Local News: This Thursday’s Mission Mississippi Prayer Breakfast will be held at Ridgecrest Baptist Church (7469 Old Canton Road–Madison, MS), where Dr. Phil Walker serves as pastor. For more information, contact Vicky Boone at (601) 853-1090, Ext 25. The purpose of Mission Mississippi’s prayer breakfast, held twice a week at 6:00 a.m. throughout the metro-Jackson area, is to foster greater unity among Christians across denominational and racial lines. To learn more, go to www.missionmississippi.org.
This week, we will explore a lesser known Old Testament passage from Exodus 17, with the help of Rev. Lane Townsend, formerly of Toomsuba Presbyterian Church (Presbytery of Mississippi–PCUSA).
The story opens up with the Amalekites coming and attacking Israel while the people are traveling in the desert en route to the Promised Land. For starters, Townsend makes the following observations:
• This was not a battle that was chosen by the Israelites. The Amalekites attacked the children of Israel at Rephidim unexpectedly.
• Moses commanded Joshua to choose men to go out and fight the Amalekites. The encouragement he gives Joshua is that he will be on top of the hill watching. He will be on the top with the staff of God in his hands, the staff that (by God’s grace) had been used to do some of the plagues and part the Red Sea. This is the staff at the burning bush that God has asked about, “What is in your hand?”
• On the hill Moses was praying for Joshua and the people. It is good to know that when we are in difficult circumstances and places that someone knows our situation and is praying for us.
We will focus on verses 10 and 11, which says, “So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.”
Townsend said, “We could label this the second battle. What happened in the valley in the battle was dependent on what was happening on the mountain in the other battle… The soldiers in the valley were busy fighting. They could not see Moses and what was happening on the mountain. All they knew is sometimes they were winning and sometimes they were losing. They may have not known that there was an unseen battle on the mountain.”
Verse 12 says, “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
Commenting on this, Townsend observed:
• Many people who have watched the Billy Graham crusades and watched thousands come forward to trust Christ, do not know that months and months ahead teams of people were organized to pray for the crusade. D.L. Moody was traveling and preaching one Sunday morning and nothing seemed to be happening. Later that night he preached and there was such power that many trusted Christ. The difference was that an invalid had found out Moody was in town and spent the whole afternoon praying for Moody. This tells us prayer is important.
• Prayer is work. Moses was on the mountain with the staff lifted up and he grew tired and his hands fell down.
• Spurgeon says it is easier to preach or do a lot work than it is to really pray. In Colossians 4:12 Paul said of Epaphras, “He is always wrestling in prayer for you.” The word “wrestling” is the Greek from which we get the word “agonize.” Paul is saying, “He is agonizing in prayer for you.” Someone has said the Church today is organized, but not agonized.
• Moses had to be persistent in prayer. He could not issue a quick prayer and then be on to other things.
• Prayer is partnership. When Moses could not hold up his hands any longer, two of his supporters helped him hold them up. We need other people to pray with us and for us. Jesus said, “If you two or three of you agree on anything in my name, I am there with you.”
Verse 13 tells us that Israel did in fact win the battle. Townsend explains the relationship between Moses’ effort and Joshua’s effort by saying, “Joshua in the valley fought as if everything depended on him and his soldiers. Moses on the mountain prayed as if everything depended on his prayers. Ultimately everything depended on God. Joshua and Moses were partners, each doing his part for the kingdom.”
Verses 14 and 15 tells us, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.”
What can we take away from this story? An important practical application, Townsend said, is to remember that, “You may not be able to do a lot for Christ, but you can pray a lot and when the victories come, they will be your victories too.”