Exodus 17:8-16 Perseverance In Prayer, Worship, And Obedience

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I find this an interesting passage on many levels:

“While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, ‘Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.’

So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill.

As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up.

So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, ‘Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’

Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”). He said, ‘They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation’.” (Exodus 17:8-16 NLT)

Some background:

“Amalek” was the grandson of Esau (aka Edom), through Eliphaz (Genesis 36:12; 1 Chronicles 1:36), which makes the Amaleks relatives of the Israelites. The Amaleks lived a nomadic lifestyle in an area generally south-west of the land of Canaan.

The reason that the Amaleks “attacked Israel” was probably because they felt threatened by them. They had probably heard of the Israelites deliverance at the Red Sea and could have been aware that the LORD promised Canaan to Jacob, Esau’s brother.

Another reason is that being nomadic, the Amaleks actually survived by attacking other tribes and people around them so as to plunder their possessions and livestock.

In this passage they attacked Israel so as to plunder them.

Some of the things I find interesting in this passage:

1. This passage contains no specific instruction from God for Moses to go and stand at “the top of the hill”. Nor does it contain any specific instruction from God for Moses to hold his staff or to lift his hands.

Now these things could have been implied as commands from God or, alternatively, it could have been Moses’s way of making a sacrifice of prayer or worship to God.

Either way, it is obvious that God honoured it because: “as long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage”. (verse 11)

2. Was Moses actually praying and/or worshipping God the whole time that won the battle? So, prayer and/or worship won the battle.

Or was it the act of holding up the staff God had given him that caused the victory? Therefore, obedience to God that won the battle.

Or was it both prayer/worship and obedience? Personally, I think it was both.

3. Tied in with points one and two above, it is obvious that there were consequences for Moses’s actions or inactions. Because when Moses got tired and let his hands drop Israelites presumable died. (implied in verse 11)

4. God is indeed Yahweh-Nissi (“the Lord is my banner”). And God still is Yahweh-Nissi. God showed the Israelites that He fought for them, that He led them in battle, that He protected and conquered on their behalf, and that He was their banner.

And God still does the same for His people, Christians, today.

As Barnabas Piper said so well:

“God is our banner because we live to celebrate and honour His faithfulness to us, shown in so ways, from the rising sun to the risen Christ.

God is our banner because we remember all His deeds and His words graciously given to us in Scripture.

God is our banner because He gives us identity, and our label is “God’s children” (1 John 3:2 ; Galatians 4:5-7), because of the saving work of Jesus.

And God is our banner because we are His representatives to the world, making Him visible and showing the beauty of His transforming work.

God is our banner because all of this is an invitation, a gravitational pull, a summons, a tug to any who would believe but do not yet know what that means or how to do so.” (from Barnabas Piper )

5. The struggle between Israel and Esau (Edom, Amaleks, Arabs) is an ongoing one, starting from the birth of Jacob and Esau.

Because the Bible makes it clear that it is a conflict that will continue until Jesus returns, therefore we should not expect any lasting peace between Jews and Arabs.

That is the plain reality, any other expectation is (in my opinion) just foolishness and denying the reality of the prophecies contained in the Bible.

We should, of course, be praying that both Jews and Arabs come to salvation through Jesus.

6. To me this passage highlights the need to be faithful and obedient to God, and to persevere in our prayers and worship because we are also in a battle.

And we will be until the day we die or Jesus returns.

As Christians we cannot grow tired or become lazy about the commands of God if we want victory over the satan in all areas of our lives. We are at war (Ephesians 6:10-18).

But if we are faithful, and persevere, then because God is our banner and because of the death and resurrection of Jesus we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).


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