VICTORY IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE REQUIRES GOD’S PEOPLE ACTIVELY FIGHTING WHILE DEPENDING ON THE POWER OF THE LORD WHO DESERVES ALL THE CREDIT
Spiritual warfare is a reality for every believer. The forces of evil wage war against God’s kingdom agenda. There is no victory apart from engaging in battle. You cannot sit on the sidelines and just expect God to bail you out. Yet you also cannot fight in your own strength. You must see the Lord as the Commander-in-Chief who leads His people to victory as they seek His help and depend on Him. Spiritual leaders play a critical role in both engaging the enemy and soliciting God’s aid. Ultimately we make our boast in the Lord who gives us the victory and subdues the enemy. God is sovereign but we must exercise our responsibility to fight by faith.
In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:11). Then he explains: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (6:12).
Spiritual warfare must be a reality for every believer.
Wiersbe: Israel’s great victory over Amalek involved three elements:
– The power of God in heaven,
– The skill of Joshua and the army on the battlefield,
– And the intercession of Moses.
Steven Cole: I think that Amalek represents our broader threefold enemy: the world, the flesh, and the devil. We’re engaged in perpetual spiritual warfare against these enemies of our souls. If you compromise with such aggressive enemies, they will eventually dominate your life and destroy you. First, Israel had to drink from the rock, which is Christ. But then, they had to take up their swords and actively fight this enemy. The point is, the Christian life is not an easy stroll in the park; it’s a daily battle against powerful forces of evil that threaten to destroy us. How do we fight the battle?
I. (:8-13) ACHIEVING THE VICTORY IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE LORD
A. (:8) Conflict Against Israel Initiated by the Amalekites
“Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.”
John Hannah: The Amalekites were nomads in the desert south of Canaan (cf. 1 Sam. 15:7; 27:8). They were descendants of Esau through Eliphaz (Gen. 36:12). They apparently were attempting to dislodge the Israelites from this pleasant oasis and to secure their territory from intrusion.
Walter Kaiser Jr.: The Amalekites lived in the desert, south of Canaan around Kadesh (Gen 14:7), otherwise known as the northern part of the Negev. Amalek was the son of Eliphaz (Esau’s eldest boy) by a concubine named Timna (Gen 36:12) and became a “clan” or “chief” in the tribe of Esau (Gen 36:15). Thus the Amalekites were distant cousins to the Israelites. . .
Amalek’s assault on Israel drew the anger of God on two counts:
1) they failed to recognize the hand and plan of God in Israel’s life and destiny and
2) the first targets of their warfare were the sick, aged, and tired of Israel who lagged behind the line of march (Deut. 25:17-19).
Thus Amalek became the “first among the nations” (Num 24:20) – in this case, to attack Israel. They are placed in juxtaposition with another group of Gentiles in the next chapter (Jethro’s Midianites) who believed in Israel’s God. These two chapters illustrate two kingdoms and two responses to the grace of God from the Gentile world.
B. (:9) Champions for Israel Strategically Deployed
1. Leadership Role of Joshua – Responsibility to Fight
“So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose men for us, and go out,
fight against Amalek.’”
John Davis: This is the first mention of the man Joshua. He was about forty-five years of age at this time. His name was actually Hoshea but was later changed to Jehoshua (Num. 13:16). The former name means “savior,” the latter means “Jehovah is Savior.” Throughout the forty years he acted as Moses’ personal minister (Exod. 24:13; 32:17; 33:11; Josh. 1:1). One is immediately impressed with the faith and obedience of this young man (v. 10). Without question or objection he organized the relatively untrained and unseasoned soldiers of Israel and fought the Amalekites. It was not the military genius or the fighting skill of the Israelites that brought victory, however. It was the consistent and prevailing prayer of Moses (vv. 11-13).
Ligon Duncan: Now, in this passage if you look at verse 9 you’ll note that unlike at the Red Sea, God instructs the people to play an active role in their own defense. At the Red Sea, the people of God were to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord (Ex 14:13+) Here at Rephidim the people are to have an appointed army to respond to the Amalekites and they themselves must be faithful in defending Israel against the attackers. Isn’t it interesting how even in the Pentateuch, even in the Torah, even in the first five books of the Bible, there is a nice balance between the active and the passive elements of the believing life. There is the passive element of depending upon the Lord, trusting in the Lord, resting in the Lord, watching the Lord work, depending on His power, and there is the active element of doing the responsible things that God calls us to do. Both of those elements are part of healthy Christian growth. If you have a totally passive approach to the Christians life, you’ll be in “the let go and let God” camp. You will sort of sit in the pew and see what He’s going to do. If you’re in the totally active camp, then you will have a hard time trusting on Him to do it and you will be trying to figure out the way you are going to do it for Him. There is a balance in the Christian life between depending on God and on acting in accordance with those things He has called us to do, and you see that balance even here as the children of Israel are called to play an active role in their own defense.
2. Leadership Role of Moses – Dependence on the Power of God is the Key
“Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill
with the staff of God in my hand.”
Wiersbe: since Moses held the staff of God in his hands, he was confessing total dependence on the authority and power of Jehovah.
Douglas Stuart: Of interest is that the Israelites had a day to prepare for battle. The Amalekites may have arrived gradually at Rephidim, signaling their presence early in the process, or else advance parties may have encountered the Israelites then gone north to get the main body of warriors with which to engage them, thus alerting the Israelites and allowing them time to prepare. Alternatively, the Amalekites may have announced to the Israelites that if they did not surrender their valuables, they would be attacked the next day.
John MacArthur: It became the symbol of God’s personal and powerful involvement, with Moses’ outstretched arms perhaps signifying an appeal to God. The ebb and flow of battle in correlation with Moses’ uplifted or drooping arms imparted more than psychological encouragement as the soldiers looked up to their leader on the hilltop, and more than Moses’ interceding for them. It demonstrated and acknowledged their having to depend upon God for victory in battle and not upon their own strength and zeal. It also confirmed the position of Moses both in relation to God and the nation’s well-being and safety. They had angrily chided him for their problems, but God confirmed his appointment as leader.
C. (:10-13) Champions for Israel Play Out Their Strategic Roles
1. (:10a) Joshua Displays Obedience, Faith and Bravery
“And Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek;”
2. (:10b-12) Moses and His Supporters Seek God’s Power for Victory
a. (:10b) The Players and the Site
“and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.”
b. (:11) The Performance of Intercession and Its Impact on the Battle
“So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.”
Douglas Stuart: 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. The staff functioned in the case of this battle just as it had in the case of the plagues. As long as the staff of God was raised high, just as in the miraculous plagues and the miracle of the water from the rock immediately preceding, God’s decisive role was properly acknowledged symbolically and the army prevailed. When the staff was lowered (because Moses grew tired, as v. 12 makes explicit), “the Amalekites were winning.” Thus the staff portrayed God’s sovereignty in the consequences of battle. The staff had to be above Moses’ head—symbolizing God’s superiority to all his people as the leader in holy war.
Ligon Duncan: If He wants me to look at the rod and think about that, then what’s the message that He wants me to get? Again it’s very, very clear. The rod, he’s already taught you, is both a symbol of the presence and power of God. It is the physical sign of the might that God wields on behalf of Israel. So the point is that it is God who is fighting for Israel. His power is going to be more important than theirs, and thus He is the one that they should depend on for victory, and the one to whom they should give the glory.
Thomas Constable: Moses’ actions suggest that he was engaging in intercessory prayer, though reference to prayer is absent in the text. The emphasis is on the rod that Moses held in his hand, the instrument of God’s power.
Steven Cole: Some object to the interpretation of Moses’ uplifted hand holding his staff as prayer, since the text does not say that he was praying. True, but his staff represented God’s authority and strength. By holding it up, Moses was clearly appealing to God for His help in the battle. When he held it up, Israel prevailed. When he let it down, Amalek prevailed. So it seems to be a picture of prevailing prayer that lays hold of God’s strength.
c. (:12) The Prevailing Prayer Supported by Props and Bit Players
“But Moses’ hands were heavy.”
Philip Ryken: The weakness of Moses served to magnify the glory of God. It showed that Israel was victorious not because Joshua was a military genius or because Moses was a man of prayer, but because God was their captain in the fight. John Calvin noted that even though Moses prayed, he could not “boastfully commend his own zeal in praying, but is rather the public witness and proclaimer of his weakness, that the glory might be entirely attributed to the gratuitous favor of God.” Moses was only a man, and when the Israelites recounted the day’s events, they did not praise his power in prayer. Instead they said something like this: “Did you see old Moses up there today? Frankly, I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. I don’t know how much longer he would have been able to hold on. It’s a good thing he had some help!”
Most of us have discovered what Moses realized –
– If you hold your arms above your head for a long period of time, the blood drains down
– The result is that your arms seem heavy
See Moses in a position of dependence –
– He puts himself in a position where he is totally reliant upon the LORD
– All Moses can do is simply lift the staff of God above his head
“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.”
3. (:13) Joshua Leads Conquest of the Amalekites
“So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”
II. (:14-16) ASCRIBING ALL THE CREDIT TO THE LORD
A. (:14) Prophecy of the Eradication of the Amalekites Recorded and Recited
“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.’”
Alan Cole: Write this. One of the few passages in Exodus itself (others occur in Numbers and Deuteronomy) where there is clear reference to contemporary written records of material (cf. Exod. 24:4; 34:27). It is interesting that the ‘writing’ is paired with oral recitation here: no doubt this corresponds to the two great streams of sacred tradition, written and oral. It is also interesting that the oral is here seen to be in dependence upon the written document.
David Thompson: What was God’s antidote for forgetfulness? He instructed Moses to write a memorial describing what had taken place in the battle against the Amalekites. This memorial was to be read to Joshua, the future leader of Israel, so he would be sure to remember as well. Moses did write it down in The Book and thus God’s victory over the Amalekites became a source of encouragement for Christians throughout the millennia. Dearly beloved, are you keeping a written account of the good things God has done for you? Perhaps you need to begin a spiritual diary. Perhaps you might place some memorial in your yard, such as a tree which would be a constant reminder to you and your children. You might place a rock in your back yard and write the date of the event on it. Here’s the point — our memories are short, but God’s goodness is everlasting and we need to do something to aid our remembrance of God’s blessings. Then next time you feel downcast or discouraged, or you even wonder whether the Almighty God really cares for you personally, look at the tree you planted, the rock you placed or the journal you wrote in and refresh your memory. As someone has well said the weakest ink is stronger than the greatest memory!
B. (:15) Proclamation Giving Credit for the Victory to the Lord via an Altar
“And Moses built an altar, and named it The LORD is My Banner;”
– Served as a memorial
– Served as a reminder
John Hannah: The word for “banner” (nēs) reflects the root “to be high,” “raised,” or “conspicuous.” The allusion would be to lifting up the staff as a standard and a testimony to his power. The victory, then, was the Lord’s, just as the war had been his. There was no such thing as a “holy war” in the OT, but there were “wars of Yahweh.”
Douglas Stuart: Most often it is used in military contexts, where the nēs is a signal pole around which an army or army unit can rally, regroup, or return for instructions. Accordingly, Moses’ name for the altar makes use of those connections. Because Yahweh had supplied the sign of his favor/presence/power by the staff—in effect a small military signal pole given to Moses—and had done so in the context of a military encounter, Moses stated by the name of the altar that the staff he had held high during the battle was the signal pole of Yahweh, a visible rallying point for the army of Israel in holy war.
Philip Ryken: A banner is a military standard, a piece of cloth bearing an army insignia and raised on a pole. 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.
C. (:16) Promise of Ongoing War vs. Amalek
“and he said, ‘The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.’”
John Hannah: The Amalekites remained a persistent, harassing enemy of Israel (cf. Num. 14:45; Jud. 6:33; 1 Sam. 14:48; 15:7; 27:8) until they were finally destroyed by King David (1 Sam. 30).
J Ligon Duncan: addresses the Lord’s charge to blot out the Amalekites – Now I want to say two things about this.
– First of all, this is not a petty, vindictive act of God, it’s a reflection of God’s just judgment. The Amalekites had done something that was odious in God’s sight. They had attacked weak, straggly noncombatants in an act of war and God was enraged by it.
– Secondly, this judgment that God has brought against the Amalekites, gives a picture of God’s final judgment intruded into the experience of Israel going into the land of Canaan for the first time, but not for the last. From this time all the way through the book of Joshua, over and over, it will be indicated that God’s judgment against the occupants of the land who resist Israel is a final picture of God’s judgment. It’s a pre- picturing of God’s final judgment against the wicked, those who are not His people. So He’s giving us a picture of the dispensation of final justice.