Hands get weary, this is why prayer is not meant to be a solo act. Pastor Jason shares from Exodus 17:8-13. #thedirtpathsermonpodcast #thedirtpathpastor #ravnaz
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**this is not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript**
LIFT YOUR HANDS
Text: Exodus 17:8-13
One thing about the Army, really every branch except maybe the Air Force, is their training includes a lot of exercise. Not only do they use exercise to get you physically fit, also they use it as a means of discipline for things like asking your supply sergeant if the razor they just gave you was for your legs. During my time in the service, I had some favorite exercises (sarcasm), such as mountain climbers, the v-up, and one known as “the little man in the woods.” But one that was always more difficult than it sounds was the overhead arm clap. Simply clapping your hands over your head does not sound too rough, however, when you reach the one hundredth repetition your arms let you know it. [If you brave, have the congregation try for 3 minutes]
Arms get tired. No matter how strong or fit, extended arms can only holdout for so long. This is something Moses experiences in our passage today.
READING OF THE TEXT
8 At Rephidim, Amalek came and fought against Israel. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Select some men for us and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the hilltop with God’s staff in my hand. 10 Joshua did as Moses had told him, and fought against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 While Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but whenever he put his hand down, Amalek prevailed. 12 When Moses’s hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down. 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his army with the sword. (CSB)
At the beginning of Exodus 17, the Israelites are traveling through the wilderness on their way to Sinai. They get thirsty, only in Rephidim there is no water. So people start complaining, to the point Moses is fearful for his life. Moses cries out to God and the Lord tells Moses, “Smack that rock over there with that stick I gave you.” Water comes out of the rock.
The Bible has this interesting pattern that you may notice. Whenever there is a miracle of God or a powerful encounter with God, it is often followed by an event that sucks the joy from what just happened. Almost like there is an enemy who wants to undermine the goodness of God. And that is what happens here at Rephidim.
No sooner does the miracle of water from a rock happen, does news arrive that the Amalekites have attacked. The Amalekites are a fierce group of nomads, who are descendants of Esau.
Deuteronomy (a book that is essentially Moses’s goodbye address) gives another look at this attack. In 25:17-18, this is recorded, “Remember what the Amalekites did to you on the journey after you left Egypt. They met you along the way and attacked all your stragglers from behind when you were tired and weary.” Two things jump out. First, it says, “met you along the way.” Israel did not provoke this attack. The Amalekites saw an easy opportunity and moved to take advantage. Second, it says the Amalekites attacked all the stragglers. Who were the stragglers? The women, children, and elderly. This was an attack when God’s people were vulnerable and against their weakest part of the population.
Verse 9 says that Moses says to Joshua, “select some men and go fight the Amalekites.” This is the first time that Joshua is mentioned. Joshua would lead the people into the Promised land and battle with the inhabitants to secure it. Moses appoints Joshua to the role of commander here. His task is a tall one. The Israelites were newly freed slaves, not equipped or trained for battle. However, verse 10 shares that Joshua answers his call and faces the challenge.
While the plan called for Joshua to lead fight, Moses included himself in the plan. He was going stand on top of the hill armed with the same stick that was used to bring water from a rock, part the Red Sea, and used to demand Israel’s freedom from Egypt. This was no ordinary staff, nor was it a magic trinket. It was a symbol of God’s power.
Purpose of lifting hands
Verse 11 shares that as the battle is going, Moses is holding up is hands. Most likely, he is holding up the staff. Remember, the staff is not a magic trinket or a lucky charm. With this staff, Moses was used to display God’s power being used for His people. And if this ill-equipped, untrained army stood any chance they would need God’s strength. By lifting his hands, Moses was doing an act of prayer.
Heaviness of the hands
If Moses’s hands stayed lifted, the battle went well. Arms grow tired though. Verse 12 says, “… Moses’s hands grew heavy.” Joshua and the men were the ones physically fighting the battle, but no mention is made of their hands growing heavy. They were being carried by the adrenalin and the fight to survive. However, the hands that were lifted in the spiritual act of prayer grew heavy. Aaron and Hur noticed then found a rock so Moses could sit down. Arms grow tired though. His own strength to hold them up gave out, the need for victory persisted. So when Moses could hold them up no longer on his own, Aaron and Hur held them up with him. They worked together to keep the call to God lifted until the sun went down.
Effectiveness of His hands
Joshua was able to lead this untrained and unequipped army to victory against the Amalekites. My CSB says “Joshua defeated.” The KJV translates it, “Joshua discomfited.” But other words that fit to describe the outcome are “mowed down” and “embarrassed.” This was a total and sound victory. The fighting was done by Joshua and the army, however this victory did not happen by human achievement alone. As on commentator put it, this victory was only gained “by the power of God, coming down from on high, and obtained through prayer.” Moses prayed and he had to be helped by Aaron and Hur.
How does this apply to you and me? There is a time to fight, and someone must fight. When it came to Egypt, God allowed His people to sit back and watch Him. But in this moment, God called selected people to arms. Joshua had to fight, so did the army. God helped them, but they had to physically get in the battle. Some you here today are in this spot. Whatever it is you are facing, in your heart God is telling you it is time. Trust Him and know you are not alone today.
Those of us here with them, God is calling them into the battle, but He is calling us to the hilltop. The person heading into the battle has studied it, wrestled with it, prayed over it, but now they must face the enemy with all their energy, passion, and faith. But that will not be enough for them to achieve victory!
You and I must appeal to God and His power because it is the key to the outcome. Like Moses, we must lift our hands in prayer. But the thing is prayer can get heavy, and we can get easily distracted. Arms get tired. Prayer is not meant to be a solo act. Joshua and the army were too busy fighting to feel the heaviness, they did not have time to feel it. It was Moses who needed help lifting his hands. Matthew Henry said, “The more spiritual any service is the more apt we are to fail and flag in it.” Focusing on spiritual matters, especially prayer, is a struggle. It is a struggle that can be eased when we are surrounded by others who see how desperately God’s power is needed and are willing to hold up our arms as we lift the burden.
Paul tells us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? Love God and love others. We love God by loving others, we love others by praying for them as they face life’s battles. We love others by holding up the arms of those praying for others facing life’s battles.
John Wesley wrote, “The church’s cause is ordinarily more or less successful, according as the church’s friends are more or less fervent in prayer.” In other words, how can we hope to love God and love others without praying for them? How can we hope to pray for others if we are not willing to come along side and help our fellow believers as they lift up the needs of others?