Shelby G. Floyd
The background for our lesson today is from a portion of Scripture found in the book of Exodus 17:8-16.
We are all familiar with the story of God’s people who multiplied to a wonderful number of something like two million people while they were down in Egypt. They were in bondage; they were mistreated; they cried out unto the Lord to save them by sending a deliverer. And God raised up Moses who was trained and educated to be their deliverer.
Moses is held up in the Bible to be a type of Jesus Christ. He was a prophet of God and Israel’s deliverer. Christ is our great prophet through whom God has spoken to us (Hebrews 1: 1-3). Moses delivered Israel from bondage and slavery. Christ has delivered us from the bondage of sin. Christ therefore was the promised deliverer like unto Moses (Acts 3: 22).
God sent Moses to Pharaoh and he put a rod into his hand. Moses did many miracles through the rod of God, confirming his message and mission to Israel. Finally, with the rod of God in his hand he separated the Red Sea, and the children of Israel marched through the Red Sea on dry land and headed toward the Promised Land.
Shortly after they were on their way the children of Israel started murmuring for water. God commanded Moses to strike the rock with the rod and water was given to them. (Exodus 17: 1-7.) Then they were attacked by a nomadic tribe called Amalek.
WAR AGAINST AMALEK
Moses is the leader and he knows that something has got to be done about the attack. First we notice that war had to be made against Amalek: “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” (Ex 17:8-9 NIV). Amalek was a warring tribe. Israel had done nothing to provoke them. They were simply passing through the land. But Amalek attacked Israel from behind—where the stragglers, the weak, and the slower people followed the great nation of people. They were attacked and killed by Amalek!
Later God had to remind Israel that he would completely wipe out the memory of Amalek because of what they had done to Israel. This promise was made through Moses when he gave his valedictory speech before he died:
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!
But at the time of our text, Moses and the army of Israel are engaging Amalek who has attacked them when they are weary and worn out from their travels. Also they have attacked Israel at the weakest point—the rear of the army. Moses reassured Joshua when he commanded him to choose some men and go out and fight the Amalekites: “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” (Exodus 17:9 NIV).
In the story we are relating there are four people mentioned: Moses, Joshua, Aaron, and Hur. Joshua is well-known by all of us. He was one of the great captain generals of the army of Israel. He fought in a lot of battles. He also won a lot of victories. He was a great warrior!
Moses was a great leader. The life of Moses divides into three parts: (1) He spent his first 40 years in Egypt where he was brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter and educated in all of the learning and wisdom of the Egyptians. (2) Moses spent another 40 years in the land of Midian enduring the school of hard knocks. This was his practical education. (3) Finally, his last 40 years were spent in delivering Israel from Egypt to the threshold of the Promised Land.
We also know something about Aaron. Aaron was the brother of Moses and Miriam. He also was the high priest who officiated at the altar. The priests came from the tribe of Levi and the high priest descended from the family of Aaron. Very little is known about Hur, but what he did on this occasion was a good thing. Moses received a rod from God and later he spoke face-to-face with God (Exodus 33: 11). Moses was promised that he would perform miraculous signs with this staff (Exodus 4: 17).
AARON AND HUR HOLD UP MOSES HANDS
Let us notice now how the rod of God contributed to the Amalekites defeat. Let us also emphasize that the Amalekites were defeated because Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses:
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.
What is this all about when Moses goes up to the top of the hill? We know that usually in a battle, the army that has the high ground has an advantage. For example, at Gettysburg the union army held the high ground which no doubt helped in their victory. In like manner Moses went up to the top of the hill—the high ground in order to see the battle below. And he held up the rod of God in his hands. Holding up the rod or staff in his hands is symbolic of prayer. There is no doubt that Moses was praying to God for victory over the Amalekites. I was teaching a Bible class at a congregation and made reference to Paul’s exhortation for the men to lift up holy hands in prayer: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim 2:8 KJV). Afterward a person came up to me and said, “I cannot lift up holy hands in prayer, because my hands are not holy.” My answer was the answer of James, when he said, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded” (James 4: 8).
Moses had cleansed his hands and heart and was therefore qualified to lift up his hands to God in prayer. Therefore when Moses went up to the top of the hill and lifted up his hands, it includes prayer. Moses was praying to God for victory over the Amalekites. Moses was lifting up holy hands to God in prayer. When his hands would become tired he would let them down and the Amalekites would prevail. When he would lift up his hands in prayer the Israelites would prevail. There is great power in prayer:
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
MOSES BECAME TIRED AND WEARY
But Moses had a problem because he would become tired and weary. Do you ever become tired and weary? At times we all become weary physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. When this happens we may need someone to help us. Even Christ became weary as he carried his own cross to Calvary. He fell beneath the weight of that awful tree! Simon of Cyrene was forced to help carry his cross. Christ was weary physically and emotionally and he needed some help. Christ needed someone to hold up his hands physically and emotionally, because he was human as well as divine. We should not be forced to help each other, but we should volunteer to help each other when we see someone weary from carrying the heavy loads of life: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NIV).
This is what Aaron and Hur did for Moses. When he became tired they found a rock for him to sit on. Then they would each hold up one of his hands and the text says, “His hands were steady until the going down of the sun.” As a result, he was able to continue to pray to God and ask for victory. God answered his prayer and they prevailed over the Amalekites.
SOMETHING TO BE REMEMBERED
After the battle was over, God said to Moses, “I want this to be remembered.” It is good to remember things that are historic and symbolic. After Christ rose from the dead it is said concerning his disciples, “they remembered his words” (Luke 24: 8). After the victory was won God said to Moses, There is something about this I want you and Aaron and Joshua and Hur and all the people to remember: “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” (Exodus 17:14-16).
If I am correct, this is the first time anything in the Bible is said to have been written down. Some modernists and critics of the Bible have said that the Bible cannot be true because people back then did not know how to write. But archeologists have discovered biblical evidence that proves that writing is a very ancient art that goes back to the dawn of creation. The Egyptians, Sumerians, and Israelites all knew how to write things down for a permanent record. In our text we have confirmation that things were being written down a long time ago. Moses built an altar and called it, “the Lord is my Banner.” Why did he do this? He did this, “Because hands were lifted up to the throne of God.” They were to write this down so they could remember God’s promise to blot out the Amalekites. There are no Amalekites today. And because it was written down we still remember the great victory of Joshua over the Amalekites.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
What are some of the lessons we can learn from this story of the victory of the Israelites over the Amalekites?
1. THE IMPORTANCE OF A BANNER
The first lesson is that there is great value in holding up an ensign, or flag for the people. Moses built an altar and called it, “the Lord is my Banner.” (Exodus 17: 15.) The Hebrew is “Jehovah Nissi” which means “the Lord is my Banner.” He also said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16).
The Banner of the Cross
Our flag or banner for Christian people is the banner of the cross: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14 NKJV). In another place Paul boasts about his Banner of Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”( Galatians 2:20 NKJV).
There is great value in holding up our banner which is the cross of Calvary.
Our nation reveres and respects the Star Spangled Banner and may it be preserved for another 200 years. Francis Scott Key saw that tattered Banner and he was inspired to write our national anthem. And all of us know what value and inspiration there is in a Banner since our country was attacked September 11th 2001. The firemen rescued and raised the tattered flag over ground zero in New York City, reminiscent of the raising of the flag over Iwo Jima! This has inspired our whole nation in the fight against international terrorism. When we hold up to the people a banner, a flag, an ensign, it helps us to remember what it represents. And may we never forget what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.
2. THE IMPORTANCE OF HOLDING UP EACH OTHER’S HANDS IN PRAYER
In the second place, we need to hold up each other’s hand in prayer. We are to “pray without ceasing.” And James encourages us to pray for each other:
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Again I refer to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim 2:8 NKJV). If your hands are not holy, or in other words, you are not living the right kind of life, then “cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double minded.” Only then can you lift up your hands without anger and disputing.
3. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING AN ENCOURAGER
The third lesson we want to get over is that it is very important to hold up each other’s hands in encouragement. Israel was reminded by Moses to encourage Joshua when he would lead them into the land of Canaan: “Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 1:37-38 NIV). Is it not wonderful that Moses could have that attitude even though he was not going in with them to the Promised Land? Moses is exhorting Israel to encourage Joshua in the great task before him.
In the church of today we need for all of us to be encouragers. Our lives are rapidly passing by. We will soon step off the stage of action in the great drama of human redemption. We can encourage one another by holding up each other’s hands when help is needed.
Barnabas Was an Encourager. Barnabas was an encourager in the early history of the church. We all have different abilities. Joshua was a warrior. Aaron could do the work of the high priest, Moses could be a steady leader, and Hur could hold up his hands. Encouraging is a work that all of us can do; we can encourage one another to be faithful. Barnabas was a faithful encourager who encouraged others to be faithful:
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Dear friends, please encourage the preachers, the elders, the deacons, and all who are discouraged. Parents encourage those who teach your children the Bible. Teachers, encourage the parents who faithfully bring their children to worship. Husbands and wives, encourage each other in your marriage relationship. Parents encourage your children and children encourage your parents because they love you. Members of the body of Christ, we all must encourage new members and our visitors. We all have a work of encouragement. We all must hold up each other’s hands in the wonderful fellowship we have in Christ and in the Heartland congregation. Let us hold up each other’s hands in “the right hand of fellowship!” The Pillars of the Jerusalem church held up the hands of Paul and Barnabas:
For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
God will always hold up our hands when we do the right thing. We encourage you to become a Christian by repenting of your sins, confessing your faith in Jesus Christ, and by obeying him in baptism for the forgiveness of sins.*
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon March 24, 2002, and March 22, 2015, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana. Copyright © 2002, 2015 All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142