Left on a sinking ship were the captain and three sailors. The captain spoke first. ‘Men, this business
about a captain going down with his ship are nonsense. There’s a three-man life raft on board and I’m going to be on it. To see who will come with me, I will ask you each one question. The one who can’t answer will stay behind’. ‘Here’s the first question: ‘What unsinkable ship went down when it hit an iceberg?’ The first sailor answered, ‘The Titanic, sir.’ On to the next question: ‘How many people perished?’ The second sailor said, ‘One thousand five hundred and seventeen, sir.’ ‘Now for the third question,’ and the captain turned to sailor number three. ‘What were their names?’ Now there is a real challenge!
The Israelites had learned during the time in the wilderness that they could depend on God in any situation. Throughout their journey to the Promised Land the Children of Israel would face challenge after challenge to their faith. But God proved that he was the awesome God, the God who rescued them, and the God who was faithful and provided for them in the wilderness. In Exodus chapter 17, the Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. In Exodus 17:9 ‘Moses said to Joshua, choose some of our men and go out and fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands’. Moses had learned that he didn’t need to worry or fret when confronted by the enemy. By faith he immediately put a plan in motion that would give Israel victory (v. 9). He told Joshua to choose some men. He wanted men of faith and courage—men with the touch and presence of God on their lives that would defeat the Amalekites. From the tone of what he said, Moses had no doubt as to the outcome of the battle. There wasn’t even a hint of wavering in his orders. He told Joshua to ‘go out’—step out in faith.
The rod in Moses’ hand has special significance. In Exodus 4:2-4, God told Moses to throw the staff on the ground and when he did, it became a snake. Moses ran from it, but the Lord told him to pick it up by the tail. When he did, it turned back into the staff. This was a teachable moment for Moses as we see in vs. 5 ‘ This, said the Lord, is so that they may believe that the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has appeared to you.’ From then on, whenever Moses held up his staff, he was reminded of God’s powerful presence.
Later Moses used this staff to send plagues upon the Egyptians, and it was the staff that Moses raised when they crossed the red sea in Exodus 14; 16. This staff represented God’s holy hand the awesome arm of Yahweh, their covenant – keeping God. This was God’s way of showing them that He was with them and that He going to fight for them when they were up against it. Up until now, God fought all their battles. The problem with this was that they became passive and not risk takers.
Now they are told to be proactive and fight their enemies. The danger here is that they will fail to remember that they cannot do anything in their own strength. They are to be proactive and not passive yet they are to remember that God is their power. As we rely on his strength, taking steps of courage, He alone gets the glory, and our faith in Him will grow. Instead of just being observers of God’s work, now they are being asked to be participants in God’s work. The Amalekites wanted to defeat the Israelites before they crossed into Canaan; Satan does the same to us. He comes after us when we least expected him, and he will go out of his way to knock us out, or knock us off our stride.
Deuteronomy 25:17-18 reminds us that the Amalekites attacked when Godly people were at their lowest point, ‘ remember the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt When you were weary and worn out on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God’.
Moses was determined to stand on the top of the hill (v. 10). He had learned that there is help from the hill. Psalm 121:1,’ I will lift up mine eyes to the hill – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth’.
The hill represented God and His strength. Not only did Moses look or lift up his eyes to the hill—he stood on the hill (v. 9). He would stand on the rock with the staff of God in his hand (v. 9). It was no longer the staff of Moses but the staff symbolized how God had come through for them before and would do so again. It was a pledge of this presence. God demonstrated what He could do with what little we may have. Is your life surrendered into the hands of God?
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