God’s people had been blessed over and over and over again. It seemed that the more they were given, the more they cried, quarreled, and complained. These are all the tell-tale signs of being spoiled, rotten children.
Daddy gives and forgives; they cry and complain. The pattern was very clear. Wah! Wah! Wah! We want more! We want different! We want it now and if you don’t give us what we want right now we will scream, Daddy! We don’t even remember the good you do! We forget! Give us more or we will say bad things about you, Daddy! Waaaaaahh! You hate us!
No, kids. I think it might be you who hates me. Because you love yourself so much, you have no room for me. Everything I try to do to prove my love for you just leads to more unbelief, complaining, and rejection. I have never rejected you. You have rejected me.
So, you want to cry and complain? You want to quarrel? I’ll give you something to cry about. I’ll give you someone your own size to quarrel with.
Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. ~Exodus 17:8
The Amalekites were descendants of Esau. Esau – the one whom God hated. Esau – the one who valued temporary comfort over his very own future. Esau – the rejected one; the hot-tempered antagonist; the one who thought more about a mere bowl of soup than the extravagant blessing of his very own father. What a fool!
The Amalekites were the descendants of an utter fool. They were the children of selfishness, impulsiveness, and impatience. This is who God sends to quarrel with his quarrelsome, spoiled rotten children. God, through this battle with the rejected ones, teaches his children how to trust him.
Well played, God, well played.
Moses sends Joshua out to choose an army and fight. Moses, Aaron (his brother), and Hur (his brother-in-law), go up to the top of the hill overlooking the battle. Moses holds up his wonder-working staff to signify God’s presence and encourage the soldiers. Joshua is called to fight and Moses is called to pray. Both are called to minister, help, rescue, defend, and deliver God’s people. Simply recognizing differences in personality and calling go a long way in the fight against favoritism, superiority, and inferiority structures among God’s people.
These guys only have one problem. It isn’t that they have an enemy. It is that their leader is tired. Moses’ arms are heavy. He’s been holding the staff up all day. Every time Moses gets tired, the staff drops and the enemy begins to win the battle. When the staff is lifted, God’s people win.
“The strongest arm will fail with being long extended; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still. We do not find that Joshua’s hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses’s hands were heavy in praying. The more spiritual any service is the more apt we are to fail and flag in it. Praying work, if done with due intenseness of mind and vigor of affection, will be found hard work, and though the spirit be willing, the flesh will be weak. ~Matthew Henry
God doesn’t leave Moses in this weary state of trying and failing; working and wearying. Instead, God uses Moses’ brothers to hold up his very arms; to give him rest on a rock.
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. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. ~Exodus 17:12-13
God held Moses up for the benefit of his people. God loves his children no matter how bad their behavior becomes. He often uses the sin and selfishness of those who are not his own in order to discipline and instruct his children on what it really means to trust him. God doesn’t allow his children to be spoiled, rotten brats. Sometimes he sends brats who are even more spoiled and even more rotten to confront them; to show them; to draw them back to their desperate need for him.
When there is quarreling and complaining among God’s people, we ought not be surprised when God sends outsiders to come in and quarrel with us. Though we may, in our flesh, grow weary in well-doing, if we are seeking to serve God and encourage our brothers and sisters, God will send ample support. He will give us rest.
God longs to be our Jevohah-nissi, “The Lord is my banner.” His very presence is our strength and he wants us to look to Him and trust in Him alone. He is our warrior who fights for us. He is our intercessor who prays for us. No matter how poor and petty our behavior becomes, it never defines us in Our Father’s eyes. Our identity is found in our citizenship within his family. He is faithful to send discipline when we are bratty and rest when we are weary. He is our Jehovah-nissi. He fights for us and his very presence is our banner, our sword, our wonder-working staff, and our very strength.
“Let ages come to know that God fights for his people and he that touches them touches the apple of his eye.” Matthew Henry