Monday, March 03, 2014

As a Leader, You Can Stand Out But, by Definition, You Cannot Act Alone -- Exodus 17:8-13

 Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.  So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek.  Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”  Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other.  Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.  So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
While being camped at Rephidim where God provided water out of the rock for the Israelites to drink, Amalek came and attacked them.  The first time we heard of this name was back in Genesis 36:12 where we are told that Esau’s son Eliphaz had a concubine named Timna that bore him a son which they named Amalek.  This son became a chief in the land of Edom.  The word is translated “dweller in a valley”.  He and his tribe were part of the Edomites, who were descendants of Esau.  And interestingly, Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon tells us that Edom was another, less common, name for Esau.  So here we have the descendants of two brothers, Jacob and Esau, the sons of Isaac, in combat with each other.  The Israelites were from Jacob’s lineage and the Amalekites from Esau’s ancestry.
So Moses calls on Joshua, someone heretofore not mentioned in Scripture, to lead the defense against Amalek.  His name is translated “Jehovah is salvation”.  Later on we learn he was the son of Nun of the tribe of Ephraim.  The Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon tells us he ministered to the personal needs of Moses as well as being his armor-bearer.  Later, of course, he went on to be Moses’ successor as leader of the Israelites.
Moses ordered Joshua to choose an army to fight Amalek and shared with him the battle strategy.  Joshua had only one day to fulfill that order for the next day Moses was going to go on top of the hill (likely the same one as Horeb, or Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, from which God had provided the water) with the staff of God in his hand, and oversee the battle that was to take place.  Moses had learned to rely on the staff of God in his hands and would not go anywhere without it.  God could exercise His power through it and Moses knew it based on past experiences.  So, he became inseparable from it, holding it tightly in his hand.  What has God given you that can be used as an instrument through which He can exercise His power and show His glory?  What do you have in your possession (your money, earthly goods, home, connections, His Word, your talent)? Have you ever thought of using it as an instrument for God?  Moses was about to do so again. 
Joshua got his army together and together they fought against the Amalekites with Moses, Aaron, and Hur, we are told, watching from on top of the mountain.  Moses and Aaron we know, but who was Hur?  The translation of the Hebrew word is “hole” but no one seems to explain why or how that came about and what it depicted.  He was a chief assistant to Moses and Aaron.
At the top of the hill, Moses held his hand up over the battle going on in front of him down the hill.  As long as he did that Israel was winning, but when he would allow his hand to drop down, the enemy Amalek began to win.  The secret, for Israel, was in Moses keeping his hands outstretched.  Is not that the secret for many of us -- keeping our hands outstretched to the heavens, seeking God’s blessings in all that we do?  Is that not the secret for some that you and I are praying for – that we keep our hands outstretched seeking the mercy and protection of God upon their lives?  Is that not what we need to do with our jobs, our politicians, and all our involvements – keep our hands outstretched to God?
The text says that Moses’ hands were heavy.  That is, he became tired of holding up his arm over the land.  He became tired of reaching out to God, all alone, on behalf of his people.  It is natural that we become weary in our responsibilities.  We become weary in our prayer life, in our private devotions, and in our worship.  Aaron and Hur arranged for Moses to sit on a rock.  But they did not just say to him, “Hey, take a break.  Everything is going well, they will do okay. Don’t worry; be happy.”  No, while Moses sat to rest, Aaron and Hur supported his hands and held them steady, outstretched over the land so that Israel would continue to prevail over their enemies.  And they did this until the sun set.  As a result, Joshua defeated Amalek and his people.  God had given the Israelites the victory.
Do you get tired?  Do you let down your outstretched hands to God and start breathing easy?  Those are the moments, the days, the Enemy is waiting for.  It is in those moments he starts to prevail.  And if you are weary and get tired, engage others to help you in your cause.  Involve them in raising their arms to God in prayer for whatever it is you decide together.  In some cases, you will need to drive that involvement.  In other cases, true Christian friends in tune with your life and goals, and the spiritual desires of your heart, will join you on their own.  Welcome them.  Include them.  You will get tired at some point and they will need to take over.  Good leaders stand out but they do not act alone.
What we do not know is whether the strategy that Moses had shared with Joshua included the fact that Moses would be holding his hands outstretched over the battlefield.  Moses did not get direct instruction to do this – he just knew it would be what God was looking for.
Scripture says they did this “until the sun set”.  Once the sun set, either the job was done, or Israel’s brave warriors could not see Moses’ uplifted hands.  Either way, Moses, with Aaron and Hur’s help, remained faithful to the end of the task.  And God gave them the victory.  What about you and me?  Can it be said of us that we will remain faithful to our responsibility to cry out to God in prayer for something or someone until the sun sets on us?  I pray so.

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