Exo 17:9 So Moses said to Joshua, "Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." Exo 17:10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Exo 17:11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. Exo 17:12 But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. Exo 17:13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
Here we have another great account of God’s deliverance of Israel while in the Wilderness. Let me make just a couple of points. Perhaps the most obvious thing we see here is that there is a connection between the seen and the unseen. When I first went through this in my church I had a young teenager tell me that he was interested in what I was going to say about this account because there didn’t seem to him to be any connection between the outcome of Joshua’s battle and Moses holding his hands up in the air.
Once we think about what all this represents we can start to appreciate the typology. The rod represents the presence and power of God, raising one’s hands is a standard position of prayer and Moses was their intercessor. And so the connection is that our power lies not so much in our abilities but in the Lord who gives us abilities. We can fight and struggle with all our might in this life but at the end of the day the Lord’s will is done and he is our strength. And he has ordained that through prayer he will give us the help we need but if we presume on him and don’t make the effort to pray then he will not work for us.
Yet while this is true we are also commanded to fight, to struggle, to put forth the effort so that we can demonstrate that the Lord matters to us. We are put here not to sit back and just pray and let the Lord do it all but to take up our cross and follow Christ. To pray and not work is also presumption. The other side of this is that we are not to just live life as if there is no unseen God; as if life is all about us and what we can do. Prayer shows that we are not only dependent upon the Lord but that the life we are living is all about him to begin with.
It is quite possible for people to overcome problems who don’t pray and who are not saved. They do this through the will and power of God whether they acknowledge it or not. But the Christian doesn’t live that way. When we overcome, it is to be done in such a way that acknowledges that it is the grace and power of God that has given us help. If Moses had not gone up on the hill as their intercessor they would have assumed that it was their power that had gotten them the victory. But this passage reminds us that there is a spiritual world that determines what the outcome on earth will be and prayer is the connection we have to the spiritual realm.
One final point to make is that as long as we can look up by faith and see that there is One who sits on the throne interceding for us then we know how all this is going to end. What is particularly important is to remember that there is One who intercedes for us who is greater than Moses. His hands never tire, he needs no help. The victory is his and nothing else needs to be done. This encourages us in prayer because Jesus has already dealt the death blow to Satan and sin and reigns on the highest throne.