Summary: Aaron and Hur present the church an example of encouragement--we support the hurt, the discouraged, the lost, the frustrated, the weak, the helpless.
“Aaron & Hur” Exodus 17:8-16 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
A group of infantry soldiers were going through Airborne School at Fort Benning Georgia. As they prepared for their first jump, the jumpmaster explained that when the green light went on, everyone was to stand up, hook up, jump out, count to 4 and the chutes would open. If that failed, they had an emergency back-up chute. Then after they landed, a bus would take everyone back to main post. One soldier jumped from the aircraft, but nothing happened. He tried to open his back-up parachute. Nothing happened. As he was headed downward he thought, “Great--and I bet the bus won’t be there to pick us up either!” We all need support, and hopefully we’re getting it!
Aaron and Hur provided support for Moses. The first time I heard of these two men was in the military. The Army Chief of Chaplains has a prestigious award, The Order of Aaron and Hur, for individuals who have in some remarkable way supported “the arms of the Chaplaincy”. It is rarely given out, and when it is, it’s a big deal.
In Exodus 17 we see Israel faced with its first major military threat, the Amalekites. They were a hostile tribe, the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau (Gen 36). This unprovoked attack was a preview of the kind of struggles the Jewish nation would face as they began the conquest of Canaan. As they engaged in combat, Moses prayed for his army with outstretched arms, as he did before the Red Sea. Moses was providing prayer cover for his people. While his arms were raised, the Israeli soldiers prevailed, but as Moses weakened, the battle shifted. The raising of hands is a common posture for prayer, but an uplifted arm can only be raised only so long. So Aaron and Hur stood beside Moses and kept his arms raised up.
Aaron and Hur were Moses’ top leaders, his right-hand men. They were given authority to act in his stead during times of absence. Aaron was Moses’ brother, and according to tradition (the Midrash), Hur was Moses’ brother-in-law (Miriam’s husband). Hur’s grandson was one of the builders of the Tabernacle. These two men were enabling Moses’ intercession. Aaron’s name means “strength”; Hur’s means “liberty.” They enabled Moses to maintain vigil in behalf of the army. Moses stood over the battlefield with his wooden staff in his hand and his command staff at his side. His prayerful presence aided the morale of the troops.
Moses needed encouragement because his own people were complaining and criticizing him. He faced an uphill battle with these “stiff-necked” people, and they found out how dangerous it was to oppose their leader. His intercession made the difference in battle. It wasn’t the strength of their army that was critical, but the power of prayer. The defeat of the Amalekites was a redemptive event. It is significant that Moses prayed with his wooden staff, which played an important function in the ten plagues against Egypt. God through Moses delivered His people. The hilltop overlooking the battlefield was where the battle was truly won.
Why was all this warfare necessary? We need to face the sober fact that a lot of blood was shed in establishing a Jewish homeland. The “Land of Promise, of milk and honey” sure wasn’t easy to occupy! Those of us who’ve studied the ethics of war have had some difficulty with the divine command to take Canaan by force. If only the occupants had willingly let the Hebrews in. Instead they opposed God’s plan. They worshipped other gods. Israel was not just another nation; its armed struggles were part of a just cause under legitimate authority.
Aaron and Hur gave Moses encouragement and support, something we all need. Some Sundays you probably don’t feel like coming to church. You may feel discouraged, burdened by various circumstances. Guess what? I have days like that also. I’m troubled by situations just as you are. And I need your support. All pastors need people like Aaron and Hur to lift them up in prayer. I’m not asking for a raise in pay, just that you all help me raise my arms. Pray for my entire family.
This incident presents a picture of what the Church does--we support the hurt, the discouraged, the lost, the frustrated, the weak, the helpless. Sometimes the people who need the most help are those we think have it all together.
When the arms get tired, the work slows down. We need to lift up the arms of our church board members, our secretary, sexton, choir director, the teachers and helpers in Sunday School, the food pantry volunteers, the workers in the Nursery, our youth group leaders, the greeters and ushers, our treasurer, and probably a dozen or more that I’ve left out.