When Moses holds his arms up over the battle, Israel had the upper hand. When he gets tired and his arms fall, the attacking Amalekites gained ground. Why would all-powerful God rest the outcome of our battle on our perseverance? Battle scars and battle stories…
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 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.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 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. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
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 name of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
I imagine that God told Moses to hold his hands up over the troops. It is a very interesting story, as human action and divine intervention meet together. We see in many stories in the Bible that there is no mistake about God’s provision of victory. God typically makes it abundantly clear that he is responsible for the achievement (i.e. Gideon’s story – Judges 7, Elijah and the testing of Baal – 1Kings 18).
In this case, God expected Moses to share in the responsibility. By holding up his hands, Israel defeated the Amalekites. When he let them fall, Israel lost the upper hand. Now, I don’t have any doubt that God was in complete control and that Moses arms were not required to make the difference. God made Moses’ arms important.
It was a test of perseverance. It was a demonstration of what Jesus calls taking up one’s cross. There is a battle happening. Letting our guards down to rest results in the enemy gaining ground. The life of faith is not a spectator sport. We are involved in the fight. And so, consider when and how you let your arms down. Why don’t we persevere?
The story illustrates the importance of having those to lift up our arms for us when we are tired. The life of faith is a team sport. We do not walk through life on our own. God has built the body of Christ to be complementary. We need each other to live as the church.
Who can hold up your arms? Have you shared your battle with them?
Although God could have defeated the Amalekites before they laid a hand on Israel, he didn’t. Battle scars and battle stories both build up our faith and our wisdom. They give us experiences to teach us to trust God and to persevere in relying on him, and they keep us in the fight for godliness.
Arms up, people…