Exodus 17:8-16

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 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.” 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16 He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Have you ever wondered where is God? In challenging and difficult times, such as what we are experiencing today, has the thought ever crossed your mind is God among us? When I was younger and on the occasional day off from school, I would watch the old Price is Right show. The show host would ask the announcer to call up the next contestant and the announcer would call out the name and then say, “Come on down.” It seemed as though the contestants were making guest appearances. There were times when I did the same thing with God; I looked for God to make a guest appearance in my life and in my situation. I expected God to step out of heaven make His presence known and supernaturally change the course of events.

The truth is that people from the beginning of time have always struggled to sense, perceive, or realize the presence of God. The Israelites expressed this struggle by asking the question in verse seven, “Is the Lord among us or not?” We who live today do not realize how much we have in common with the Old and New Testament saints who preceded us. Just like no one today has physically seen God; no one back then physically saw God either. We read in scripture of angelic visitations, dreams, visions, and revelations from God, but the scripture says, “No one has ever seen God.” To compound the matter there where only a select few that God spoke to or with and these individuals were charged with the responsibility of communicating what they receive from God to others. In many cases, what the people received from God came to them by way of second or third hand information. When we put this into perspective we can see why not only the nation of Israel, but also those who were used by God experienced crises of faith. Faith is predicated on presence. It is hard to have faith in someone who is not around. The closer we feel to the presence of God the stronger our faith in God. On the other hand, the farther away we feel from the presence of God the weaker our faith in God. The reason we struggle today is the same reason Israel struggled during the exodus, because we like them struggle to comprehend the proximity of God in our lives. “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Since it would seem that God makes infrequent appearances in our lives, we need to become opportunistic. We need to seize the opportunities to see the hand of God, perceive the presence of God, and/or realize the activity of God in and around us. Opportunities to see God usually come in the form of problems. “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.” Prior to the Amalekite attack Israel had experienced a series of issues each more daunting then the previous one. After they left Egypt Pharoah’s army pursued them. While in the desert they faced the threat of starvation and the lack of water. And now, they were faced with the prospect of fighting for their lives. The attack by the Amalekites was another issue in a growing list of problems. As the problems mounted the Israelites were ready to turn back. They could not believe that they had given up the safety and security of Egypt for the prospect of dying in the desert. They were pursuing the dream of something better, but all they continued to experience was hardship, difficulties and challenges. However, if they would have paused for a moment and considered how they got to where they were they probably would have realized that our problems are God’s opportunity. If they would have stopped to reflect on the fact that when they were hungry God fed them with manna and quail, and when they were thirsty God provided water for them from a rock. If they took a moment to stop focusing on their problems they would have seen God’s presence in His provisions for them. The Bible says, “The Lord is an ever present help in the time of trouble.” People who are not in trouble do not need help. The place where the Amalekites attacked Israel was Rephidim, which means, the place where the hands become weak. When we reach our Rephidim we have reached the place where we can no longer do for ourselves and we need divine aid and assistance. Rephidim the place where human dependence meets divine assistance.

Problems have a way of skewing our vision. The greater the problem the harder it is to see and perceive God’s presence or His activity. Israel could not see past their problems and therefore they could not see God’s provisions. It is hard to see how much we have in common when we are only focused on what we feel like we lack personally. It is hard to see how much we can accomplish together when we are only focused on getting what we need personally. To help us overcome this God uses problems to galvanize and bring people together. “Moses said to Joshua, choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites.” A cause will make people forget their personal problems and come together to solve a common problem. The Amalekites represented not only a threat to Israel’s survival, but also an impediment to where they were heading. God used the Amalekites to slap Israel back into reality. I’ve got problems, you’ve got problems, but with the Amalekites trying to kill us we’ve got a bigger problem. “So, Joshua fought the Amalekites.” When we look at the history of our nation we see that it has been shaped by men and women who were willing to forget their differences and come together to fight a common problem that was greater then they were individually. The British army dwarfed the colonist, but the common cause propelled the colonist to victory. Today, there are movements and marches all over our nation, such as race for the cure, immigration reform, occupy the nation and others bringing people together to fight against the Amalekite threat – something that threatens our survival. When we find a cause, something greater than ourselves, to fight for that benefits everyone around us we will also find God.

Causes bring out the best in people. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning. Everyone needs to be encouraged. Encouragement empowers us to face our problems and fight our battles. Causes bring out the worst in people. “Whenever he lowered his hands the Amalekites were winning.” The absence of encouragement or withdrawing encouragement can turn a winning fight into a losing battle. Causes can also bring out the presence of God in and through people. “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him…Aaron and Hur held his hands up…so that his hands remained steady.” We forget that encouragers get tired too. There are times when we have to encourage those whom God uses to encourage us. God sends these encouragers into our lives and situations not just to help us, but also to allow us to see Him in and through them. If we are struggling to see God then we need to open our eyes and look around us because when we see an encourager we are seeing God in that person. We are seeing God’s activity in our lives as God sends people to put a stone under us when we get tired, hold our hands up when we get weak, and support us in shaky times. Open your eyes identify your encouragers and you will see the presence of God in your life.

In addition to the perception problem Israel also had a hearing problem. When we can visualize what we hear it makes it easier to see. “The Lord said to Moses, write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it.” Moses was familiar with the voice of God and therefore he was able to visualize and see God. To help Moses in difficult times God instructed him to carry with him a symbol of God’s presence. Moses carried a staff and the staff reminded him that the power and presence of God was with him. You and I are instructed to carry the word of God. David said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against thee.” The word of God is our symbol of God’s power and presence in our lives. Throughout the generations every time this narrative was read into the people’s hearing they were reminded of how God steps into the affairs of His people moves them to acts of selflessness and changes outcomes. They are reminded to open their eyes and see God in the people around them. People God sends into our lives to aid, guide, and provide assistance to us.

In this narrative we are also reminded that when all else fails raise your hands to heaven. When I was in school and I wanted to get my teacher’s attention I had to raise my hands. When you and I are in trouble we need to give God indication that we need His help. We need to lift our hands. When we lift our hands we are declaring that our situation is critical and we are going to rally under the provision, protection and power of God. When we lift our hands we are declaring that God is here, God is present, God is flying high over our situation, and that God will secure the victory for us because the Lord is our banner.

If you need to see God raise your hands and get God’s attention. Call on God to come by and make His presence known wherever you are today. If we make God our banner God will make His presence known and we will see Him.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Pastor Paul for posting the sermons; it is a blessing to be able to read them when we cannot be in church. Thank God and you for this message which I really needed to hear(read!) and thanks for being such an encourager to us!


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