decision to make the Israelites his people, rather than Esau’s (and thereby, his son, Amalek). They had the heart of Cain, hating and judging God for his sovereign choice and killing their brother as an act of retribution against God.
Basically, the Amalekites handed themselves over to their sin nature, deciding to let their enmity with God define them. They embraced hatred of Yahweh and his people. If they’d had printed money, it would have said, “In God we place our hate...and oh, yeah...kill the Jews.” It was an intentional, self-damning choice the Amalekites made for themselves, generation after generation, to hate God. Their “hand was upon the throne,” which is a Hebrew way to say that they were resolute in their endeavor to fight against God and take his throne.
What do we do with this history lesson?
We need to receive a warning--how seriously God takes rebellion and sin. How insulted God is when we judge him and, essentially, dare him to punish us for disobedience we just have to walk in...because we’re hard-hearted.
We need to find God’s grace all the sweeter, because we are no better than the Amalekites. What really creates the difference between you and an Amalekite? Has God not restrained your evil? Has he not called you and conquered your rebellion, with mercy, rather than judgment?
We need to see that, whether it’s in our generation or another, the Lord does and will hold everyone accountable. Whether we like the timing or the way it happens, we can trust the Lord to enact justice, once and for all.
We need to trust God’s wisdom in who is judged and who receives mercy--we are pretty terrible at deciding who gets the axe. We get vindictive and sinfully vengeful. Only God is perfect and moral and upright. Only he has the right to revenge.
End this week’s devotionals praying over these things. Ask the Lord to bless you with each of the previous for things and trust that he will.