Staff/Banner of God

Have you ever thought about God having “enemies” among His human creatures? Sure, Satan/Devil/Accuser, we think of that creature being the enemy of God. But what about people? Have you thought about entire people-groups being considered enemies of God? For some reason, it seems beneath God to have human enemies, and yet, He does:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “ The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”

Exodus 17:14-16

A lot happens in this short paragraph: God makes a solemn oath, Moses writes it down to be remembered, builds an altar named for God, and God declares war against a particular people. Amalek is a nomadic people roaming the desert looking for pasture land, and there’s Israel in a spot normally bereft of water, but suddenly with water streaming from a rock. Perfect! A great place to pasture flocks, but there’s not enough for both, and so Amalek wants his territory back. This isn’t the promised land, this is Sinai Peninsula, far south of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Why so vehement? Why is God so angry?

Amalek descends from Esau, like Edom. But while Edom settled into cities, Amalek remained nomadic. Even so, that’s not what irritates their Creator. It’s possible, while not stated, that Amalek came looking for the people who just escaped from Egypt. They’re moving about slowly, from watering hole to watering hole, until Rephidim. Now they have them, waterless means powerless! Except they’re not. Essentially they’re beaten by an old guy raising a stick in the air. It’s humiliating. But it serves them right for chasing down and attacking God’s chosen people, their relatives.

It’s very possible that God is angry with Amalek because they should have known better. Later on, in Malachi, God declares that He chose between Edom and Israel, another of Esau’s children. It is important to know why God has made this people His enemy. In a way, those following Jesus as His disciples are also the people of God, just not exactly like Israel. We have been redeemed from the world forming a “third thing”, a distinct people, grafted into the promises of God to Israel. So, in a way, we might more easily see ourselves as the people attacked by those who should know better.

That can happen. Our culture is antithetical to the purpose of our Creator and Savior. There are places within our nation where it is considered illegal to worship. Any such stance is at odds with the intent and wording of the first amendment to our US Constitution. Yet, the popular voice shouts us down and seeks to destroy our faith. And yet, our Savior is also our Banner. Jesus will refer to the serpent Moses raises for the healing of the people, and that is, in a sense, a banner. Jesus is our Banner as we are attacked by this culture. His ways, His teaching, and most importantly, His Spirit are ours, meaning we cannot be defeated as long as we raise Him up.

The difficulty of striving with our society, culture, what is popular, and what is acceptable is made possible through Jesus, His Spirit, and His power of resurrection at work in us. We stand, raising the Banner, Jesus is Yah! It is He who saved Israel from Egypt, and He who saves all a remnant of all people for Himself. We are redeemed and we hold Him up, declaring boldly that Jesus is King. In that we win, even in losing this world. As Paul reminds us, this world is passing away, so let it go, raise our banner, and gain the world to come, the new heaven and new earth, the city not made by human hands. How will you raise your Banner today?


What’s With The Staff?

Have you ever thought about a passage of Scripture, that it seemed…weird? If not, then have you been reading the Scripture? There’s a lot of weirdness in it. If you don’t agree, well, you may have problems deeper than can be addressed here. If we’re agreed that there’s a lot of weirdness in Scripture than, let’s look at one in Exodus.

The setting is that Amalek attacks the sons of Israel. Moses has a day’s warning of what’s coming, so he makes a plan with Joshua. Here’s the plan:

Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”

Exodus 17:8-9

In theory, or if you stopped reading right there, it’s already weird. But it’s also dramatic. This is the staff that brought forth water from a rock, turned the Nile to blood, and parted the Red Sea when Moses waved it over the waters. Now, we’re left wondering, “What will Moses do with it now?” And then it’s kind of an underwhelming tactic.

Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.

Exodus 17:10-11

So, the staff, held high by Moses Israel is stronger than Amalek, but when Moses’ arms grow tired, and he lowers the staff, Amalek is stronger. That’s just weird. Why would that be the thing that makes the difference, the strength of Moses’ arms?

Do you ever feel like that, like it’s all up to you? Have you felt that God took His hands off the tiller, and suddenly you are sailing solo through the storm? Moses had to feel pretty confused about this, doing as He was instructed (who would think of that on their own?), and Amalek prevails whenever the stupid stick gets too heavy. Well, how could it not?

Try this, get a walking stick, of any type, carbon-fiber if you like, it doesn’t matter. Now hold it out in front of you with your arms straight, and see how long you can do it. That’s the longest Moses could, in his own strength, enable Israel to prevail. If you want the short answer, it’s not long enough.

But, part of the instruction included Hur and Aaron. It wasn’t just Moses and the staff of God. And the reason that’s so important is this:

But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

Exodus 17:12-13

Now, remember the previous question, “Have you ever felt that it was all up to you?” It never is. It does feel that way though, we even try to make it work with just us. But, think it through, why would our Creator and Savior create and save you only to make it all about you? What would that accomplish? It’s never about you, me, or even our favorite people. It’s about our Creator and Savior, and it’s about Him because He’s not done creating and saving! There are others out there who need Him, and you have been created and saved to be used to bring those into relationship with the Creator.

So, it isn’t always easy to spot the Aaron and Hur in our life. We find it way too easy to focus on ourselves and our perspectives, desires, and theories. The truth is much more interesting. Our Creator and Savior has created and saved us to be a part of a multitude no one can count. A multitude He redeems from every people-group that has ever existed. So, look around you. Where is your “Aaron”? Who is your “Hur”? Don’t try to raise the banner of our Savior on your own. We overcome together, raising the banner of our King.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation