Victory in the Valley

This morning, I returned to my regular Chiropractor appointment and then hung out at Timberline Church, volunteering as the “Pastor on Call” for a couple of hours. Even though I slept well and long last night, I still struggled with some fatigue today. We had another good rain mid-afternoon today, which helps with the garden, but makes it a challenge to keep up on the growing grass.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. “Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill, holding the walking stick of God in my hands.”…..when Moses’ arms became tired, the men put a large rock under him, and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands—Aaron on one side and Hur on the other. They kept his hands steady until the sun went down. So Joshua defeated the Amalekites in this battle.…Then Moses built an altar and named it The Lord Is My Banner.”  Exodus 17:9,12,13 (NCV)

The Children of Israel are not far from Egypt. They have faced the challenges of nomadic life and the Lord has miraculously provided for them food and water. They then face an assault from another nomadic people known as the Amalekites. These people are descendents of Esau and were know for their ruthlessness. Deuteronomy records, “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind [typically women and children]: they had no fear of God.” (Deu. 25:17-18)

As the Children of Israel are thrown into an unexpected battle Moses goes to a mountain overlooking the conflict with the “rod of God” in his hands and lifts it up to the Lord. As long as he does, the Children of Israel are victorious, when he gets tired and drops his arms they begin to lose.

Two things have emerged over time from this account. One is the name for God, “The Lord is my Banner.” This would be like a flag nations throughout history have carried into battle. It provides, inspiration and a reminder of what they are fighting for and it is placed on conquered territory when the battle is won.

When we are faced with the conflicts of spiritual life, it is good for us to remember who we are fighting for and who is for us in the fight. When we trust in the Lord’s strength over our own, we have assurance of victory.

The other theme we see related to this account is the picture of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses arms as he hold the “rod of God.” It has come to represent a picture of “supporting the pastor” or spiritual leader in order for the battle to be won.

This analogy misses the mark. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about gifts the Lord gave the church and says, “…he made some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to go and tell the Good News, and some to have the work of caring for and teaching God’s people. Christ gave those gifts to prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving, to make the body of Christ stronger.” (Eph. 4:11,12)

I believe Moses with his arms raised is the Old Testament picture of this New Testament teaching. Moses never shot an arrow or swung a sword. That battle was being fought by the Children of Israel. Moses lifted the “name of the Lord” and the physical sign of the Lord’s power and presence of the people as they fought in the valley below.

In our modern day picture of a football game, many people view believers sitting in the stands watching the conflict on the field. Those engaged in the conflict are usually viewed as the “pastor” or those in spiritual leadership or  the uniquely gifted. Our modern day analogy would be better viewed as, the players representing committed “Christ-followers” and the spiritual leaders, the coaches who understand that they are working an authority above them.

Strong churches, like strong teams, are successful when all the “pieces come together” and each function is properly executed. Paul alludes to this when he says, “The whole body depends on Christ, and all the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part does its own work to make the whole body grow and be strong with love.” (Eph. 4:16)

God’s plan is always the “winning” plan. He is the One we are fighting for and who give us the victory over the enemies in the valleys of life that confront us.