After this, the Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.
1. It was unprovoked. "Then came Amalek" (ver. 8).
2. It was unfriendly. The Amalekites were descended from a grandson of Esau, and so were related to the Israelites (Genesis 36:12).
3. It was bitterly hostile. This fierce and warlike tribe attacked Israel in the rear, and with great cruelty smote those who had fallen behind, whether from natural infirmity or from weariness and faintness in the march (Deuteronomy 25:18). This was a peculiarly malignant and vindictive act, and as perpetrated upon the people with whose well-being God had specially identified himself, was never to be forgotten. It was in truth one of those wrongs which burn themselves into the memory of a nation, and never can be forgotten. A special Nemesis waits on acts of flagrant inhumanity.
4. It was not without knowledge of the mighty works which God had wrought for Israel. We may be certain of that from what was said in ch. 15. of the effects produced on the surrounding peoples by the deliverance of the Red Sea. The Amalekites knew that the children of Israel were the people of Jehovah. They knew what great things Jehovah had done for his nation. They probably shared in the fear which these wonders of Jehovah had inspired. Their hostility to Israel, indeed, may partly have sprung from this cause. The opportunity seemed given them of making a successful raid upon a people whom they both dreaded and despised, and they hastened to avail themselves of it. Knowing that the Israelites were inexperienced in war, and being themselves numerous and powerful, they may have counted on an easy victory, especially as the people were fatigued with marching and. encumbered with baggage, with women and children, and with the aged and infirm. It was a time well chosen for delivering an attack, and for inflicting a mortal injury on the advancing host.
5. It was the first attack of its kind. And this circumstance gives it a very special significance. It makes it typical. In the issue of the conflict with Amalek is to be seen the result of the whole conflict, prolonged down the ages, between the friends and the enemies of God, between the Church of living believers and the world that hates and seeks to destroy it, waging against it an incessant warfare. Consider -
I. THE BATTLE.
1. HOW fought. Observe
(1) Fighting was in this case called for. It was not a case, like that at the Red Sea, where the Israelites could do nothing to help themselves. The command, accordingly, is not, "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord" (Exodus 14:13), but, "Go out, fight with Amalek" (ver. 9). When means of help are put within our reach, God expects us to use them. He would have us exercise our own powers, still, however, in the spirit of due dependence upon him. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you," etc. (Philippians 2:12, 13).
(2) The conflict was entered upon with a full appreciation of the gravity of the crisis. The leaders did not commit the error of despising their enemy. They knew how ill-prepared they were for entering upon a contest of the kind. There was no disguising the fact that the men of Israel were raw, undisciplined, wanting in courage, and prone to panic, while those of Amalek were men of the desert, bold, warlike, fierce, able to hold their own with the stoutest foe. This was the first battle of the former; it was but an episode in the life of continual warfare of the latter. Judged by appearances, the chances of war were, therefore, greatly against the Israelites, and it was felt that the most strenuous efforts, aided by earnest intercessions, would be needed to gain a victory. The Church, in like manner, will do well not to take too poor an estimate of her spiritual enemies. They are not to be made light of. They are not to be fought with sham weapons, or in the indolent, half-in-earnest spirit, with which so many are content to attempt the conquest. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood," etc. (Ephesians 6:12). The Church need not count on cheap victories.
(3) The dispositions for the fight were made with skill and judgment. The men sent into the battle were picked men, and over them was appointed a brave general - Joshua (ver. 9). This is the first appearance of Joshua in the history, but he must have been already known to Israel as a man possessed of the strategical and other qualifications needful in a military commander. Another lesson as to the use of means, and as to the adaptation of means to ends in God's service. The battle was God's, but it was to be fought through human instrumentalities. The strongest, bravest, most valorous men in the camp were, accordingly, selected for the service. No measure was omitted which was likely to ensure success. It is the old law of the economy of miracles. What man can do for himself, God will not work miracles to do for him. Doubtless, but for Moses' intercession on the hill, the battle would still have been lost; on the other hand, had the military arrangements been less perfect, even Moses' prayers might not have turned the tide of conflict so decisively in favour of the Israelites. Cf. Cromwell's advice to his men - "Trust in Providence, and keep your powder dry." Note, further, how the same God who gave the Israelites a Moses, gave them also a Joshua, when a man of Joshua's gifts was specially required. Cf. with the promise as to Christ, Isaiah 55:4. It is for our own benefit that God thus summons our gifts into exercise, and furnishes occasions for their trial and development.
2. How won. First, as seen above, by dint of hard fighting, but second, and more specially, by Moses' intercessions. This portion of the narrative (vers. 10-12) is full of richest instruction. Observe -
(1) Moses took with him Aaron and Hur, and ascended to the hill summit, to watch the battle, and to pray (ver. 10). Advanced in years, he could not personally take part in the melee; but he could pray for those who were in it. His prayer was as essential to success as their fighting. It was fighting of its own kind (cf. Colossians 4:12). Real prayer is hard, exhausting work. Even had Moses been physically capable of taking part in the conflict, he was better employed where he was, in this work of earnest intercession. Gifts differ. Joshua's right place was on the field; that of Moses, on the hill. Many can pray who are debarred from fighting, e.g., invalids - Moses sitting on the stone (ver. 12), they, perhaps, lying on their couches - and it is well for them to realise the value of their work, how much they can still do, how useful they are. Note, also, it was in view of the battle that this intercession of Moses was carried on. Prayer needs to be fed by knowledge, by watchful interest in events as they shape themselves around us, by study of the special needs of circumstances of the time. Of what essential service would it be in the warfare of the Church were praying men and women to act more on this principle - seeking, as far as possible, to keep themselves informed of the progress and vicissitudes of the Lord's work at home and abroad, and endeavouring to order their prayers with constant reference to the fluctuations in the battle! Moses praying on the hill may remind us of Christ in heaven, interceding for his Church militant on earth.
(2) Moses interceded, while holding up in his hands the rod of God (vers. 9, 11). The rod was the symbol of God's power as pledged for the defence of Israel. Faith holds up the rod in laying hold on God's word and promise, and pleading the same before him.
(3) Moses had able coadjutors. Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands when they grew heavy through fatigue (ver. 12). It is a happy circumstance when those who bear the principal burden of responsibility in spiritual work can rely on being aided by the sympathy and co-operation of others, "like-minded" (Philippians 2:20), with themselves in their desire to see God's kingdom making progress. God's people hold up the hands of ministers by praying for them (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
(4) The intercession of Moses had a decisive influence upon the tide of battle. When Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed; when he let down his hands, Amalek prevailed (ver. 11). His hands being steadily supported till the going down of the sun, Amalek was completely discomfited (ver. 13). The letting down of Moses' hands may have been accompanied by a corresponding flagging in the earnestness of his supplications; or it may have been that the outward act, as indicative of the need of sustained and persevering entreaty of God, was itself made essential to the victory. In either case, we have a testimony to the power of prayer. Would that the Church were more alive to this secret of gaining victories by earnest supplication! The influence of prayer cannot be overrated. It decides battles. It sways the tides of history. It opens and shuts the windows of heaven (James 5:17, 18). It puts to the rout spiritual enemies. Paul made use of this mighty power (Romans 1:9, 10; Philippians 1:4, 9, etc.). But even Paul did not pray so much as Christ (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12, etc.).
3. Connection with previous miracle. Is it fanciful to trace in the boldness, valour, and spiritual confidence of the Israelites in this battle, some relation to the wonderful deliverance they have just experienced? It was "at Rephidim," the scene of the miraculous supply of water, that the attack of Amalek took place (ver. 8). This water, in the first place, refreshed the Israelites physically, and so enabled them to fight; but we may believe that it had also a powerful, if temporary, effect upon their minds. It would banish doubt, restore trust, inspire enthusiasm. They drank of the brook by the way, and now lifted up the head (Psalm 110:7). Thus does God time his mercies to our trials, and make the one a preparation for the other.
II. THE RECORD IN THE BOOK (ver. 14). This command to insert in "the book" an account of the battle with Amalek was connected:
1. With God's design to give his Church a Bible. A "book" is presupposed, in which, apparently, a journal was kept of the transactions of the march. Such a contemporary record was plainly necessary, if exact accounts of these mighty acts of God in the desert were to be preserved. In no other way could the knowledge of them have been handed down to posterity without distortion, mutilation and adulteration. And God was not giving these mighty revelations of himself, to waste them on the air of the wilderness, or to leave them to the risk of being mixed up with legendary matter of man's adding. This part of Israel's history was being shaped and guided with a view to the instruction of the Church to the end of time (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11); and it was requisite that a proper account should be kept of its memorable events. Hence the existence of "the book," out of the contents of which, we may believe, these narratives in the book of Exodus are principally compiled.
2. With a special significance attaching to this particular event. Amalek's attack on Israel was, as already observed, the first of its kind. "In Amalek the heathen world commenced that conflict with the people of God, which, while it aims at their destruction, can only be terminated by the complete annihilation of the ungodly powers of the world" (Keil). This explains the severe sentence pronounced upon the tribe, as also the weighty significance attached to this first defeat. It takes many types to set forth completely the many-sided enmity of the world to God and to his Church. Pharaoh was one type, Amalek is another. Pharaoh was more especially the type of the enmity of the world against the church, viewed as having escaped from its power. Amalek, as Edom afterwards, is peculiarly the type of vindictive hostility to the kingdom of God as such - of implacable hate. Between Amalek (spiritually) and the church, therefore, there can never be aught but warfare. "Because his hand is against the throne of the Lord" (marg.), therefore "the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (ver. 16). In this first defeat we have the type of all.
III. JEHOVAH-NISSI. Moses reared an altar in commemoration of the victory, and inscribed upon it the name - "Jehovah-Nissi" - "Jehovah, my banner' (ver. 15). This name inscribed upon the altar is at the same time a name of God. It extracts and generalises the principle involved in the victory over Amalek, as a former name, "Jehovah-jireh" (Genesis 22:14) extracted and generalised the principle involved in the interposition on Moriah; and as the words, "I am Jehovah that healeth them" (Exodus 15:26), extracted and generalised the principle involved in the miracle at Marah. The truth taught by the name is precious and consolatory. Jehovah is the Church's banner. His invisible presence goes with her in her conflicts. His help is certain. With him on her side, she is assured of victory. His name is her sure and all-sufficient trust. Learn
1. God's deeds reveal His name. The revelation of the Bible is a fact-revelation.
2. It is the Church's duty gratefully to remember the interpositions of God on her behalf.
3. It is her duty to seek to apprehend the principle of God's dealings with her, and to treasure up the knowledge for further use. - J.O.
I. First, then, we have here THE EXPERIENCE OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN,
I. THAT THE GOOD ARE REQUIRED TO DO BATTLE WITH INVETERATE ENEMIES (ver. 8).
Then came Amalek, and fought.
I. To begin with, we want much of THE JOSHUA-SERVICE.
1. This is the service of many. Moses said to Joshua, "Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek." We have a battle against sin, error, pride, self, and everything that is contrary to God and to His Christ; and in the Joshua-service many can be employed. Every believer should be a soldier in Christ's own army of salvation.
2. In this Joshua-service all the combatants were under due command. "Joshua did as Moses had said to him," and the people did as Joshua commanded them. In all holy service, willingness to be led is a great point. Certain workers may be very good personally; but they will never combine with others to make a conquering band. They work very well alone, or as fore-horses in the team; but they cannot trot in double harness. Soldiers without discipline become a mob, and not an army. Friend, will you be one of the steady workers?
3. In Joshua-work courage was required. "Go out, fight with Amalek." The Amalekites were fierce, cruel, strong. They are said to have been the chief among the nations; by which I understand first among the plunderers of the desert. The soldiers under Joshua had courage, and faced their wolfish foes. Saints need courage for Jesus in these days. May God, in His mercy, make His people bold against scepticism, superstition, and open wickedness! We are called, not to flirt with error and evil, but to fight with it; therefore, let us be brave, and push on the conflict.
4. Those fighting under Joshua did not grow weary. Moses had the more spiritual work, and his hands grew heavy: we sooner tire in private devotion than in public service. Joshua and his men were not weary: never let us be weary in well-doing. Do you ever grow weary in one peculiar way of serving God? It may be useful to try something else. I mean, do something extra. Variety of labour serves for recreation.
5. In the Joshua-service they were successful, for "they discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword." Beloved workers for the Lord: may He grant you like success against evil! The devil goes to be beaten, and he shall be beaten.
II. THE MOSES-SERVICE — the service of Moses and his comrades. These did not go down to the battle-field themselves, but they climbed the mountain-side, where they could see the warriors in the conflict; and there Moses lifted up the rod of God.
1. Note, that the Moses-service was essential to the battle; for when Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. The scales of the conflict were in the hand of Moses, and they turned as his prayer and testimony failed or continued.
2. This holy work was of a very special character. Only three were able to enter into it. I believe that, in every Church, the deeply spiritual, who prevalently commune with God, and bring down the blessing upon the work of the rest, are comparatively few.
3. This Moses-service lay in very close communion with God. Moses, and Aaron, and Hur were called to rise above the people, and to get alone, apart from the company. They climbed the hill as a symbol, and in retirement they silently communed with God.
4. In this sacred engagement there was a terrible strain upon the one man who led the others in it. In the process of bringing down the Divine power upon the people, the vehicle of communication was sorely tried. "Moses' hands were heavy." If God gives you spiritual power to lead in Christian work, you you will soon find out that the condition of such leadership is a costly one.
5. In this hallowed service help is very precious. When Moses' hands began to drop down, and he himself was faint, Aaron and Hur gave him substantial aid. Are you a worker? Have you a leader fit to lead you? Bring a stone and put under him: cheer his heart with some gracious promise from the Lord's Word, or with some happy sign from the work itself. Cheer the good man as much as possible.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Every soul has to contend with the Amalek of
(1) (2) (3) 2. The soul is led gradually into the moral battle of life. We cannot get to heaven without being interrupted by many enemies — by Satan, by poverty, by sickness, by prosperity; all these will seek to stop or slay us. II. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT MUST COMBINE PRAYER WITH THE UTMOST EXERTION TO OVERCOME THEIR ENEMIES (vers. 9-11). Truth has lost many a battle through bad generalship. Truth needs a man like Luther to lead the attack. If we would overcome evil within us and without us, we must summon the best energies of our mental and moral nature, and put them under the command of Christ; then shall we be led to victory. Joshua fought. Moses went up the hill to pray. Prayer is often uphill work. And the conflict between Good and Evil necessitates the use of prayer and activity. Man must pray over his evil heart, and he must also fight against its sinful tendencies. Sin is persistent in its opposition to the soul. III. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT ARE OFTEN IMPEDED BY THE WEAKNESS CONSEQUENT UPON THE PHYSICAL CONDITION OF LIFE (ver. 12). Nature at the strongest is weak. But the hands of Moses were supported by Aaron and Hur. Holy companionship is helpful in the hour of severe moral conflict. Two are better far than one. Christians should seek to hold up the hands of ministers. They must bear one another's burdens. The insignificant members of the Church may render service to the most important; Hut may strengthen Moses. The hands of our heavenly Inter. cessor never grow weary with pleading; and the infirm Christian will soon be as the angels. It is consoling that God knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust. IV. THAT THE GOOD IN THEIR CONFLICT SHOULD KEEP FAITHFUL RECORD OF THEIR VICTORIES (vers. 13, 14). 1. To aid memory. 2. To inspire hope. 3. To awaken gratitude to God. V. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT SHOULD ASCRIBE ALL THE GLORY OF VICTORY TO GOD (vers. 15, 16). Lessons: 1. That there are inveterate enemies to moral goodness. 2. That these enemies are doomed to ultimate defeat and destruction. 3. That the good must pray and fight to this end. 4. There will be a final celebration of victory. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
(2) (3) 2. The soul is led gradually into the moral battle of life. We cannot get to heaven without being interrupted by many enemies — by Satan, by poverty, by sickness, by prosperity; all these will seek to stop or slay us. II. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT MUST COMBINE PRAYER WITH THE UTMOST EXERTION TO OVERCOME THEIR ENEMIES (vers. 9-11). Truth has lost many a battle through bad generalship. Truth needs a man like Luther to lead the attack. If we would overcome evil within us and without us, we must summon the best energies of our mental and moral nature, and put them under the command of Christ; then shall we be led to victory. Joshua fought. Moses went up the hill to pray. Prayer is often uphill work. And the conflict between Good and Evil necessitates the use of prayer and activity. Man must pray over his evil heart, and he must also fight against its sinful tendencies. Sin is persistent in its opposition to the soul. III. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT ARE OFTEN IMPEDED BY THE WEAKNESS CONSEQUENT UPON THE PHYSICAL CONDITION OF LIFE (ver. 12). Nature at the strongest is weak. But the hands of Moses were supported by Aaron and Hur. Holy companionship is helpful in the hour of severe moral conflict. Two are better far than one. Christians should seek to hold up the hands of ministers. They must bear one another's burdens. The insignificant members of the Church may render service to the most important; Hut may strengthen Moses. The hands of our heavenly Inter. cessor never grow weary with pleading; and the infirm Christian will soon be as the angels. It is consoling that God knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust. IV. THAT THE GOOD IN THEIR CONFLICT SHOULD KEEP FAITHFUL RECORD OF THEIR VICTORIES (vers. 13, 14). 1. To aid memory. 2. To inspire hope. 3. To awaken gratitude to God. V. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT SHOULD ASCRIBE ALL THE GLORY OF VICTORY TO GOD (vers. 15, 16). Lessons: 1. That there are inveterate enemies to moral goodness. 2. That these enemies are doomed to ultimate defeat and destruction. 3. That the good must pray and fight to this end. 4. There will be a final celebration of victory. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
(3) 2. The soul is led gradually into the moral battle of life. We cannot get to heaven without being interrupted by many enemies — by Satan, by poverty, by sickness, by prosperity; all these will seek to stop or slay us. II. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT MUST COMBINE PRAYER WITH THE UTMOST EXERTION TO OVERCOME THEIR ENEMIES (vers. 9-11). Truth has lost many a battle through bad generalship. Truth needs a man like Luther to lead the attack. If we would overcome evil within us and without us, we must summon the best energies of our mental and moral nature, and put them under the command of Christ; then shall we be led to victory. Joshua fought. Moses went up the hill to pray. Prayer is often uphill work. And the conflict between Good and Evil necessitates the use of prayer and activity. Man must pray over his evil heart, and he must also fight against its sinful tendencies. Sin is persistent in its opposition to the soul. III. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT ARE OFTEN IMPEDED BY THE WEAKNESS CONSEQUENT UPON THE PHYSICAL CONDITION OF LIFE (ver. 12). Nature at the strongest is weak. But the hands of Moses were supported by Aaron and Hur. Holy companionship is helpful in the hour of severe moral conflict. Two are better far than one. Christians should seek to hold up the hands of ministers. They must bear one another's burdens. The insignificant members of the Church may render service to the most important; Hut may strengthen Moses. The hands of our heavenly Inter. cessor never grow weary with pleading; and the infirm Christian will soon be as the angels. It is consoling that God knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust. IV. THAT THE GOOD IN THEIR CONFLICT SHOULD KEEP FAITHFUL RECORD OF THEIR VICTORIES (vers. 13, 14). 1. To aid memory. 2. To inspire hope. 3. To awaken gratitude to God. V. THAT THE GOOD IN THIS CONFLICT SHOULD ASCRIBE ALL THE GLORY OF VICTORY TO GOD (vers. 15, 16). Lessons: 1. That there are inveterate enemies to moral goodness. 2. That these enemies are doomed to ultimate defeat and destruction. 3. That the good must pray and fight to this end. 4. There will be a final celebration of victory. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
IV. THAT THE GOOD IN THEIR CONFLICT SHOULD KEEP FAITHFUL RECORD OF THEIR VICTORIES (vers. 13, 14).
1. To aid memory.
2. To inspire hope.
3. To awaken gratitude to God.
1. That there are inveterate enemies to moral goodness.
2. That these enemies are doomed to ultimate defeat and destruction.
3. That the good must pray and fight to this end.
4. There will be a final celebration of victory.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. Observe, the Children of Israel were emancipated from bondage, and had left Egypt behind, even as you and I have been rescued from our natural state and are no longer the servants of sin.
2. The Children of Israel were probably anticipating ease, forgetting that the Promised Land was yet many days' journey beyond them. Inexperience made them expect a continuance of uninterrupted song and feasting, and there was a time when we indulged in the same foolish hopes.
3. Like Israel, we soon experienced tribulations. You must fight if you would win the crown, and your pathway to the other side of Jordan must be the pathway of an armed crusader, who has to contend for every inch of the way if he is to win it.
4. In proceeding with the narrative we notice that they found opposition from an unexpected quarter. It is just where we feel most safe that we should be most cautious. I do not think the Christian has so much to fear from open and avowed enemies as from those deceitful foes who feign to be his friends. Sin is never so much a Jezebel as when it paints its face with daubs of respectability and patches of innocence. Things dubious are more dangerous than things distinctly evil.
5. When the assault was made, the people were commanded to exert themselves. The message was given, "Go, choose out men, and fight with Amalek." Israel never fought with Egypt. God fought for them, and they held their peace. The yoke of sin has been broken by God's grace from off our necks, and now we have to fight not as slaves against a master, but as freemen against a foe.
6. Spiritual fighting must be conducted on most earnest and prudent principles. They were to choose out men. So we must choose out our ways of contending with sin. The best part of a man should be engaged in warfare with his sins.
7. This makes me notice that though the men of Israel were to fight, and the chosen men were to be selected, yet they were to fight under the command of Joshua, that is, Jesus, the Saviour.
8. That where holy activity is joined with earnest supplication, the result as to our sins is absolutely sure — the enemy must be defeated; we shall put our feet upon the necks of all our sins. There is no fear of their overcoming us if we do but lay hold on Divine strength.
9. And, if ever we overcome sin once, it should be the signal for proclaiming a general war against all sin. The fight and victory over Amalek brought from God's mouth the solemn declaration that there should be war with Amalek for ever and ever. Have you mastered one sin? Slay the next, and the next, and the next.
II. The whole narrative may be interpreted AS THE HISTORY OF ANY ONE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. In any one Church there will be, there must be, if it be a Church of God, earnest contention for the truth and against error. If we do indeed hold the very truth as it is in Jesus, we must fight for it valiantly, for if we do not fight Amalek, Amalek will certainly fight us, and the hindmost will always be suffering and the weakest go to the wall. It is on behalf of the weaker brethren, who are easily perverted, that we must watch and fight perpetually. To all Christian effort in every Church must be added unpleasing intercession.
III. But lastly, THE HISTORY OF THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS HERE BEFORE US AS IN A PICTURE. The sacramental host of God's elect is warring still on earth, Jesus Christ being the Captain of their salvation. He has said, "Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Not with men, but with Satan and error.
2. A most righteous warfare.
3. A war of the greatest importance.
4. Insidious and very powerful foes.
5. A war of perpetual duration.
II. THE APPOINTED MEANS OF WARFARE.
1. Hard blows.
2. Hard prayers.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. First, let us look at PERSECUTION IN ITS DOUBLE ASPECT. On the one hand, notice that this attack upon Israel was Amalek's great sin, on account of which the nation was doomed to be extirpated. Because of this, God said, "I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." But, on the other hand, this assault was the result of Israel's sin; for it is significantly put after the strife of Massah and Meribah, "Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim." The point is this: persecution may come to you from evil men, distinctly from them, and it may be their wicked free will which makes them assail you; and yet, at the same time, it may be your sin which lies at the bottom of it, and because you have erred they have been permitted, and even appointed, to bring trouble upon you. Let us think of these two things.
1. Notice well that assaults upon us may arise from the sins of others. It is right that we should recognize this, lest in the dark day we should become unduly discouraged. These Amalekites attacked Israel, and greatly sinned in so doing, for they were the first that made war against God's people. But the impiety was still worse; for Amalek went out of his way to attack Israel. The people had not come into his territory; they were a good way off it, and were passing quietly by; but we read, "Then came Amalek." His envy was stirred up so much that he came away from his own region to fight with Israel without any provocation. Moreover, Amalek in this act went forth to fight against God Himself. It was not with Israel alone that he warred; he battled also with Jehovah, the God of Israel. When you are persecuted for righteousness' sake, the Lord takes notice of it. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Let us now turn our thoughts to the other aspect of this subject.
2. The guilt of ungodly men in persecuting God's people is not inconsistent with my next statement, that assaults upon us may also arise from our own sins. We may have brought the evil upon ourselves. When they had chided with Moses, and murmured against God, "Then came Amalek." Israel had been quarrelling with God. Do you wonder, then, that other people quarrelled with them? You may often read your sin in its punishment. They put a question about God, "Is the Lord among us, or not?" But, because they questioned God, God makes it a serious question between them and Amalek. If we make God a question, God will make our safety a question, and we shall have a stern fight for it. Moreover, we find that Israel had uttered threats against Moses, so that he said, "They be almost ready to stone me." Now, if they would stone the man of God, is it at all wonderful that the men of the world were ready to kill them? If you go against Moses, God will sent Amalek against you, for remember that God does chasten His people. So, there is our first point. We may sometimes justly charge our afflictions upon the ill intent of ungodly men; and yet, at the same time, we may have to charge them also upon ourselves.
II. In the second place, let us think of INSTRUMENTALITY IN ITS DOUBLE RELATION. Here, again, another contrast is to be found in the text and its connection. If you will notice, in the fifth verse, God says to Moses, "Take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river"; but when Moses talks about the rod, in the ninth verse, which forms our text, he says, "To-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand." In both verses it is the same rod which is spoken of.
1. One side is that God calls it the rod of Moses, and so honours him. Wherever there is an opportunity of doing honour to the faith of His own servants, God is never slow to use it. He is a King who delights to give glory to His warriors when they behave themselves bravely in the heat of battle. Moreover, it really was the rod of Moses, and would not so well have fitted any other hand. God does not put into a position of influence a man unfit for the post. Even Moses did not work wonders with the rod until he had renounced the riches of Egypt, and borne the burden of life in the wilderness. There was a fitness in the fact of the rod being in the hand of such a man. Thus, in a very real sense, it was the rod of Moses. In addition to this, it was the faith of Moses which gave power to his rod; he himself was the conductor of the Divine energy. Had the rod been wielded by another man, self-appointed, and lacking the confidence which Moses had come to possess in God, it would have been simply a powerless stick.
2. On the other hand, Moses calls it the rod of God, and so honours God. He whom God uses gives God the praise, for God is ever the source of our:strength; and if any work is done that is worth the doing, unto Him must be ascribed all the glory. "Not unto us, O Lord; not unto us, but unto Thy name, give glory." Let us learn, from these words of Moses, that instrumentality is not to be decried, for God uses it; but the instrument must never be allowed to usurp the place of God, for it must be always remembered that it is God who uses it. The axe must not exalt itself against him that heweth therewith; but, when there are trees to be felled, it would be folly to throw the axe away.
III. Behold, in this incident, PRUDENCE IN ITS DOUBLE ACTIVITY. You have that in the text. Moses said unto Joshua, "Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek." To which Joshua might have replied, "Yes, I will gladly do that, and you will go too, Moses, and fight, will you not?" No, no, he will not. "To-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand." Prudence prays with Moses, while it fights with Joshua. In like manner, in the activities of our holy faith, we must learn to balance work and worship, prayer for victory and conflict with the enemy.
1. In the case before us, we see that the means are not neglected. Moses did not call all the people to pray when it was time for fighting. He prayed, but at the same time he set the battle in array. This is true wisdom, for "faith without works is dead." The means must not be neglected. Observe how Moses prepared to fight the Amalekites. He said to Joshua, " Choose us out men." He did not lose sight of the necessity of:having the fittest warriors, because his trust was in God. Let the Church always see to it that she tries to get the best men she can to fight the battles of the Lord. It is a mistake to suppose that anybody wilt do for Christian work. The leader was also chosen — "Moses said unto Joshua. He did not pick up the first youth that he met, and say to him, Go and fight these Amalekites." The time for the battle was also chosen. "To-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill. Why not fight them at once? Well, because the people were not ready; it would take a little time to get the fighting men in order. Choose the best time. Serve God wisely. Go about the work as if all depended upon you, and then trust in God, knowing that all depends upon Him. Note, again, that the battle was most real. Moses did not say, "Choose you out men, and go and drive Amalek away like a flock of sheep." No; but "Go out, fight with Amalek." Believe me, we make a great mistake if we think that this world is to be conquered for Christ without mighty efforts. Some talk as if the expenditure of a few pounds, and the going forth of few men, will end the whole war.
2. But, on the other hand, in this battle, reliance upon God is not neglected. Moses ascends the hill holding up his banner, and that banner is the rod of God. Unfortunately, in our work for God, we generally fall into one of two blunders. Either we get a lot of machinery, and think that we shall accomplish everything by that; or else we are like some whom I have known, who have confided so much in prayer that they have done nothing but pray. It is a very heinous fault to trust the means without God; but, though it is a much smaller fault to trust in God, and not use the means, yet still it is a fault. Practical prudence will lead you to do both.
IV. Behold here, in a wondrous type, CHRIST IN HIS TWOFOLD CAPACITY. Christ is represented to us here as Moses on the hill pleading, and as Joshua in the valley fighting.
1. Learn, first, that Christ is pleading for us. He is not here: He is risen. It is because He intercedes for us that we win the victory. In His mediation is our confidence.
2. But, then, do not forget that He is also warring for us. On the very eve of His departure, He said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." This is the dispensation of the Holy "Ghost, and in Him Christ is always with us, our greater Joshua, fighting for the people whom He will one day lead into the promised land, the heavenly Canaan. I think that I see our Joshua now, sword in hand, chasing our adversaries; and I turn my eye upwards, and see our Moses, rod in hand, pleading for His people. Let us see Him in both capacities. Believe in Christ in heaven, and trust Him with your prayers. Believe in Christ on earth, range yourself on His side, and rest assured that no foe will be able to stand against Him. So, you see that, though two things may look contradictory, they are often both really true, and are both different sides of one shield. Try, then, always to see both sides of every truth revealed in the Scriptures.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)The working layman: — We shall find that the Church, like warring nations, expects every man to do his duty. If, as we suppose, Hur was not of the priestly office, we think the laymen of our day may find that this Scripture was written for their learning. They are, we fear, very far from walking in the steps of Hur, and from following his example. It will be noticed that it was a personal service in which he was engaged, one that required not only labour but the sacrifice of his time. Until the going down of the sun he stood by Moses and stayed up his hands. When Israel was at war with Amalek, he did not content himself with wishes for success, nor did he rejoice over a victory which he had not laboured to win. He did not serve God by proxy, nor send a substitute to perform his personal duties. When he was needed upon the mount, he did not beg to be excused; he pleaded no want of leisure and no press of worldly engagements. It is the great want of the Church in our day — working men and working women, especially working men; men with the true missionary spirit and zeal; men who, like Hur, will not grudge to spend a day on the mount, to stay up Moses' hands. While Aaron and Hur stood on the one side or on the other, the strength of Moses failed not. It is in vain to have officers if men will not fight, or men willing to fight if there are no officers to direct and guide them. There must be the co-operation of all, if we expect prosperity. Our strength is not to sit still. Here is a field which we all may equally occupy; where wealth has no advantage, and where poverty is no loss, — the field of religious influence and personal exertion. We all can do something, many of us can do much, to promote the prosperity of the Church. To destroy Amalek, to bless Israel, we must labour as well as give; we must stay up Moses' hands, as well as worship in the tabernacle. If the priest must pray and preach and toil, no less do we look for them to work. Hur, on the mount with Moses and Aaron, was a type of a working layman.
(G. F. Cushman, D. D.)
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