In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without heart.” – John Bunyan
In our faith journey, we will not only face trials involving the necessities of life—as the Israelites did—but will also face battles involving our enemies. In this passage, Israel soon discovers they have a fierce enemy as they are attacked at Rephidim by the Amalekites. You may read Exodus 17:8-15 here: Bible Gateway.
Who were the Amalekites? This fierce nomadic tribe lived near the Dead Sea and made part of their livelihood through frequent raids. They would kill for pleasure before carrying off the booty. They were descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau (Jacob’s brother).
Despising spiritual things, Esau lived for himself. He is described as “a profane person” (Heb. 12:16). Our English translation of profane stems from the Latin and means “outside the temple,” which could be translated “unhallowed and common”. As Esau had threatened to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41), his descendants also opposed Jacob’s descendants (Israel). Annihilation of Israel soon became their goal.
From a human standpoint, Israel defeating the Amalekites would appear next to impossible. For Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for the past 400 years (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6) and never had an army. (For an interesting read on Israel’s timeline see: How Long Were the Israelites in Egypt?.)
Victory over Amalek wouldn’t have happened without God. Although He could have sent his angels to wipe out the enemy (Isa. 37:28), He chose to empower and use His people. God worked through and sealed the victory with Joshua’s leadership skills in conjunction with Israel’s army; and the intercession of Moses, Aaron, and Hur.
This is the first time that Joshua is mentioned in Scripture, but he will be mentioned two-hundred more times before Scripture ends (Wiersbe). Moses must have seen his aptitude for military leadership when he promoted him as his servant and general of Israel’s army.
Jews were accustomed to lifting up their hands during prayer (Ps. 28:2; 44:20; 63:4; 134:2; 1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; 1 Tim. 2:8.) Total dependence on Jehovah’s authority and power was signified as Moses lift up God’s staff in his hands. When Moses’s hands came down, Amalek prevailed. But when his hands (and staff) stayed up, Israel prevailed.
Wiersbe notes: “We can understand how Joshua and the army would grow weary fighting the battle, but why would Moses get weary holding up the rod of God? To the very day of his death, he didn’t lose his natural strength (Deut. 34:7), so the cause wasn’t physical. True intercession is a demanding activity.”
In the Christian life as we are told to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). When we identify with Christ, His enemies become our enemies.
Our biggest enemy is Satan and his demonic army (Eph. 6:10-12). He often attacks believers after spiritual victories and/or special blessings. Warren Wiersbe offers a fresh perspective for the battle: “God can use those attacks to keep us from trusting the gifts instead of the Giver. . . . We need the battles of life to help balance the blessings of life; otherwise, we’ll become too confident and comfortable and stop trusting the Lord.”
Why God chooses to use humans to accomplish His purposes, I don’t know. But He does. Although He may choose fewer up front leaders such as Moses, or Billy Graham, He uses all of our efforts in intercessory prayer to win spiritual battles. He is looking for people who will continue steadfastly in prayer to share in the battle and help seal the victory (Rom. 12:12; Isa. 59:16).
“Joshua couldn’t have succeeded without Moses, but Moses couldn’t have prevailed without the support of Aaron and Hur,” (Wiersbe).
We can be like Aaron and Hur by “lifting up the hands” of our spiritual leaders not only through prayer, but also with words of encouragement, or helping shoulder their workload. . . . Have a great week!