Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another Promise of God We Sometimes Forget -- Exodus 17:14-16


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial, and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”  And Moses built an altar, and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”
 
What a day of battle that must have been.  Was it the power of Moses’ arms being held up in the air that defeated the Amalekites at the hand of the Israelites?  And is that what God wanted Moses to write in his books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)?  I do not think so.   I believe obedience, action, and reliance were all critical in their success.  First, there was the obedience of Joshua to put an army together and fight the Amalekites.  And note, he did not have a long time to do so for Moses told him the battle would occur ‘tomorrow’ (vs. 9).  And then there was action on the part of Joshua for the Scriptures say “Joshua did as Moses told him” (vs. 10).  But the leader Moses also acted.  He took two of his key assistants (Aaron and Hur) and went up to the top of the mountain with a plan.  Finally, Moses relied on the instrument that God had taught him to use to tap into God’s almighty power – his staff.  He knew that God would act through that and he knew that only God could win this battle for the Israelites.  It took Obedience, Action, and Reliance (OAR) to succeed in what God was willing to deliver for the Israelites.  It is with this OAR in our hands that we can manage to cross any turbulent waters that lie ahead of us in our lives.
This is what God wanted Moses to write down and have told to Joshua down the road.  We will see later in the book of Joshua after Moses is long gone, that Joshua relied on this very experience to know that he could count on the presence of God in his own life as a leader.  God knew how He was going to use Joshua for His people and He knew what Joshua had to learn while he was still young.  So, God says to Moses, “Write it down; recite it to Joshua.”
The Bible says God was going to blot out “the memory of Amalek from under heaven”.  Amalek was the grandson of Esau.  Genesis 36:12 tells us that he was born to Esau’s son Eliphaz by his concubine Timna, and thus Amalek also represents the ‘flesh’.  He is a representation of the ‘flesh’ that gets in the way of Israel moving towards the Promised Land.  God said He would erase them from memory and sure enough there are no Amalekites today called by that name.  Some cases have been made to identify originally the Armenians, then the Nazis, and finally the Palestinians as the descendants of the Amalekites.  From a scriptural perspective, I Samuel 15:7–8 implies that they were totally destroyed. A later story in I Chronicles 4:42-43 implies any that escaped were finished off in the days of Hezekiah.  As I studied this portion and what has been written about it, I came to the conclusion that the Amalekites represented the “enemy” of God and thus today the nomenclature has come to be applied to the “enemies” of God.  It may be a people group, it may be a religion, or it may be our own simple fleshly desires – the Amalekite within.
Whatever it is to mean for us, Moses built an altar as a memorial to that day.  And Moses named it “The Lord is My Banner”.  The battle with our own “Amalikites” will go one for the Christian from generation to generation, but God is our victory in battle.  There was no altar or statue built in honor of Joshua.  God wanted Moses to ensure that Joshua knew the victory was the Lord’s, not his.  Something that Joshua relied on later in life.
Matthew Henry indicates that idea of there being war against Amalek from generation to generation was a warning to Israel never to make peace with Amalek.  If the present-day Amalekites are indeed the Palestinians, then Henry’s idea may be one of the traditional causes for the situation in the Middle East today.  As an observer, it seems to me that whenever Israel moves towards peace because of the pressure put on her by the world, it ends up being weaker.
Finally, we note that the word ‘banner’ is used in the Scriptures three times.  First here in Exodus it is the “banner of victory”.   Later in Psalm 60:4, it is the “banner of truth”.  And then in the Song of Solomon 2:4, it is the “banner of love”.  My prayer today is that God has given you the ‘victory’ over sin and that His ‘truth’ has made you free, enabling you to both receive and then share His ‘love’.   Your life can be full of joy as you live under Him, “your banner”.  Know that God will keep His promise of eliminating all our Amalekites from our memory.  But in the meantime, He is sufficient for us.
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