Exodus 17:8-16 First Battle

The Lord’s staff raised above the battle ground served as His banner to inspire His people.

Israel encounters their first battle as a new people. Amalek didn’t heed God’s victory over Egypt. Israel was entering their territory and they were going to teach them a lesson!

This is the first time, but not the last, Israel will encounter Amalek in battle. It is also the first of the MANY people they will have to stand against to complete God’s promise in their lives.

God’s miracle at the Red Sea was told about in all the areas around it but apparently some of the people weren’t impressed by it. Could it be they thought this was a fluke? Or did they think that this was a once in a lifetime intervention? Or maybe they though that Israel’s God had lost interest in them by now? Or is it possible they thought they had to deal with Israel NOW before they got too strong to do something about later? Or did they simply see the water God had just released for Israel and decide THEY needed it more than Israel did? I wonder if they asked, or even considered, sharing it.

This 2,000,000 plus group wasn’t an organized army. They were people of ALL ages; from infants to old men. Surely they couldn’t put up much resistance to an army. But that was a BAD assumption on Amalek’s part. Because within this huge multitude were enough men strong for battle and the LORD was on THEIR side! Let’s look in on GOD’S group.

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Moses and the children of Israel had been enjoying the water the Lord had provided. For once there was little grumbling in the camp. Moses was happy to have this slight reprieve. Of course there were other issues being brought to him but the “angry mob” attitude had been dispelled.

A group of men were running toward Moses’ tent. “I wonder what had them in such a hurry” thought Moses. He was very keen to see what had this group in such a state.

“Moses, there is an armed group approaching. There number is large and they look like they mean business! What are we going to do?”

Joshua, one of Moses closest followers was sitting nearby. As soon as he saw the men approaching he stood to his feet. He knew trouble when he saw it so he was ready for whatever Moses might need.

Moses turned to Joshua with a look of determination in his eyes. “They think they can attack the LORD’S people! We will show them the error of their ways. Gather the strong men and take the weapons and armor we recovered from the Egyptians. Go and meet them in battle. I will go over to that hilltop with the staff the Lord gave me and watch over the battle with the Lord.”

Joshua’s first recruits were the men who had brought the message. He sent each of them in different directions to gather others for the battle. They all assembled at the edge of the camp within five minutes. Joshua passed out equipment to this contingent of newly appointed fighting men of Israel. Once everyone is equipped, Joshua calls out “Let’s teach these men what happens when you go against the Lord’s people!”

A battle cry worthy of any army erupts and the men take up position between the camp and the enemy. Moses, Aaron and Hur walk to the top of the hill near the back of the camp. Moses raises his arms with the staff of the Lord in his hand, “The Lord fights this battle with you! Let His might be in your swords!”

The men of Israel rush forward and the enemy advances to meet them. The sounds of swords crashing against one another, grunts of men, cries of wounded, colliding bodies, and orders being shouted invade the whole area. All of Israel watches as their fighting force begin to repel their enemy.

Moses watches from his hillside, holding aloft the staff of the Lord and shouting encouragement to the army of the Lord. After about an hour his arms are tired. He lowers them for a rest. The tide turns almost immediately in the battle and Israel is being pushed back. Moses watches and continues to shout encouragements but Israel’s forces continue to be pushed back. After about ten minutes of rest for his arms Moses raises them again with the staff in his hand. The tide immediately turns and Israel begins retaking lost ground.

Moses’ arms had not fully regained the strength they had in the beginning so they tire after a shorter period of time and he puts them down again. The tide of the battle shifts again! As quickly as Moses’ arms regain sufficient strength he raises them again and the tide turns again in Israel’s favor. Moses is in awe of the connection the people have with the visibility of the staff of the Lord. They fight harder when they see the Lord’s banner flown above their heads, even if they are not looking directly at it, their spirits take it in.

Aaron noticed the battle’s reliance on Moses’ uplifted arms too. He also knows that Moses is tiring and cannot keep this up forever. But the people need him and his encouragement! “What shall we do? The people NEED your support Moses! Please try and hold on a little longer!”

Hur, ever the problem solver in his tent has an idea. “What if we helped support Moses’ arms?”

Aaron asks, “How would we do that? Our arms would tire just as quickly as Moses’ are and we would drop them too.”

“Not if Moses were sitting down. Then his arms would be at our chests and we could support them without having to have our arms above our heads.”

“That’s a WONDERFUL idea Hur” says Moses. “Please hurry because my arms are so heavy right now but the people need their support!”

Hur looks around and finds a large boulder a few feet away. “Over here Moses. This stone should do just fine for our purposes.”

Moses moves over to the stone without dropping his arms. He doesn’t want the tide to change even once more. As he sits Aaron and Hur take up positions on either side of him. They stand close enough to support Moses’ back with their hips and they wrap their arms around his forearms on either side. Moses only need hold his head up as his body and arms are completely and comfortably supported. His arms and staff remain lifted even if they are a little lower in elevation.

There is no change of tide this time. The army of the Lord continues to prevail against the overwhelming number of the enemy.

Hours go by and the enemy continues to be pushed and punished. Their soldiers lie on the ground, dead or nearly so as Israel remains strong. As the sun begins its decent the last of the enemy falls to Israel’s sword. A few had retreated from the battle but they will spread the word about how the Lord fought for Israel. Joshua believes that this will spare Israel from having to battle quite as often. “They may not see the Red Sea as by the might of Israel but they can’t help but heed Israel’s might by the Lord’s hand now.”

Israel hasn’t lost a single man in this battle. Some have minor wounds and many have a bruise or two but all will heal quickly. Before leaving the battle ground the enemy soldiers are stripped of any equipment Israel may find useful, including more armor and weapons. Israel is well equipped for any future encounters.

As Moses was watching the battle the Lord impressed upon him the need to record this battle for Joshua and for future generations. Moses also decided that they needed to offer thanks to the Lord for His victory.

While the men of Israel were combing the battlefield and the enemy camp for supplies Moses was constructing an altar on the hilltop where the Lord watched over the battle. After he was finished and the men returned from their plundering the enemy, Moses called the people and they gathered around the hill. Moses called Joshua to the top of the hill with him.

Before addressing the people Moses took Joshua aside and spoke softly to him in his ear. “Joshua, the Lord gave me a message to share with you. He says ‘I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven’ (verse 14a). This battle will be recorded for all of Israel to look back on.”

Moses and Joshua then turned their attention to the crowd gathered before them. “This victory belongs to the Lord. He has shown Himself through the hands of Israel! The story of this battle will be recorded in a book for all to look back upon and marvel at the Lord’s banner of protection over us this day.”

Next Moses stood before the altar that was built on the hillside. “This altar shall be called ‘The Lord Is My Banner’ as His staff served as a banner for the people while they fought. His banner was their inspiration and strength. His banner is as ‘A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation’ (verse 16) for he has dared to attack the Lord’s anointed. And the LORD put him in his place!”

A cry of victory went up from the people. There was singing, dancing and feasting in the camp that night. All were praising the Lord for His protection and favor in battle.

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Father God, WHY would Amalek strike out against Israel? Didn’t they hear what happened to Egypt at the Red Sea? Were they just arrogant or were they enticed by the water You provided? Did they want, or need, the water so bad that they were willing to risk whatever to get it? Didn’t they hear of any of the miracles along the way? They were either extremely arrogant in their own assumptions of their might or incredibly stupid. Probably both!

I’ve fallen into their “stupidity” and “arrogance” a few times. But I have also learned to rely on Your “track record.” Amalek ignored Your “track record” and made a new “record” for themselves; first to go down in defeat against Israel! They also set an example for the other nations around them. Little Israel isn’t so little; they have a MIGHTY GOD on their side!

Help me remember to draw from our history any time my stupidity quotient or arrogance flare up again. YOU were the winner of that battle but You used Israel’s hands to do so. I want to give You my hands to use however You want in the “battles” of my life. Lead Lord and I will follow. CHARGE!!!

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