Summary: A lot can get accomplished when people work together. It’s no different when it comes to the church. When the Israelites faced their first battle after the exodus they needed to work together in order to be victorious.
HELPING HANDS-Exodus 17:8-16
INTRODUCTION: A lot gets accomplished when people work together. In the summer of 1904, at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, it was hot and people were searching for something to help cool them off. A vendor named Arnold had just what they were looking for…ice cream. People lined up for what seemed like miles to get some of his cool and satisfying ice cream but there was one problem-Arnold was not prepared for the demand and ran out of paper bowls. Next to Arnold’s ice cream booth was a man named Ernest, a pastry chef who was making a Persian wafer desert. Ernest also had a problem, his pastry was not selling. He noticed the problem Arnold was having and took some warm pastry and rolled it into a cone shape. He then went over and showed Arnold how the cone could hold a scoop of the ice cream. On that hot day during the World’s Fair in St Louis the wafer ice cream cone was born. These two vendors worked together to solve problems and serve a purpose. It’s no different when it comes to the church. In order to get things done people need to work together. When the Israelites faced their first battle after the exodus they needed to work together in order to be victorious.
1) Attack! (8-10).
“The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.”
The Amalekites background: The Amalekites were a nation who lived in the desert. They were cousins of the Israelites. Abraham’s son Isaac had 2 sons–Jacob and Esau. Esau was the eldest, but sold his birthright to Jacob for some lentil stew. Jacob had 12 sons and from them we get the 12 tribes of Israel who had multiplied in Egypt, but had been set free and were now wandering around the desert. Esau also had several sons; the eldest was Eliphaz and one of his sons was–Amalek.
So Amalek was a third cousin to Dan, Judah, Benjamin and Joseph and all the other brothers. However, since Jacob had the birthright that rightly belonged to Esau there obviously was enmity between the descendants of Jacob and Esau. So it’s no surprise that the Amalekites came to make war on the Israelites.
Deut. 25:17-18, “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God.”
We learn here that the Amalekites attacked them at a weak point. Satan will attack us when we’re at our weakest point. At a time like this we can be emotional which means we can be vulnerable. We can feel drained and that can open us up to Satan’s assault. We need to be aware of that so we can be prepared for battle. We don’t want to be found ‘lagging behind’. We will need to keep our spiritual fervor and serve the Lord. We will grieve and we will be melancholy but we can’t let that debilitate us; we can’t allow that to stop us.
What’s with Moses going up on the hilltop with a staff? The battle with the Amalekites was a shift for God’s people. Up until now, God fought their battles for them. Now, they are told to be proactive and fight their enemies. But it was okay. Moses was their leader and encourager and the staff was no ordinary piece of wood. This was the staff that had become a snake. This was the staff that when Moses stretched it out the plagues on the Egyptians came. When Moses held out his staff the Red Sea parted. This was the staff that had brought forth water when Moses struck the rock.
But they knew the staff itself had no power. The staff was a symbol of God’s power, protection and provision. Today we have a different piece of wood that we can look to as our symbol-the cross. The cross behind me has no power in itself-it is simply two pieces of wood. Yet what it represents is the power of the resurrected Christ. It represents the ascended Christ. It represents the power of the Spirit of Christ that empowers the followers of Christ.
If we remember that every time we’re in battle we will be victorious. When we lift holy hands to God and ask for his power, protection and provision we can get through anything. In the midst of the tragedy, in the heat of battle, we know that greater is Christ who is in me than the evil one who is in the world. When we stand together we will stand firm.