Passage: Exodus 17:8-16

Speaker: John Walton

Series: Coming Home – A Journey Through Exodus

Believing In The Lord Our Banner

What do you do when the people you love are up against a battle they can’t win? In Exodus 17, the Amalekites attack God’s people out of nowhere. So Moses deputizes Joshua as the leader of the Israelite army and heads up the hill nearby with the staff of God in his hand. The Amalekites were better fighters than Israel (Ex. 17:11b), but when Moses raised his hand to the throne of the LORD, Israel prevailed (17:11a, 16). So too, when battles overtake the ones we love we empower them (17:8-10) through prayer (17:11-13), because the LORD is our Banner and His victory is sure (17:14-16).

First, when battles overtake the ones we love, we empower them (17:8-10). The appearance of the Amalekites is sudden and terrifying. Israel has been bickering and infighting, doubting God’s care for them as they’ve gone through trials (17:1-7). But now they have to deal with an opposing people-group who is ready to destroy them. Moses, as Israel’s leader, could have handled this by attempting to lead the army himself, but in a foreshadowing of the conquest of Canaan, Moses brings Joshua into the story and leaves the operation of the army up to him. As the people we love face challenges, we may be tempted to jump in and handle everything ourselves, but this does not help our loved ones to be able to face these sorts of challenges themselves when we aren’t around. Instead, we need to encourage them in stepping up and head up the mountain.

But this doesn’t mean we abandon them to deal with everything themselves. No, we empower our loved ones best through prayer (17:11-13). When Moses heads up the mountain, something very mysterious takes place that is not fully explained. Moses holds up his hands, and the Israelites start winning, but when he lowers them, the Amalekites prevail. The implication is that God empowered the Israelites based on the position of Moses’s hands! But why should the position of Moses’s hands have anything to do with God’s empowering of Israel in battle? In this flummoxing story we are confronted as well with the mystery and power of prayer. Why should our words and requests have any impact on the power of God released into the world? And yet God in his sovereignty has arranged for it to be so (John 16:23-24, 33; Eph 6:18-20). The best way we can empower our loved ones in the battles they face is through prayer, especially in community (Moses had Aaron and Hur – Exodus 17:12).

We can have confidence in the power of our LORD released through prayer because the Lord is our Banner and His victory is sure (Ex. 17:14-16). As the battle with the Amalekites wraps up with Israel’s victory through the LORD’s power, the LORD tells Moses to record this event and let Joshua know about God’s promise to utterly wipe out their new enemies the Amalekites (17:14). Though there will be ongoing conflict for a time (17:16), the LORD’s ultimate victory is a foregone conclusion. He will be his people’s banner of victory (17:15). Likewise, it can be challenging to pray as the battles continue to rage around us in the lives of those we love. But we have been given an even greater hope than Moses in the cross and resurrection of Jesus He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, who has declared to all sin and death and evil “it is finished” (Rev. 21:4-6). So as we pray for the LORD’s empowerment and rescue, we have an unfailing hope in his ultimate victory.

So what? We live in the dangerous period of tension between the victory of Christ on the cross and the coming consummation of that victory in his return. In the face of problems that loom so large, prayer can seem so small. But the battle with Amalek teaches us differently. Prayer unleashes the power of the LORD. So as we face battles together, may we empower the next generation through prayer, believing in the LORD our Banner.