Bible Studies in Israel’s Wilderness Wanderings
Never forget to remember Amalek!
By Fraser Gordon
We are continuing on with our studies through the book of Exodus, beginning at chapter 17. Last time we looked at God's gift of “manna” and how He provided everything for the nation; even their garments - their clothes didn't wear out, neither did their shoes. However getting into the Promised Land was not as easy as getting out of Egypt. In reality it was only a few weeks journey, but it lasted 40 years. We have seen how God provided water from the rock, and how Christ himself was typified by the rock. Moses was told by God to smite the rock which was a type of the crucifixion of Christ, that water might come out and the people might drink. So that is where we got up to in verse 7 of chapter 17. All of this speaks of salvation, it speaks of the first things that happen to a new believer, that the Holy Spirit comes into their life and everything is new, everything is fresh.
Now in the next few verses we see that an enemy comes against the nation. For the first time in their wilderness journey they are going to have to face a battle with a different enemy than they have faced before. Egypt had chased after them and tried to bring them back into captivity, (which pictures the world trying to reclaim the Christian), but this is a totally different enemy altogether.
Introducing Amalek – Don’t forget him!
Exo 17:8-16 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. (9) Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." (10) So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. (11) As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. (12) 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. (13) So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (14) 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." (15) Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. (16) He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation."
The enemy’s name is Amalek. They are the first nation to seek to hinder Israel’s walk. What is it about these people? It must be something serious because the Lord says in verse 14 “I will blot out the memory of this people and I am going to be at war with Amalek from generation to generation.” There is never going to be a time when I am not at war with what this nation actually stands for. What do we know about Amalek? We are going to go through some verses to see what Amalek actually represents, because it is a key to understanding this passage of scripture.
If you look in Genesis chapter 36 verses 8-9, you will find the genealogy of Amalek and you will see that he was Esau's grandson. So his ancestry is a direct line from Esau. What do we know about Esau? Well the bible says “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” These were really strong words for God to say. Obadiah and other minor prophets tell us that the principle which was at work in Esau was satanic, egocentric and that he had no time for God at all; it was this very principle that God hated. Jacob his brother didn’t seem to be much better either; he was a swindler and a conniver, but there was a great difference between the two, for somewhere in the life of Jacob there was this little gem; he actually needed God. And God can work with that because all that He needs is someone who needs Him. Jacob was a ratbag, but he needed God, and you get wonderful pictures of God working in him throughout the rest of his life.
But in the case of Esau you have another principle at work. The bible says that “he despised his birthright” in other words he gave it up for a bowl of soup. He was hungry and the birthright which stands for God's inheritance and being in the line of Christ meant nothing to him. He did not care to have God in his life, so he just gave away the birthright because he did not see its value. Esau was a man's man; he had no time for the things of God. He wanted to be something apart from God and this is the satanic principle which was at work in him. That's what Satan did when he set out to exalt himself above the throne of God. He wanted to be something and he wanted to have something apart from God. And in Esau you have this same attitude which is passed down to his grandson Amalek. He is the first enemy to come against the nation on their journey and he comes to hinder their walk. Amalek is a picture of the flesh or our Adamic nature; what we are in the first Adam that tries to hinder the Christian’s progress. It is always an egocentric principle-- all it thinks about is “self”. This is the principle of the Amalekites. The Amalekites don't play fairly. Turn to Deuteronomy and we will have a look at another account of this same passage.
Beware all stragglers... Don’t get separated!
Deu 25:17-19 Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. (18) When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. (19) When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!
So when Israel journeyed along, the Amalekites attacked all the stragglers. All those that are that are tired and weary are the ones he picks off. God says “remember this principle” because Amalek is a type of the flesh, so here we get an insight into what happens when you are tired and dragging your feet. When things seem too much for you, you are vulnerable and he is always there in the background with a little chuckle and a little glee. And it says that “he did not fear God”. The Amalekites didn't fear God and they had no time for His ways or His principles. The flesh, what we are in our natural self, is the same nature as the Amalekites. When we are tired and weary and things come upon us, Amalek is always there trying to bring us down. He won't improve. What we are in the natural man won't get better. He will always be what he is. He attacks at the rear; he comes against those that are straggling, those that are struggling to keep up--- those that are weak, and those that are tired, these are the ones that he attacks!
Do we see Amalek popping his head up anywhere else?
The thing I love about scripture is that it is so consistent. Consider the book of Esther. Here we find a guy by the name of Haman who was an Amalekite. He had a hatred for the Jewish people, God's chosen people; but more than that, he had an intense hatred for one Jewish man named Mordecai. Because Mordecai wouldn’t bow the knee and give him the respect or the honor that he wanted, he planned his destruction. Haman we are told, was an Amalekite. So the same principle is in operation here as it was in Exodus. There is a really excellent book by Major Ian Thomas on the book of Esther. It is called “If I Perish I Perish.” If you ever want to get a really good book on Esther, and how it relates to the Christian life you can't do better than Major Ian Thomas’ book, and I really recommend it. Even when you get to Herod we find that he was an Edomite, which is the same ancestry. Jesus has to come before Herod and Herod wants Him to put on a miracle show. Jesus doesn't answer Herod a word and then he mocks and ridicules Christ, and sends Him back to Pilate; it says that in that day Pilate and Herod became friends. Up until this time they had been enemies. So even at the end, the Amalekite is still there at a difficult time, trying to bring Christ down.
King Saul is another example of this principle. Samuel came to him and said that God was sending him on a mission to destroy all the Amalekites. God remembers what they did to Israel when they were coming out of Egypt and Saul is told to go and wipe the Amalekites out. And God said “I don't want you to save anything,” because as far as God was concerned, everything regarding the Amalekites was corrupt. There was nothing worth saving because of that satanic principle which hates God. He also says “I even want you to wipe out the cattle.” So Saul goes to battle with Amalek but he didn’t obey God. He kept the best of the spoil and the cattle and brought them back to Samuel--- along with the king. He saw something good in what God had condemned. Samuel had to say “Look what you have done here is completely wrong, God had given you instructions and you disobeyed,” and he was rejected as king because of this failure. At the end of Saul’s life, in a battle with the Philistines, Saul is wounded and wants to die before the Philistines find him. In one account he leans on his own spear or staff, but the other account tells us that an Amalekite comes to tell David that he had thrust Saul through. He tells David that Saul had asked him to do this because he wasn’t dying quickly enough. And of all the people to be there at the end, it was an Amalekite! You can spare him but he won't spare you, he will be there at the end.
So keep this in mind, that Amalekites are the first nation to come against Israel. We always need to learn things from first principles, because God is always trying to teach how this enemy is to be overcome. So let's return to Exodus…
The way to win the battle.
(11) As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. (12) 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. (13) So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
This is the battle that cannot be won by human strength. Joshua is out there fighting but the battle is not determined by how strong Joshua is. It is determined upon other principles. When Moses is up on a hill with Aaron and Hur interceding for Joshua, it is here that the outcome of the battle is decided. When Moses has his hands up in the air, it says that the battle is being won. When he is tired and weary and his arms come down the battle goes the other way and Amalek prevails. Joshua is out there with the sword, which is probably a picture of the word of God, but his victory is determined upon something else happening. Human ability----no matter how strong, cannot overcome the flesh. People try to overcome in various ways; if I can only try to be better. If I do this and this and that, then I may gain more victory. But victory over this principle of Amalek or the flesh cannot be attained through human strength. It has to be attained by other ways.
Victory over Amalek can only be received, it cannot be attained, and it cannot be won. Moses up on the hill with his arms raised to God is a picture of prayer, worship and surrender. He is putting himself in a position where he can receive from God the ability to win this battle. It is not up to Joshua. It is a matter of Moses adopting a position where the battle can be won. This is the surrender of faith, because he is looking toward God to meet a need that he can't actually meet himself. It can only be received.
In the New Testament, Paul faced this battle. In Romans 7 this same principle is revealed; that the good that I actually want to do, I can't do, but I find another principle within me that just keeps bringing me down, bringing me captive. I don't want to sin, but I find that there are two laws operating within me. One that brings me down to failure, the law of sin and death, and one that actually wants to do God's will, but is unable to perform it. Romans: 7 tells us that Paul sees himself as a wretched man, he comes to the point where he is experiencing this as a Christian. He wants to follow God. He wants to do God's will but he finds that there is this other law within him that has no time for God, no time for His principles and he ends up doing what he doesn't want to do against his will. He is trying and trying, but the more he tries the more he fails. Victory over the flesh or Amalek cannot be attained by our efforts; it can only be received by another principle. At last he sees that victory is outside of himself. He has gone beyond himself and he is saying “Who, who is going to meet my need?” Then he goes on to say “but thanks be to God through Christ Jesus!” He also says “for the law of the spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death”. So Paul went through this very same battle and the answer really is what Colossians says “Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to walk in Him.” How did you receive Christ? You knew that there was a standard that you could not meet, it was way beyond you. You had a sin debt which you could not pay, so you looked to someone to actually meet this need for you. That someone was the Lord Jesus who paid the penalty for sin on the cross. You looked to Him to do something for you that you couldn't do of yourself, and you received by faith, it is as simple as that. You just said thank you to God for the gift of salvation. In exactly the same way that you started the Christian life by saying ‘thank you’, this is the same way that you are to continue on in your Christian life. Thank Him and look to Him to meet your need against this Amalek principle so that it does not rule in your members. A greater law has to come in to lift us above that law of sin and death.
An example: Aerodynamics versus Gravity
I work at a golf course, right next to a busy airport; planes are coming and going about 100 feet above us every day. Even though they are not big, you can’t help thinking “if something goes wrong here, I’m a gonner!” I watch planes hurtling down the runway every day, and they are a big hunk of metal and you have to ask yourself “how on earth does it get up off the ground?” But as we know, the law of aerodynamics defies the law of gravity. It is a greater power and a greater law. But let's say we were in that plane, do you think if you put your arms out the window and flapped around a little bit you would actually help that plane to fly? You would say that’s ridiculous”! But as Christians, we often try to do that in our Christian life. In this battle to ‘get off the ground spiritually’, we think that we have to do something, maybe something as stupid as flapping our arms around to try and help God. But you go and sit in that seat in the aircraft and what do you do? You put complete faith in the plane. It is designed and made in a certain way and you put your complete faith in a pilot who knows what he is doing. You have to sit down and trust someone to do something for you. So it is to God that we look, for Him to do it for us. The battle is not yours but God’s! You always have this principle in scripture; the flesh against the spirit, the bible says that they war against each other. So we need to put our simple faith in Christ Jesus to meet a need and do something for us that we cannot do ourselves, just like we did for salvation. The only one that can keep the flesh in the place of death is Christ. The flesh will not improve, it is only good for crucifixion and that is why Christ had to come and die. When you read through the New Testament you get these identification truths, that He included you not only upon the cross but He included you in His burial and in His resurrection. We need to reckon that those things that God has said are true, and then God actually does something for us. He raises us out of that problem. This is something that we will battle with all our lives…we will always have this battle. In my Christian life, I swing between the two. I have times of victory and I have times of defeat. God is saying in this first principle that it is not human ability that wins this battle, it is determined upon a principle of surrender of faith; of receiving something from God that He Himself will give to us. He is the only One that can win this battle. Just as you received Christ Jesus continue in Him.
So you see in verse 11 that when Moses held up his hands Israel prevailed and when he let down his hands Amalek prevailed.
We can’t, or won’t, win alone
Moses grew tired and weary, so he needed some help. And that really speaks of the body of Christ and how important we are to one another. When it really comes down to it, the battle over Amalek has to be faced by ourselves but encouragement is needed from people around us. Support is needed, when we are tired and weary, that is when we need others to actually encourage us, to tell us to keep on going, to help us where they can in our Christian walk. And you see this with Moses; Aaron and Hur were there with him and they held up his hands either side so that he was able to maintain a position of faith toward God. Moses’ arms outstretched are really a picture of the cross. So it is really important for the body of Christ to be there for one another just as Aaron and Hur were there for Moses. Encouragement is needed so that we can go forward in faith. We are all going to get tired and we are all going to get weary at different times. We do have however, one who intercedes for us in heaven, whose hands do not get tired. He constantly intercedes for His children and will save to the uttermost those who come unto God through Him.
Conclusion – The final deliverance
(14) 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." (15) Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. (16) He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation."
So there is going to be a day when this principle of Amalek won't be remembered. Our old man has actually been, past tense, crucified and buried and we have been raised in the risen Christ. It is something that is in the past. So, as far as God is concerned it has already been dealt with but it will not be fully dealt with until we are received into heaven, redeemed and with our new bodies. Then there will be no remembrance of this principle. God will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. There will be a day when it is not even thought of, when we are fully redeemed we won’t have this battle any more. God in these passages has shown that there is a way forward and the way is not human ability. It is simply by receiving the victory that God has already won.