They attacked Israel at their weakest point. The sick, the faint, the weary were their targets. Those who straggled behind the great Israelite host were suddenly attacked. Amalek, whose grandfather Esau lost his birthright when he was weary, now used the same plan of attack against the Israelites. Ruthlessly, the Amalekites sought to destroy the Israelites. Cousins bitterly engaged in war.
Moses instructed Joshua, his young recruit, to head the troops. This valley of Rephidim, refreshment and restoration, became the battleground of revenge for the Amalekites. There were no tanks, no hand grenades, no weapons of mass destruction. This was hand-to-hand combat. Soldier to soldier. Sword to sword. Man to man. The men of Israel confronted their cousins, the descendants of Esau. Moses, Aaron and Hur sat on the mountain nearby cheering them on. The Israelites were hardened men. Years of slavery had yielded strong muscles and resiliency. They could fight. The Amalekites were well-trained warriors. They knew how to fight—and win. The outcome was a toss-up—until God showed up.
Moses raised his staff toward the sky. When he lifted his hands, the Israelites won. When he lowered them, they lost. No other single factor controlled the outcome of the battle. Moses looked at the people he loved so dearly. To lose would mean the death of thousands of men, women and children. His own people, those he risked his life to lead from Egypt. His arms became weary.
Aaron and Hur stepped in. When Moses became weary, they lifted up his arms. They too recognized that the battle was not won by expertise, but by divine intervention. Winning or losing depended not on training, but on the God who had brought them this far. So they held up his hands. What a foolish thing to do! Winning a war by holding up your hands. Holding up one’s hands normally signified giving up, not overcoming. At the end of the day, Israel had won hands up.
“Write it down,” God said. “And tell Joshua that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
Moses built an altar and called the place Jehovah-nissi, The Lord is my Banner. In the wilderness journey, on the tall mountain surrounding the valley of Rephidim, in the middle of the battle, the Lord became the banner for Israel. And not just any banner. The Hebrew word for banner suggests something that gleams from afar and was often a shiny piece of metal raised high enough for all in the camp to see. In the heat of the battle, when the sun struck the banner, it would glisten letting those engaged in war know that they were still in the battle—the war was still winnable.
What about you? Have you lost sight of the banner? Your faith so weakened by the battle that you can’t see the Son’s reflection?
“This is no ordinary battle,” you say. “You don’t know what I’m facing.” And you think God doesn’t understand either.
No one is free of the Amalekites. And often they are so closely related to how we live our lives that we fail to see them before they have attacked. Amalek was of the same flesh and blood as the Israelites. What is your weakness, your pet sin? Just when you have geared yourself up for rest and restoration, your flesh rears its ugly head. At your weakest moment, when you are straggling in your walk with Christ, you fall prey to temptation. Your head buried in the muck and mire of a bad decision, the banner no longer glistens in the sunlight. Hope escapes you.
Tomorrow we will discover the hope for what you’re facing.