Saturday, March 26, 2011

Exodus 17:1-13

1At the LORD's command, the people of Israel left the Sin Desert and moved from place to place. Eventually they came to Rephidim, but there was no water to be found there. 2So once more the people grumbled and complained to Moses. "Give us water to drink!" they demanded.
 "Quiet!" Moses replied. "Why are you arguing with me? And why are you testing the LORD?"
 3But tormented by thirst, they continued to complain, "Why did you ever take us out of Egypt? Why did you bring us here? We, our children, and our livestock will all die!"
 4Then Moses pleaded with the LORD, "What should I do with these people? They are about to stone me!"
 5The LORD said to Moses, "Take your shepherd's staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile. Then call some of the leaders of Israel and walk on ahead of the people. 6I will meet you by the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come pouring out. Then the people will be able to drink." Moses did just as he was told; and as the leaders looked on, water gushed out.
 7Moses named the place Massah--"the place of testing"--and Meribah--"the place of arguing"--because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the LORD by saying, "Is the LORD going to take care of us or not?"
 8While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek came to fight against them. 9Moses commanded Joshua, "Call the Israelites to arms, and fight the army of Amalek. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand."
 10So Joshua did what Moses had commanded. He led his men out to fight the army of Amalek. Meanwhile Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of a nearby hill. 11As long as Moses held up the staff with his hands, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites gained the upper hand. 12Moses' arms finally became too tired to hold up the staff any longer. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side, holding up his hands until sunset. 13As a result, Joshua and his troops were able to crush the army of Amalek.

Points of Interest:
• ‘Why did you ever take us out of Egypt?’—this has become a familiar question, and we’re not finished with it yet. This cycle that the Israelites are in reminds me of the saying, ‘Whoever does not learn from history is destined to repeat it.’ This proverb is supposed to mean that if we don’t learn from someone else’s mistakes, we’re dooming ourselves to make the same ones. In this passage, though, the Israelites aren’t even learning from their own mistakes. They’ve entered the testing period of their heroic journey, but they’re not passing the tests. If you fail a test, you’ve got to take it again. Until they learn to trust God to provide, they’re going to keep finding themselves in situations of scarcity.

• ‘Take your shepherd's staff’—often when Moses is overwhelmed by the problems and complaints of the people, God points him to his shepherd’s staff. It’s a reminder that Moses is the shepherd of these people; he’s responsible to lead, guide them, protect them, and provide for them. It’s also a reminder that God has supernaturally equipped him to succeed in this task.

• “Moses named the place Massah—‘the place of testing’”—perhaps the consistent complaining of the people is beginning to wear on Moses’ patience. Rather than calling it, ‘the place of miraculous water,’ Moses calls this spot, ‘the place of testing and arguing.’

• ‘Is the LORD going to take care of us or not?’—the Lord has adequately answered that question. The real question is, ‘Are you going to trust him or not?’

• ‘the warriors of Amalek came to fight’—the Amalekites were another group of nomads who inhabited the general area through which the Israelites were passing.

• ‘Moses commanded Joshua’—Moses gets some new allies, Joshua and Hur. Joshua especially becomes a very significant figure. He’s a younger protégé of Moses who ends up becoming something of a personal assistant; he also gets sent on missions that Moses can’t accomplish himself, either because of age or his other responsibilities. Joshua eventually succeeds Moses as the leader of the Israelites.

Taking it home:
For you: Do you finding yourself repeatedly in the same uncomfortable situation? Although it’s certainly not always the case, often it happens because there’s a lesson we must learn. Ask God if there’s something he’s trying to teach you and what it might be. Ask him to give you the wisdom and strength you need to move on to the next lesson.

For your six: Aaron and Hur take on the simple task of helping Moses keep his arms up, but by doing it they get to participate in an amazing miracle. Look for opportunities to ask for help from your six, particularly in ways that will give them a chance to participate in and witness God’s work.

For our church: We’ve been blessed in this church with an amazing group of leaders, but there’s always room for more. Pray for more people like Hur, who step into crucial roles at important times. And pray for Joshuas, a new generation of leaders ready to take on our call.