By Sarah Morrison
Former Staff Writer for The Daily Grace Co.
Exodus 17 tells a story of Israel defeating Amalek against all odds. Up to this point in the book of Exodus, we observe a history of God calling Moses to do things out of the ordinary and then working miracles through them—a staff turns into a serpent, water spills from a rock, manna falls from heaven. Exodus 17:8-14 shares yet another story:
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 is 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 specifically in three distinct precepts we can glean 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. In the brink of war, Moses has the foresight to bring along friends as he journeys to pray for victory. And while their comrades wage war against an enemy, Hur and Aaron sit humbly 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 remain 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 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 physical and spiritual weight. Not only was the physical weight of Moses’ outstretched arms to heaven a challenge, but what a pressure to bear simply knowing that the act was also crucial in Israel’s success. In the stress of the situation, Moses’ friends did not sit idly by, but instead they gave him reprieve. They granted him rest. They sacrificed their own physical comfort by expending their own energy holding high his arms to heaven.
Because Moses’ raised arms were not merely a show, because they were not merely an act but rather a demonstration of prayer and supplication for Israel, Aaron and Hur were not merely supporting Moses physically. They were praying. They interceded on Moses’ behalf when the constraints of a frail, human body could not meet the demands required of him for the success and victory of Israel. Holding up his hands, they acted as a spiritual support and encouragement as well.
Are there not a multitude of ways that we too can lift up the arms of our brothers and sisters—help them to carry burdens when they grow faint? Is there not much at stake urging us to engage in supplication on behalf of the other members of the bride of Christ? I assure you there are abundant needs and opportunities in your neighborhood, in your church, in reaches of your influence. Let’s commit to uphold one another and intercede on behalf of our heavenly family.
2. God uses us in different capacities, each with its own important purpose.
The second thing worth noting in this narrative are the different functions each person plays in the story. 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 keep them held high. Each task served a purpose in the victory; not one outweighed another. This picture is a manifestation of what the Apostle Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12, saying, “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, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20).
God uses us in togetherness. We thrive in cohesion. Paul explains to the church at Corinth that their giftings and their jobs were arranged as God chose. We should feel a sense of comfort and confidence in our selected area of effort because God himself has ordained for us to be there, no matter how small our role may feel.
3. It is God who accomplished it, not us.
Nevertheless, we see another detail in 1 Corinthians 12:5-7 that enriches our understanding 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, Hur, or Aaron. That day Amalek 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 in all that the Lord calls us to do. We can trust with full confidence that the Lord will accomplish the purpose to which we are called. When we offer our obedience, He will surely provide the victory according to His sovereign will. The confidence in a certain victory over any given thing should be based solely on the confidence we have in Christ, not the confidence of our own flesh.
The main motif between these three distinct points of Exodus 17 is that we are called to action, to uphold one another, and to exercise the gifts that God has given us. We act in faithful obedience to our Father who carries out and accomplishes His plans. What a privilege and opportunity we have been given 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.