It Takes More Than Two Hands!

Exodus 17:8-16

The Book of Exodus displays the divine hand of its Author. It contains a wonderful variety and comprehensive range of types given in their proper order that foreshadow the Christian life. Moses is a type of Christ, Pharaoh of Satan, Egypt of the world, Israel groaning in bondage pictures the sinner. Israel delivered from bondage illustrates our redemption and the tests in the desert typify the Christian’s walk. The Exodus Experience of Israel is one crisis after another. Exodus 17:8—

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.

This experience is yet another lesson we would do well to learn. Christians sometimes are amazed that the Christian life is one of battles as well as blessings. Up to this point, Israel had not had to fight; the LORD had fought for them. Now, the LORD chose to fight through them to overcome the enemy.

The LORD does not allow His people to be attack without first giving them the resources to win the battle. When God delivered Israel, He equipped them for this attack according to Exodus 13:18—

So God led the people around by the desert road towards the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.

Who are the attackers—THE AMALEKITES? A people known as AMALEKITES lived in Sinai and southwest Canaan as early as the time of Abraham. They have passed from the scene. These Amalekites are distant cousins to the Israelites. Genesis 35:15-16 identifies them as a clan descending from Esau, who sold his birthright to Jacob for some red stew in order to satisfy his famished flesh. Thus, in Scripture, the AMALEKITES represent the flesh—our sinful nature.

Ironically, REPHIDIM means RESTS or RESTING PLACES. However, Israel had not entered into final rest from its enemies. The Amalekites did not appear at Rephidim until after the water was given from the Smitten Rock. The Rock typifies Christ and the Water typifies the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit indwells the believer, He wants to give rest, but the flesh begins to oppose Him according to Galatians 5:17—

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

At Rephidim, the Israelites began drinking from the river of water that flowed from the Smitten Rock— typifying indwelling Holy Spirit who is given to God’s people because of Christ’s death. When the God of hope fills you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, and your are overflowing with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit—when you have been made partaker of the divine nature—that’s when the inward conflict begins.

Not until they drank from the Smitten Rock, are the Israelites called upon to fight. It is striking to note that is was not Israel that attacked but the Amalekites. The new nature in the believer delights to feed upon the Word, to commune with God, and be engaged with spiritual things. Nevertheless, the flesh will not let Him live in peace or enjoy rest.

According to Deuteronomy 25:17-19, the Amalekites pulled a “sneak attack” at points of weakness—

Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!

The Amalekites attack on Israel at Repheidim was especially reprehensible because they CUT OFF ALL WHO WERE LAGGING BEHIND, which would have included those who were sick, helpless, and weary. The character of the Amalekites is that THEY HAD NO FEAR OF GOD, such is the flesh.

The Egyptians and Amalekites represent two different powers or influences. The Egyptians represent the hindrance to Israel’s deliverance and the Amalekites represents the hindrance to their walk with God.

How did Israel overcome the enemy? Exodus 17:9-13—

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.

MOSES SAID TO JOSHUA, “CHOOSE SOME OF OUR MEN AND GO OUT TO FIGHT THE AMALEKITES.” This command implies that not everyone is ready to fight, but some are. God has equipped every Christian to do battle. And our struggle goes beyond the flesh according to Ephesians 6:12—

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Notice that Moses appointed a young man named Joshua the commander of the army. JOSHUA was the name given by Moses to HOSHEA son of Nun. JOSHUA in Hebrew is ewvwhy (Yehoshuayeh) The Greek equivalent is Ihsouv (Iesous) and the English is JESUS. His name means YAHWEH SAVES or YAHWEH IS SALVATION.

Like Moses, Joshua is a type of Christ. Moses the Intercessor was on the Mountain. Joshua the Commander was in the valley. Moses’ role on the mountain illustrates the intercessory work of Christ. Joshua with his sword in hand pictures the Holy Spirit using the Word of God against the enemy—and what a powerful sword the Word of God is according to Hebrews 4:12—

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Sword of the Spirit is powerful in defeating the flesh and the spiritual forces of evil. The Bible is the Christian’s offensive weapon against the attacks of the Devil according to Ephesians 6:17—

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Christ used the Word of God against the cravings of the flesh and the seductions of the Devil in Matthew 4:3-10—

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “`He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

The Devil’s three temptations of Christ parallel the three consecutive crisis-tests of Israel in Chapters 16 and 17 of Exodus.

First, with the test of no food, God taught the Israelites that man does not live on bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Second, with the test of no water, God taught the Israelites “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Third, with the test of the attack by the Amalekites, God taught the Israelites to “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

Let’s see how this third test of Israel parallels the third temptation of Jesus. Turn to Deuteronomy 6:10-13—

When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Fear the LORD your God, serve him only . . .

Do you see the parallel? The Devil tempts Israelites and Jesus as well as Christians to satisfy the flesh with the things of this world and to forget about God. Whenever we put the cravings of the flesh first in our life, we do not FEAR, WORSHIP or SERVE the LORD our God.

As Israel could not overcome the Amalekites by their own efforts, can neither you nor I overcome the flesh by our own efforts since the flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh!

Careful observation reveals that the battle also was fought on the top of the mountain. It was fought by prayer. The battle was not won by Israel’s fighting ability because they were not experienced soldiers nor adept at warfare yet. The battle was fought and won by God through Moses. The moment Moses was no longer able to hold his hands up, the Israelites began to lose the fight. If it had not been for Moses, Israel would have lost the battle.

The staff of God in Moses’ hand is certainly the decisive factor, but it is clear that the staff is effective only in concert with human participants—a combination of divine and human energies is finally victorious.

Interestingly, the staff was instantly effective with the natural order of creation in the plagues, Red Sea, and striking the Rock, but when its object is human beings (who have free will) the staff functions differently—requiring human cooperation. The STAFF does not radiate power like an electrical shock system, so that Moses turns it on and off by raising or lowering it. Instead, it is a realistic symbol of the power of God at work in the situation.

It assures the Israelites of God’s active hand in the battle, and of Moses’ confidence that God is so involved. Of course, Moses is an imperfect picture of Christ and His intercessory work, since our Lord never wearies and needs no assistance.

The important thing to remember is that the Holy Spirit is the only ONE who can give us victory over the flesh. Victory comes as the believer walks in the Spirit. When you and I act independently of the Spirit, the Amalekite (the sinful nature) wins an easy victory. When Moses’ hands were held up, the Israelites won. You and I never will be able to overcome the sinful nature. It is only the Spirit of God who can do that, when we use His Sword (the Word of God), along with prayer.

What does the role Aaron and Hur portray? Aaron and Hur helped Moses keep His hands outstretched. The outstretched hands are a prayer gesture. Aaron and Hur illustrate what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:11—“as you help us by your prayers.” When individuals pray alone, they often grow weary like Moses. But prayer is energized when two or three pray.

God is teaching that winning the battle cannot be achieved alone. Aaron becomes the High Priest. Hur is a member of the congregation who does his part. Priest and laity are to work side by side in a supporting role to Christ!

It is important that God’s people cooperate with God in gaining victory over the flesh. Romans 6 tells us to reckon and to yield, and by faith to put to death the deeds of the body. Alone Moses could not win the battle, nor could Joshua on the battlefield—help was needed for the victory!

How wonderful it is that we are not in the battle alone. We have the interceding Son and the indwelling Spirit who are for us—plus the Word of God in our hearts and believers who support one another in prayer. When this Truth is applied to the Church, Wednesday Night PRAYER becomes indispensable to the victorious life of the church. Without this support, the enemy wins!

Moses’ primary task is to shepherd the flock of God—to move them from one place to another—from the bondage of sin (Egypt) to victorious life (Canaan). That is the NT role of a pastor. This event illustrates that a pastor who does not have the help of others will grow tired, unsteady and fails in this task. Moses appears to be a slow learner so God sends Jethro to visit Moses in the next chapter to drive home this truth.

Two elements were to be operating in this battle: the sword in Joshua’s hand and the staff in Moses’ hand, which symbolized divine intervention. 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. But 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 [literally, make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its cravings].

The staff was no magic wand. Aaron and Hur helped Moses hold up his hand as a symbol of appeal to God for divine help and empowerment. Because of the faith and courage of all these men, Israel defeated 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.”

The account of this battle, in which the powerful presence of the LORD placed an important role, was to record for our reading and for Joshua’s hearing. It 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 one thing this battle teaches!

Moses’ major role in writing the first five books of the Bible is emphasized over and over in Scripture and especially in passages like Deuteronomy 31:24-26—

After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. .

Not too long ago liberal OT scholars alleged that writing was not invented until after Moses’ day. It has since become apparent from archaeological evidence that men had already been writing in Moses’ day for over 1,500 years.

SCROLLS of the kind used by Moses were long, narrow sheets of leather or papyrus on which scribes wrote with pen and ink, sometimes on both sides. Because they were awkward to read and difficult to store, soon after the time of Christ the scroll gave way to the book format used today.

What an amazing command from God! MAKE SURE THAT JOSHUA HEARS IT. Joshua is 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 that 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? 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?

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.”

Here we have another compound name for God: YAHWEH-NISSI—the LORD IS MY BANNER. The uplifted staff is a BANNER OF THE LORD. It 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 alone 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. But 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 people persist in rebelling against Him, He disciplines them. Moreover, 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 own doom is sealed.

Wilful, unrepentant, sinful conduct—like that of Pharaoh of the Exodus, for example—always brings divine judgment, whether the agent of that judgment is impersonal (such as during Noah’s Flood or against Sodom and Gomorrah) or personal (such as during the conquest of Canaan).

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.

That’s why LORD was at war with the Amalekites from generation to generation Deuteronomy 25:18 states, “THEY HAD NO FEAR OF GOD.” 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 declared to Pharaoh that Israel is His firstborn son.

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.”

1 Chronicles 4:43 reports that in the days of King Hezekiah—

[Five hundred Simeonites] killed the remaining Amalekites who had escaped, and they have lived there to this day.

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 the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, who was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites, whom Saul spared.

Haman hated all Jews and especially Mordecai. 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 says— 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 have war with 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. Only, the Spirit of God, the Word of God and prayer can give us the victory. If you are going to walk in the Spirit with God, there is a fight to be fought and it has to do with the flesh. There is no way of destroying or completely vanquishing our sinful nature and you can expect the flesh to attack at the points of weakness. But the good news is Isaiah 40:30-31—

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.


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