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?