Now, we finish the amazing account of how the Israelites overcame the Amalekites in Exodus 17:8-13—
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Two elements were to be operating in this battle: THE SWORD in Joshua’s hand that symbolizes the Word of God and THE STAFF in Moses’ hand that symbolizes prayer. Both are the staff and sword are placed in human hands. Here Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are linked in carrying out the will of God.
Note that Joshua did not completely destroy the Amalekites. The Hebrew word translated OVERCAME means TO WEAKEN or DISABLE or PROSTRATE, that is to force an opponent off his feet. The flesh will never be destroyed or eradicated in this life.
In 1 Samuel 15, we read that King Saul’s sin was in refusing to destroy completely the Amalekites. Saul’s disobedience led to God rejecting him. Ironically, 2 Samuel 1:16-10 reports that one of the Amalekite soldiers that Saul spared, claimed to have killed Saul on Mt. Gilboa at the king’s own request. Of course, this was a lie since Saul committed suicide.
Saul’s making provision for the Amalekites, is man’s problem. Romans 13:14 asserts—
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature [in other words, make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its cravings].
The staff was no magic wand. Aaron and Hur helped Moses by holding up his hands as a symbol of appeal to God for divine help and empowerment. Because of the faith and courage of all these men, Israel overcame the Amalekites, and Moses was told to write down the account of the battle so that it would never be forgotten. Exodus 17:14—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
WRITE THIS ON A SCROLL AS SOMETHING TO BE REMEMBERED. What is to be remembered? The LORD gains the victory over Amalek—the sinful nature in the believer’s life. But this victory is realized only as the believer walks in the Spirit by faith relying upon the Word of God and prayer.
This battle is a reminder to be strong and very courageous because God is on our side. Paul asks in Romans 8:31—”If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer is NO ONE! That’s what this battle teaches!
What an amazing command from God! MAKE SURE THAT JOSHUA HEARS IT. At first glance, this appears to be a strange command. Joshua commanded the Israelites in the battle. Certainly, he saw what happened!
Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible and this is the first recorded command by God to write Scripture. Every time there is a first in the Bible, there is an important principle to be learned. The all-important principle here is that one’s experience is always to be measured by the written Word of God.
It would have been easy for Joshua to overestimate his role in the battle. He might have seen the victory as his, not the LORD’S—thus falling victim to the very enemy which was defeated—the prideful—sinful nature!
Moses is commanded to make sure Joshua hears it so he will test his experience against Scripture. The tendency of people who walk in the flesh instead of the Spirit is to test doctrine by experience instead of the reverse. Ironically, the Charismatics, who claim to have a special anointing by the Spirit, are often the most guilty of violating this basic principle.
No matter how spectacular the experience, it is no test of biblical truth. Rather biblical truth stands in final judgment on experience.
The test of anything calling itself Christian is not its significance or its success or its power, though these make the test more imperative. The test is truth. Spiritual experience by definition is an internal awareness that involves strong emotion in response to the truth of God’s Word, amplified by the Holy Spirit and applied by him to us personally.
Faith begins with the preaching of the Word of God according to Romans 10:14—
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
The Devil understands this according to Jesus’ Parable in Luke 8:12—
Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
Faith is a result of hearing the Word of God, not experience!
At this point, Joshua is young and an ordinary man but the LORD is preparing him for an extraordinary task that is ahead of him. Where does preparation of a young man for God’s work begin—In the Scriptures!
Parents, do you want your children to serve the LORD? Make sure they hear it! Good parents do not let their children neglect their school studies. Godly parents do not let their children neglect the Scriptures.
Psalm 119:11 is paramount in the war against the sinful nature—
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Unless God’s Word is hid in your children’s heart, they will be overcome by the sinful nature. They will either walk into the battle against Amalek with empty hands—without the Sword of the Spirit—or fall victim to a sneak attack.
The Bible says in Deuteronomy 25 that the Amalekites CUT OFF ALL WHO WERE LAGGING BEHIND. Are any of your children lagging behind in their knowledge of the Scriptures—ready to be picked off and fall victim to the flesh? What efforts do you take to have your children succeed in their school studies, sports and other activities?
The editor of the York Daily Record lamented about the number of parents who are attending sports events of their children, even the practice sessions, but the same parents will not show up for a parent-teacher meeting or take their children to events of greater value.
Is not eternity far more important than the things of this world? Jesus asks this piercing question in Matthew 16:26—
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
At the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses assured the people that the LORD would fight for Israel. After God brought Israel safely across the Red Sea, made bitter waters sweet, fed them with manna from heaven, and opened the rock to give them refreshing streams in the desert, then came the Amalekites and their defeat.
Joshua was the hero in the eyes of the people; his name was on every lip. However, God wanted it to be clear to all, including Joshua, which victory depended upon Himself. If the celebration were left to the people, they would have had bronze statue made of Joshua and placed in the center of the camp. They might have even worshiped Joshua as the victorious hero.
Instead, we read in Exodus 17:15-16—
Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
Joshua’s name did not so much as appear on a memorial. Instead of a memorial, there was an altar and it was called YAHWEH-NISSI.
Here we have another compound name for God: YAHWEH-NISSI—the LORD IS MY BANNER. The uplifted staff was a BANNER OF THE LORD. NISSI means BANNER, EMBLEM, WAR FLAG. It is the emblem of victory, which gleams after the battle is fought and won.
This name of God is associated with the conflicts of His people. It was YAHWEH-NISSI who won the battle. The altar is the place of sacrifice and this event certainly points to the victory at the Cross.
Onward, Christians soldiers! Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the Royal Master, Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, See His banners go!
At the sign of triumph Satan’s host’s does flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers, On to victory!
In the name of our God, we must always lift up our banners: He should receive all the praise for He is source of victory. We have our victory not through our own efforts but through Christ according to 1 John 5:4-5—
For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
The fact that God ordered His people to fight their enemies on the field of battle has often caused consternation to readers of the Bible. Many have charged God with being cruel and blood thirsty, and others have tried to dissociate the OT God of wrath from the NT God of love. However, God’s love appears throughout the OT and His wrath is found often in the NT, especially in the Book of Revelation.
God’s patience runs out with sinners when they persist in rebelling against Him. And if they eventually pass the point of no return by crossing over God’s line of mercy and grace, they bring about their own destruction and their doom is sealed.
Although God is patient and slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, he does not leave the guilty unpunished. He sometimes uses the battlefield as an arena of judgment against those who, like the Amalekites, are persistent in their refusal to fear Him.
According to Deuteronomy 25:18, the Amalekites refused to FEAR GOD and that is why God was at war with them from generation to generation. A person or nation that does not FEAR THE LORD is opposed to Him.
Amalekites drew the wrath of God on two counts. First, they failed to recognize the hand and plan of God in Israel’s life and destiny. Second, they invoked the curse of the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12:3—
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Imagine how they stirred the anger of God, when the first targets of Amalekites became the sick, aged, and tired of Israel, who lagged behind the line of march. Yahweh had declared to Pharaoh that Israel is His firstborn son. To touch God’s son is to invoke His wrath.
Ironically, Psalm 83 includes the Amalekites’ motive with those of other nations, who said, “Come, . . .‘let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.” Now God will see to it that the Amalekites are remembered no more. The mills of God’s justice grind slowly but surely. 1 Chronicles 4:43 reports that in the days of King Hezekiah: five hundred of the tribe of Simeon killed the remaining Amalekites who had escaped and were living in the hill country of Seir.
God measured out to the Amalekites what they intended for Israel. And what an ending it was! Remember that scoundrel named Haman who lived at the time of Esther. Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites, whom Saul spared.
Haman hated all Jews and especially Mordecai the Jew. At a time when the Israelites were weak, Haman plotted to destroy them. Just when it looks like Haman’s plot to destroy all the Jews is about to succeed, Queen Esther, Mordecai’s cousin comes to rescue. The tables are turned and Haman is hanged on the seventy-five feet high gallows that he had made for Mordecai.
With Haman the Amalekites cease to exist! If it were not for God’s Word, their memory would now be blotted out from under heaven. Much like the retelling of Holocaust, the Amalekites are not forgotten. But as a people they cease to exist, and that is what is meant here.
Let’s consider the two statements made at the end of Exodus 17:14 and 17:16—
I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.
The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.
For generations God battled against the Amalekites on behalf of His people and finally they were wiped out with the hanging of Haman. Likewise, God enters the war against the flesh on behalf of the Christian through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and prayer.
How is God going to blot out the memory of the flesh from under heaven? 1 Corinthians 15:52 supplies the answer—
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 explains the end of the flesh—
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
If the LORD took the church to heaven as it is now, without changing it, heaven would be just like this old earth because we would wreck the place with our old sinful natures.
There are three important things to remember.
First, God is going to blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven. In other words, God is going to get rid of our sinful nature.
Second, the LORD will never compromise with the sinful nature. He will war with the Amalek from generation to generation.
Third, the constant conflict of the Spirit and the sinful nature will always war against each other as long as we live in this body. It is by the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and prayer can we overcome the flesh.
Having crossed the Red Sea, the people faced crises-tests that came from the LORD and each were met by Him. The bitter water of Marah was made sweet, lack of food was supplied by manna from heaven, and water from the Smitten Rock at Horeb gush into the dry wadi at Rephidim. These three crises-tests picture our salvation in Christ. The battle with the Amalekites pictures the Christian walk—the war that takes place between our sinful nature and the Spirit in our life.
The ALTAR erected as a memorial to YAHWEH-NISSI was soon forgotten. The people were slow to learn that God is indispensable in the battles of life. After, about one year, at Mt. Sinai, Israel came to the edge of the Promised Land. Spies were sent into the land, and when they returned, there were divided opinions in their reports. Because of the evil report of the majority, God announced that all those twenty years and upward would die in the desert, expect Joshua and Caleb.
However, early the next morning the people insisted upon going into the land. Moses warned them that the Amalekites were there and that Israel would be defeated. Numbers 14:44-45 reports—
Nevertheless, in their presumption, they went up towards the high hill country, even though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, attacked them, and beat them down all the way to Hormah.
THEY PRESUMED. They said, “We defeated them a year ago, and we can do it again.” But no matter how hard they fought, they could not conquer the Amalekites this time. They were helpless before the enemy, simply because they were fighting in their own strength. YAHWEH-NISSI was not with them. The people had not learned an important lesson, namely, spiritual battles cannot be won with worldly weapons or in human strength.
Christ is our BANNER. Jesus, the Captain of our salvation is YAHWEH-NISSI. As we look to Him moment by moment, we are assured of the victory declared in the NT—
In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . and God always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ (Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14).
Lest we forget Christ is the One who gives us the victory; He instituted a memorial of remembrance for us to observe.
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
When you come to THE TABLE OF REMEMBRANCE to celebrate Christ’s past victory at the Cross over the world, the flesh and the Devil; the present victories He gives you over these enemies; and His ultimate future victory over them when He comes again.