Exodus 17 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
When the Egyptians had cornered the Israelites at the Red Sea, it was the Lord who would fight for his people and deliver them from the hands of their enemies. The Israelites merely stood and watched as the Lord did a wondrous work in their midst. That was an extraordinary monergistic work by God showing that He didn’t need the help of the Israelites to defeat the Egyptians. Of course, God could work in this extraordinary way on any given day, but He chooses ordinarily to work in the ordinary way through the likes of men who are dependent upon the Lord.
When the malevolent Amalekites began to terrorize the Israelite women and children attacking them from the rear, Moses called upon Joshua to lead a band of men to fight against the Amalekites. This is the first time that Joshua is mentioned in the book of Exodus and in the Bible, but already he was known for his courageous spirit and his willingness to fight. So Joshua gathered a ragtag group of men with makeshift weapons and contended with those who had contended with them. While Joshua and his men were fighting below, Moses and his aides were fighting above on top of a hill looking down into the valley below. These men were using different weapons than Joshua and his men. Moses was carrying only the staff of God in his hand, the same staff that had turned into a snake and had eaten the snakes of Pharaoh’s magicians, the same staff that Moses waved over Egypt to initiate God’s plagues upon the land, and the same staff through which God parted the Red Sea in order to deliver Israel.
There was no magical powers in the staff itself; it was merely a symbol of the power and presence of God in their midst. It was also a symbol of the Israelites’ dependence upon God to fight for them and to protect them from evil. Thus whenever Moses held the staff up in the air, it showed God’s victory through Joshua and his men, but whenever Moses’ hands drooped, it showed the weakness of Israel apart from God. When Aaron and Hur recognized this correlation, they put a stone on the ground for Moses to sit on, and they held Moses’ arms up until the sun went down in order to tap into God’s power to help them in battle.
Although we don’t have any cool consecrated staffs today, we still can lift our hands in prayer to God when we are in trouble, and when we are weak and in need of help, which seems to be a daily, if not an hourly, occurrence. And the Lord promises to help us in the same way that he helped the Israelites. It is through prayer alone that we as weak, foolish and sinful creatures can have a hand upon the throne of God and be granted his help and favor in time of need.