Israel has been delivered from their slavery in Egypt. They have crossed the Red Sea and entered into the wilderness with only what they could take with them from Egypt. So there have been times of great need, and God has over and again provided for them. He provided a buffet of quail. He provided manna from the sky. He has provided water from a rock.
In fact, in our text, the Israelites had just set up camp in Rephidim (REF-UH-DIM) where there was no water, and the people began to grumble and complain. And God said, “Moses, take your staff, pass before the people, and strike the rock at Horeb, and when you do, I will make water come out so the people will have water to drink.”
Now the Israelites set up camp at Rephidim. They had traveled a long way, and they are not naturally a nomadic people, so many are tired from their journey.
Look who is there to greet them. Amalek. But it’s not a welcome reception. It’s a battle.
>>> Ex 17:8<<<
Who is Amalek (AM-UH-LEK)?
Israelites had been in slavery for centuries now. Socially a forgotten people. They haven’t had time to make enemies. So who is this Amalek?
Amalek eldest son of Esau (vs Jacob historical rivalry, where Jacob’s seed became the chosen nation of Israel)
Get our answer, we have to go to Deut 25:17-19
(Deut 25:17-18) 17 “Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18 how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.
Amalekites attacked Israel along the way
- As the Israelites were following God
- Israel had been delivered from the yoke of slavery in Egypt
- Israelites were a delivered people, following God, yet they were attacked.
They were attacked when they were faint and weary.
When they were faint and weary, Amalek attacked.
Amalek did not fear God.. The Amalekites were enemies of God.
Since they were enemies of God, these soldiers were really in Satan’s army, and Satan was determined to prevent the Israelites from ever reaching the Promised Land.
For centuries Satan had kept the Israelites in bondage to Pharaoh. Now that tyranny was over, but Satan thought perhaps there was something else he could do to ambush the plan of salvation. So he enticed the Amalekites to attack the Israelites at Rephidim.
The Point: Satan is on the attack, even when you’re following God
Especially when you are following God
We are engaged in a constant spiritual struggle to resist temptation and carry on with the work of Christ and His gospel. The attacks we face are often sudden, but unlike the wars of the Old Testament, they are spiritual, not physical. The Scripture says that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12)
Satan is on the attack
- You can expect it when you’re following God.
- You can beware of Satan’s attack when you are weak and tired.
(1 Peter 5:8) Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Satan is your enemy and he is on the prowl like a lion. (“lion” = language on purpose)
- Lions are opportunists, patient, lie-in-wait
- But their prey has the capacity to flee to safety with some awareness because the lion not so quick – That’s why 1 Peter 5:9 says, “Resist the devil.”
- You can resist Satan’s attack when you remain “firm in your faith.”
- Firm in your faith that God is greater your enemy.
That’s why in verse 19 (Deut. 25), God says to Israel, “I will bring your victory. You must not forget.”
- “Do not forget, that the I AM is greater than your enemies. The I AM is greater than Amalek. He won’t even be remembered.”
For us: Do not forget that God is stronger than Amalek (Satan’s attack) and God “will blot him out” – utterly destroy him. Because to God belongs dominion forever and ever. (1 Peter 5:11)
And so that is who the Israelites are up against. Not simply the Amalekites, but against Satan. And that is why this text applies so directly to us today.
Keep reading in verse 9 of Exodus 17
Moses held is hands up
His raised hands and staff is an appeal to God
Moses was in the posture for prayer. He was standing with his arms raised up to God. The Israelites generally stood when they prayed, lifting their hands to offer their praises and their petitions up to God. For example, when God brought an end to the plague of hail, Moses said to Pharaoh, “I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord” (Exod. 9:29). Hannah and Jehoshaphat both stood at the temple to pray (1 Sam. 1:9–11; 2 Chron. 20:5, 6). The psalmist said, “in your name I will lift up my hands” (63:4b). This is still an appropriate posture for prayer in the church today, for God says (1 Tim. 2:8), “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer”.
Moses was surrendering his need to God in prayer
Complete dependence on the power and presence of God for victory
When we battle, when we struggle, we must surrender our need to God in prayer if we expect to prevail
When Moses surrendered with his hands up – Israel prevailed
When Moses put his hands down to rest (got tired in his prayer) – Amalek prevailed
Look at verse 12, “But Moses’ hands were heavy…”
Moses hands became heavy
At the very beginning, that staff was light, his hands were light, there was the initial adrenaline and excitement of what God is going to do in this battle.
We experience that too. It’s easy to start. It’s much more difficult to finish, to persevere (work/marriage/mission)
- We want short battles, not long fought-wars
- We want victory before it gets tough
- Our hearts are so often ill-prepared to endure when the battle extends
- Remember: The greatest gains come after the toughest trials
- (1 Peter 5:10) After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
So don’t quit because God is not going to quit on you, Beloved
Moses was surrendering his need to God in prayer, but his hands became heavy as the battle extended…
The battle extended
There were casualties, difficulties, fatigue
God doesn’t get tired, but we get tired.
- Moses’ hands were heavy
- Physically tired, he had to sit on a stone
When you pray for a long time you will experience physical and emotional fatigue
Jesus acknowledges this truth when He said to the disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matt. 26:41b)
When you don’t share your prayer burdens with a brother or sister that will pray with you, then it can be a lonely pursuit that magnifies physical and emotional weariness
Don’t go into battle alone
(Ex 17:12) “… Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.”
Aaron and Hur came up under Moses, and his hands were held steady until the sun set on the battlefield
They stood by Moses and they steadied Moses until the Enemy was overcome and forced to retreat (Ex 17:13)
- Praise God for brothers/sisters in Christ who stay with you in the battle
This is what God calls us to do as a church.
(Gal 6:2) Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
This Passage is a Call to Action
1.) A call to the people of God to come together
- As the church of the Living Lord to enter into battle (spiritual struggle around us) together in prayer
- surrendering with lifted, open hands every burden, every need, every suffering, every soul to God in Heaven
2.) A call to every brother and sister to reach out to one another as the battle lingers on
- to allow our hands to be lifted – you don’t allow your hands to be lifted until you share your burdens
- and to be there (we must!) to lift their hands with ours
This Passage is a Call to Dependence on God
Our dependence in prayer on God glorifies God
It was important that the Israelites understand unmistakably that the only reason they could win against the Amalekites was that God was fighting for them, giving them the victory
- “Write this down” – so the people will know that the battle is God’s and so is the victory
- “Tell Joshua” – so that he knows it wasn’t by his might but by the almighty that you prevailed
- “Build an altar”/ a memorial/ a prayer altar so you will remember to depend on God
And so Moses built an altar and named it: YHWH-Nissi (Jehovah-Nissi) – “The LORD is My Banner”
YHWH-Nissi / The Lord is My Banner
A banner is a signal pole used by ancient armies.
It would be a painted pole or perhaps a piece of cloth bearing an army insignia fixed to it and raised up high so that the army can regroup and rally to it during battle.
Soldiers always look to their banner. It establishes their identity; it helps them know who they are. On the battlefield it also helps them keep their bearings and gives them courage and hope. As long as their banner is still flying, they know that the battle is not lost.
Illustration: The Patriot. The flag fell and the hero of the story picks it up and charges the enemy as his fellow soldiers are retreating they see the flag charge by. They stop, and turn and follow their flag, charging the enemy, and victory was theirs.
As the battle extended, the Israelites would look up on the hillside. There they would see Moses holding up the staff as an appeal to God,
And those raised hands with that staff symbolized their complete dependence on the power and presence of God for victory
Jesus said, “the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15). Jesus was lifted up on a cross to die for our sins.
Now it is by looking to the crucified and risen Jesus that we live.
- Our banner is the cross where he bled and died for our sins.
- Whenever we come under attack, Christ and His cross give us courage for the fight.
- Christ Jesus gives us victory, but only Christ Jesus
We must look to Jehovah-Nissi and rally around the throne of the Resurrected Jesus in surrendered prayer
This is an altar of prayer – a reminder – and a place to remember and plead to God – together!
1.) Personally: if we do not ask God to save us, we will not be able to make our stand against the devil. Instead we will be led away from the truth into error. We will give in to temptation. We will be dragged down into doubt and discouragement. You will die without Jesus.
Illustration: Dante wrote about this in his classic work Inferno. In one of the outer circles of Hell, people were chasing back and forth after a banner. They could never reach it, but they never stopped chasing it either. Dante writes, “I saw a banner there upon the mist. Circling and circling, it seemed to scorn all pause. So it ran on, and still behind it pressed a never-ending rout of souls in pain.”
Dante understood something important about human nature. People need a standard, something to look to for their identity and security. Some people spend their whole lives chasing after it, without ever reaching a place of rest.
Who is your banner?
2.) Families: Husbands to wives – Wives to husbands – Hold each other up
3.) In our Church: if we do not ask God to defend us, then our faith family will be divided, our leaders will fall, our missionaries will fail to see any fruit, and the lost will not hear the gospel. Both individually and corporately, the neglect of prayer means the loss of spiritual warfare. Even if we fight like Joshua, we will not win the battle unless we pray like Moses.
- Specific commitment to pray around the clock
- Pray with me before service
- Pray during our service
- Recast our mid-week prayer meeting to elevate it to the level of importance a prayer meeting must have
4.) As a Church: brothers and sisters sharing and supporting o/a
- Within a small group
- This morning around this altar of prayer
Who is your banner?
Will you lift your hands to Jesus?
Will you steady the hands of a brother/sister?