Faith, Stories from Scripture
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Raised Hands and Useless Weapons {A Lesson in Faithfulness}

Friend,

Can I admit I’m worn out? Frayed on the edges? That certain things are more difficult than I bargained for and the lump has been in my throat even as the morning coffee tries to go down?

Perhaps you are, too?

How to stay faithful? How to stay fresh? How to stay ready for the next boot to fall? I’ve been here before, the geography is familiar, so I return to story I wrote a few years ago, because I need to. I need to remember.

I turned to a dusty, desert scene in Exodus 17, the first of many battles the Hebrew people would face. The Israelites, rage-tag and fresh out of slavery, face war, the ultimate test of faith, while they were still an infant nation  in the arms of Jehovah.

This story defines faithfulness, surrender and fighting the good fight in the very best way. 

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.” {Psalm 119:30}

What is my heart set on? What am I choosing?

The Way, the way of faithfulness

Is not a life-plan, goals set into flow charts,

No, for me it is a morning prayer:

Help me choose today the way of faithfulness

and help me want more than anything

to know your truth.

///

Moses, “up from the water”, watched with delight the children playing in the fresh stream where just moments before there was only the grit floor of desert.

Water mixed with the dirt acquired from days of traveling in the Desert of Sin smeared the children with mud. More water and they were washed. Made clean.

But these were quarrelsome waters, quarrelsome people. So many, filling vessels of all sizes with its freshness splashing down. Desperate they were, because even though Jehovah had provided water from rock, they were afraid. Afraid of Jehovah instead of trusting him. But more than that, they were afraid of unsatisfied thirst, of going without, of being sent into the desert again with only jugs of water growing stale. Didn’t they understand that God would provide a river flowing alongside their path if that is what they needed?

As the multitudes finished filling jugs and bowls and pots with lids, only the children remained, dancing in the miracle waters, tasting its sweetness on smiling lips.

The camp was set in place for the night. The laughter and talking beneath tent roofs lulled and hushed and the desert sounds filled the open sky. Nightbirds and scuttling feet, chattering insects and a distant howl. All sounds of his home in Midian. He breathed cool air and rested in God’s presence. He stooped for another palm-full of spring water.

In the distance, Moses spotted firelight flick in the blackening night sky.

“Send a scout.” Moses ordered Joshua in a low whisper.

“Amalekites! On the attack!” was the hoarse report of the swift-footed scout.

“Joshua!,” Moses commanded, “Gather fighting men. Take them to the edge of camp.”

Throughout the night, a scuffling and hush of voices trickled through the camp. Moses sat beside the once-rushing fount from the rock; it was a steady, small stream now and settled in pools in the low spots of the desert floor. He received reports through the watches of the night from Joshua and his men, making the plan for defense.

The sky grew very dark. A signal flared from the lookout. The Amalekites were on the move.

The warriors met fierce.

Pounding steps, beating of sticks, a clang of blades all blended into a cacophonous dirge.

“Climb the hill. Stand and watch the battle,” the voice of direction, the voice of God, had spoken to Moses.

Everything in Moses pulsed to propel him into the valley of death. But he swiftly climbed the hill and stood to watch the carnage, to obey God. The Amalekites appeared well prepared, their weapons readied sharp for deathblows. The Israelites, though numerous, flagged unprepared. Ragtag, losing.

He prayed to the God whose throne was heaven, staff lifted.

The tide turned, the battle below was transformed. Suddenly, the Israelites were scoring blows, winning.

“Look!” Aaron shouted over the war-sounds echoing off the hillside, dawn glinted gold in his eyes. “The Lord God is with us!”

The men embraced.

The battle turned again. They watched a dozen, and another dozen, Israelites fall onto enemy spears.

Moses lifted again his hands in prayer. Could it be…? he wondered.

Another miracle. Joshua and his men took control of every skirmish when the staff was raised to heaven.

Moses watched, listened to the cries, the dull thrump of clubs against human bodies. To close his eyes would be a dishonor the men battling below, fighting for life, indeed for the lives of a million people huddled in tents. Were they praying? Were they calling out to the God of their fathers? Did they even know how?

Hur pointed to another brigade of fighting men rising on the horizon like black dawn. A rush of footfall, more and more into battle.

Israel in battle against Amalek; Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites, 1626 by Nicolas Poussin

Aaron and Hur stood flanking Moses as his staff continued to reach heavenward. Moses swooned, swayed and fell into Hur’s side.

“Quick! We must hold him up!”

They found a rock to cradle Moses and he sat. Aaron and Hur each held his arms and the three became one in posture, a triumvirate of prayer, pressing, pleading for the battle to end.

And they watched. Tears streamed down creased cheeks and pooled in beards as they witnessed death after death. The Isrealites were claiming the victory, but the enemy fought hard and fell slowly.

Aaron and Hur struggled to resist fatigue that crept into muscles, cramped and shaking. Would the battle never end?

An eternity passed as the sun rounded the canopy of sky and shadows grew long and writhed like dark monsters across the sand. Red blood soaked in black and a heated stench rose from the valley.

An orange orb slid in silence beneath the western horizon, it’s brilliant light snuffed in an instant and the day ended as all others–with a loss of light.

A single star flickered on. And the last Amalekite fell.

Shallow breath escaped the trio on the vista and hands, trembling and white, lowered. Staff clattered onto ground as Moses collapsed to his knees.

Joshua turned a bloodsoaked face to the hill and lifted his lone weapon and began to shout!

And Moses replied, whisper dry: The Lord is my Banner.

///

“His hands remained steady until the sun set.” Exodus 17:12

Remained, is the Hebrew emuwnah, meaning faithful, firm, steadfast.

“I have chosen the faithful way” the psalmist says in in Psalm 119:30. This is the same Hebrew noun – emuwnah.

What a choice! The faithful way is not easy, but is any other way less difficult?

How does one remain steady, firm in the the way of faith? How do you choose the faithful way when the scene before you is terrifying and the battle intense? When it seems like you’re loosing your children or losing control?

Like Moses —

1. Obey the word of the Lord.

2. Trust that God’s way is best, even if everything in you wants to run into your own plans

3. Find support in a few reliable friends.

4. Give credit where it’s due when the dust has cleared.

5. Repeat steps 1-4.

Can you trust God today as your Banner? Can He be relied upon to see you through?

Do you need to find supportive companions to uphold you in obedience when your strength is sapped? How can I pray for you today?

Have you a story to tell of how God is Your Banner?

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Alyssa!

    ““I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.” {Psalm 119:30}”

    This was beautiful background, to weave your art of bringing stories alive to us. Thank you for this story of God as our banner from a page of Moses.

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