Exodus 17 tells a story of Israel defeating Amalek against all odds. Thus far in the book of Exodus, God has a history of asking strange gestures of Moses, and then working miracles through it. A staff turns into a serpent. Water spills out from a rock. Manna falls from heaven. But in verses 8-14, things get a little more dire:
“Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.”
There’s so much to be seen in these few verses, so much to grow our understanding of who God is and so much instruction to glean. But I want to revel in three distinct precepts we can garner from this passage of Scripture. Precepts that will instruct us in the sanctification of our souls.
1. We must uphold one another
Moses sent out warriors to battle against Amalek while he went atop a hill, outstretching his hands as an encouragement to an embattled Israel and a supplication to God. But he doesn’t go alone. He takes his elder brother, Aaron, and his companion, Hur. On the precipice of war, Moses has the foresight to bring along friends while he journeys to pray for victory. And while their comrades wage war against an enemy, Hur and Aaron have the humility to sit on the sidelines with their friend.
I don’t believe that the text indicates that Moses or his friends knew that his hands would need to be outstretched for hours on end in order to triumph against Amalek. Instead I find it far more likely that Moses viewed Aaron and Hur as valuable for the sake of company rather than for utility. Nevertheless, when Moses grew weary, His friends hastened to his aid.
They didn’t merely provide a place to sit. They didn’t solely give words of wisdom or encouragement. They acted. For the sake of Israel and for the sake of their friend, they acted on Moses’ behalf to ease a very physical and very spiritual burden. Not only was the physical weight of heavenward arms oppressive, but the knowledge that when Moses’ arms were a crucial act for the success of Israel must have been an enormous affliction to bear. In the stress of the situation his friends did not sit idly by, but instead they gave him reprieve. They granted him a seat. They forsook their own physical comfort by expending the energy to lift his arms up.
Because Moses’ raised arms were not merely a show, because they were not merely an act, but rather they were a demonstration of prayer and supplication for Israel, Aaron and Hur were not merely physically upholding. They were praying. They interceded on Moses’ behalf when the constraints of a frail and human body could not meet the demands that were required of him for the success and victory of Israel. By holding up his hands they prayed for him.
Are there not a multitude of ways that we can be lifting up the proverbial arms of our brothers and sisters? Is there not ample at stake to urge us to engage in supplication on behalf of the other members of the Bride of Christ? I assure you there is abundant need and abundant material in your neighborhood, in your church, in reaches of your influence. Let’s commit to uphold one another. Let’s commit to intercede on behalf of our heavenly family.
2. God uses us in a number of different capacities, each with their own important purpose.
The second thing worth noting in this narrative is the different function that each person plays. The battle would not have been won without Joshua leading the troops against Amalek. Israel would have quickly succumbed to their enemy had Moses not earnestly prayed on their behalf. Moses couldn’t have physically continued interceding with upraised hands had Hurr and Aaron not been there to lift them up. Each person had their job, and one couldn’t succeed without the other. Each task worked together for victory, not one outweighing another in importance. This picture is a manifestation of what the Apostle Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 12.
“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member. Where would the body be? As it is. There are many parts, but one body.” 1 Corinthians 12: 18-20
God uses us in togetherness. We thrive in cohesion. The Apostle explains to the church at Corinth that their giftings and their jobs were arranged as God chose. We should have a sense of comfort and confidence in our selected area of effort, because God himself has ordained for us to be there, whether we be soldiers, prophets, or arm-rests.
3. It is God who accomplished it, not us
Nevertheless, we see another detail in 1 Corinthians 12:5-7 that enriches the understanding that we have of the Exodus passage.
“And there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”
In the end, God will always accomplish His work. He sees fit to use us as instruments, vessels by which His will is carried out. That day, Amalek was not conquered by Joshua. Nor was he conquered by Moses, nor Hur, nor Aaron. That day he was conquered by the mighty hand of God. Yet, God chose to accomplish this feat through warriors, through a prophet, and through friendship.
As Christians and believers in the omnipotent God, we know that all we can do is be faithful and obedient to what the Lord has convicted us. We can trust with all confidence that the Lord will accomplish the purpose to which we are called. When we provide the obedience, He will surely provide the victory. The confidence we have in a certain victory over any given thing should be solely based on the confidence we have in Christ, not the confidence of our own flesh.
The main motif between these three-distinct points on Exodus chapter 17 is that we are called to action. We act to uphold one another. We act to exercise the gifts that God has given us. We act in faithful obedience to our Father by which all plans are carried out and accomplished. We have the privilege and opportunity to be used by God in His plan to seek and save the lost. Let us be vigilant and encouraged to loyally fight, loyally pray, and loyally uphold.
Sarah Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Grace Co.