The Battle Belongs to the Lord — Exodus Chapter 17
This blog post will cover the devotionals #74-77 for Exodus Chapter 17.
**Pictures will be added at a later date.
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[#74] Exodus 17:1-7 (Part 1)
After their time in the wilderness of Sin, where they’d first received the manna, Israel traveled to Rephidim, which Strong’s Concordance defines as ‘ballusters’ (‘a railing’). I find it interesting, because God led them here to have another opportunity to trust Him—or to take hold on Him like a railing to remain secure in a precarious position. When they arrived, there was no water for them again, and rather than looking to God—they again complained against Moses. They repeated the type of phrase we saw in Exodus 16:3 (about hunger). This time, they said, “Why is it that you brought us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and cattle with thirst?” Moses reprimanded them for ‘tempting’ God. Deuteronomy 6:16 tells us, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God, as you tempted Him in Massah.” Strong’s Concordance defines ‘tempt’ here as ‘test’ or ‘prove’. God had already proven Himself to Israel so many times with the large events concerning Egypt, and even since departing the Red Sea, they’d already complained about both food and water (recall Marah from Exodus 15:22-27)—and both times, God proved Himself to them in that way also. In other words, while it’d be expected that large miracles would convince people of God’s ability to perform small ones—they still doubted. They were judging God, and He would be ‘sanctified’ in their sight. Moses spoke with God, saying the people were ready to stone him. Thus, it’s clear that they were still looking to cast ‘blame’ on Moses for their predicament when he was just following God’s direction for them. Israel accused Moses of bringing them out there to die so he could glean all of their wealth / possessions. God’s patience never failed. He sent Moses with the elders of Israel to go stand on a specific rock in Horeb. He told him that He would stand before Moses on the rock, and when he hits the rock with his rod (the same one used in the Egyptian plagues and the parting of the Red Sea), water would come out of the rock for Israel to drink. There’s a mountain called Jabal Maqla in this area, and to the northwest of it, there’s a large plain with a massive, split rock. This rock shows clear signs of water erosion. They named the place Massah and Meribah, which Strong’s Concordance defines as ‘a testing (of men or of God)’ and ‘quarrel (provocation, strife)’. They chose these names because they’d tempted God, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” It’s hard for us to imagine their ability to doubt this after everything they’d witnessed, but the likelihood of our doing the same is rather high. God was indeed with them. It's interesting that God (Christ) said He would stand on the rock, which they were to smite (strike), and water would come out for them to drink. There are many Scriptures equating Christ with a rock and also with [living] water. 1 Corinthians 10:4 says, “…because they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” Psalm 105:41 and Isaiah 48:21 tells us that they didn’t thirst when He led them through the deserts, because He opened the rock, and caused water to gush / flow out—and they ran like a river in the dry places. It’s important to recognize the symbolism here. Isaiah 53:4, 5 says, “Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed.” Christ was the rock that was smitten, and Christ was the water that flowed out. It’s amazing that, when Christ died (see Matthew 27:51), we’re told that an earthquake happened and the rocks were rent (broken, divided, opened, etc.)—especially the ground right beneath Him.
[#75] Exodus 17:1-7 (Part 2)
Something rather unfortunate that’d happen which was provoked by the people’s complaints was a type of reenactment of this situation later. Numbers 20:1-13; 27:12-14 shows another time when the people again complained about water, and this time, God told Moses to simply speak to the rock, and water would come out. Moses was so frustrated, that, instead of glorifying (sanctifying) God by showing His power to the people, he got pompous and said, “Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” It was as if he was doing the miracle in God’s place. Then, to make matters worse, he hit the rock twice, rather than just speaking to it. It may not seem like a big thing, but this actually cost Moses his right to lead the people into Canaan. After all those years, he’d come so close, but never get to enter the promised land. Despite all of that, God still allowed the water to come out of the rock for the people. Moses’ privilege was lost, and while it seems arbitrary, it was to be an important lesson for us (like with Job). We should recognize that when we fail to glorify God (aka, reveal His true glory / character, thereby vindicating His name), there are detrimental results—not only for ourselves, but for those who we’re supposed to point to God. He will still work with that less-than-ideal situation, but it won’t be as impactful as it should’ve been if done properly.
[#76] Exodus 17:8-16 (Part 1)
While Israel was still in Rephidim, Amalek came and fought against Israel. Moses instructed Joshua to select some men to go fight. He said that he’d stand the on the hilltop the next day with God’s rod in his hand. Joshua’s men fought, and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up. When Moses help up his hand, Israel started winning, when he lowered his hand, Amalek started winning. Moses’ hand got heavy, so they brought a stone for him to sit on and then they held up his hands from either side—keeping them steady until sunset. Joshua overcame Amalek and his people with the sword, and God instructed Moses to record it in a book as a memorial and declare it in Joshua’s hearing. Unlike Joshua, who now entered his leadership position within Israel (Strong’s Concordance defines Joshua as ‘Jehovah-saved’), God would erase Amalek from remembrance. Deuteronomy 25:17-19 says, “Remember what Amalek did to you along the way, when you went out of Egypt; how he met you along the way, and cut you off from the rear—even all who were feeble at your rear, when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore, it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies surrounding you, in the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess for an inheritance, that you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from the earth; you shall not forget it.” Moses made an altar, calling it Jehovahnissi (which means, ‘the eternal God’ and ‘God is my banner’), “because the Lord has sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” Amalek had long defied God. They were aware of both His character and His sovereignty. They’d claimed that if Israel was under their rule (as they’d been under Egypt), then God Himself couldn’t have delivered them. They made it a game to mock God’s power to save and said that His miracles could’ve been reenacted by Amalek’s magicians and wise men. They despised Israel to the point that they made it their mission (swearing by their gods) to torment them until none remained. Israel neither provoked nor threatened them. Despite their pompous talk, Amalek showed their cowardice (along with their cruelty) in attacking Israel’s weak ones from behind. God wanted Israel to see that Amalek’s end was brought by the very ones (specifically God) whom they despised. Yet, Israel wasn’t to overcome Amalek to gain their possessions (which were as cursed as they were), nor to boast in their own power / skill. God had been patiently and mercifully calling Amalek to repent, but their attack against defenseless Israel sealed their fate, and God gave them up to it. We’ll see, in devotional #77, why God allowed this battle to take place. [#77] Exodus 17:8-16 (Part 2)
Recall how God took Israel a different route out of Egypt to keep them safe from war? Why would He now allow them to be in a place where they’d be attacked and have to experience war? Even after all the evidence of God’s power to provide for, save, protect, and guide them, they still doubted, complained, and blamed the leaders that God had chosen. They again pointed to man as having responsibility for what happened, when all the glory was meant to go to God. Furthermore, if they couldn’t trust, praise, and honor God in the difficulty of the desert, they certainly wouldn’t do it in the prosperity of the promised land. They weren’t yet ready to go into Canaan, so God was trying to prepare them. Allowing them to experience war wouldn’t only humble them, but also cause them to trust God and God alone for their life. By fighting for a day, and then watching how they only won when Moses used the special rod to point up to God (it was only special because God used it to signal His miraculous power)—in other words, it wasn’t them winning at all, but rather, God giving them the victory. To drive home the point that they needed to trust in God alone, another lesson was to be learned from seeing Moses with the rod. He wasn’t capable of the power / responsibility that they constantly, and inappropriately, tried to accuse and/or expect of him. He couldn’t even hold a rod up for a short period, let alone a whole day. He needed help from above to keep it steady—symbolized by the men standing above his seat to keep his weary hands from falling (Isaiah 35:3, 4 and Hebrews 12:12 take on a whole new meaning here!). Thus, his act in holding it up was not the cause for their victory, but merely the sign of it. Israel’s destiny wasn’t in Moses’ hands, but in God’s. This was like the Red Sea experience (and even the plagues in Egypt). They didn’t rejoice or boast while they were being pursued by Egypt, thinking they’d die—but would only glorify Him from a position of safety and assurance that they were beyond harm’s way. They needed to learn to trust and glorify Him even while they were in the middle of their vulnerability. Just like Moses lifted his hands to God—Israel was to learn to do the same—trusting in God above to save and guide them. They could only overcome their enemies by trusting and serving God. 1 Timothy 2:8 says, “Therefore, my will is that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” When they let go of God (or lower their hands), they see that they’re weaker than those who don’t even know God. Moses wasn’t just holding up the rod—he was praying that God would give Israel the victory over their enemies (and more importantly, their own sins). Man cooperated with God, putting forth their own effort while God put forth His. Joshua’s men fought bravely while Moses prayed with lifted hands. They wouldn’t have been victorious by being inactive. Thus, we see how faith without works is dead (see James 2:22), and how their faith was being perfected through their works. One last thing to consider is the suggestion that Moses’ hands being held up was symbolic of Christ’s hands held up / stretched out on the cross in the battle to overcome sin. Those hands remained in that position until the victory was complete.