Exodus 17:8-16. 8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 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.” 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. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 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. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Let’s face it life has been really hard for the Israelites in Exodus so far. Not only in Egypt, but even now in their freedom they are still facing trial after trial. Hunger. Thirst. And now an attack by a group of people that seem to have a real big problem with these wandering Hebrews. The Amelekites are the descendants of Esau. The Israelites are the descendants of Jacob. This little tribal battle, one that in the big picture of world history wouldn’t even make it into your textbook, is part of a much larger spiritual war.
Suddenly this group of ex-slaves has to become a group of warriors.
Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s your life as a Christian.
You went from being a slave to sin to glorious freedom in Christ. But in that freedom God brought you smack dab into the middle of a spiritual war. A war that can feel like something you are in no way ready for. A war full of all kinds of sneak attacks while you’re just minding your own business drinking your rock water.
And so Joshua runs into battle while Moses holds up the banner of Yahweh. A banner, or flag, would serve as an army’s identity. Their glory. Their hope. The nuance of this story is that it is the staff of God’s judgment which becomes their banner. Their identity. Their hope. The staff? The same staff that was raised against the Egyptians in judgment. The same staff that sent the Red Sea crashing down on Pharaoh’s army. Moses raises that staff of judgment as a banner of love over the people.
“If this man should fall who will lift the flag and carry on?” Christ lifted the flag and carried on, racing into the battle of judgment for us.
This last half of Exodus 17 is a story of judgment just like the first half of this chapter was a story of judgment. Exodus 17:8-16 is a story of the judgment of God’s enemies and Israel’s enemies. It is a love story in the middle of a war story. A story that proves that God will not lose and he will not let his people lose. Why? Because he loves them. He loves them so much he would take their place in judgment. In Exodus 17:1-7, God would allow himself to first be judged in their place. Stricken and poured out for them so that he could then be poured out against all that would harm them.
God first judged Israel by allowing himself to be judged on the rock in their place. Our story in Christ is no different. Christ our Moses held up the banner of God’s loving judgment for us. And just like Moses, Jesus did so wearily. Moses’ arms were held up by Aaron and Hur. Christ’s arms were held up by nails on a cross. If his arms stay up God wins. Christ our Joshua (literally Jesus and Joshua are the same name) ran into battle for us against our enemies – sin, death, Satan. As long as Moses’ arms stay up he wins. As long as Jesus’ dies on that cross he wins. And we win with him as those who are in Christ.
Exodus 17 is a glorious picture of our salvation in the cross of Christ. God judged in our place on the rock. God’s judgment of our enemies and God’s victory in his own defeat. Now we stand already judged. Justified. Declared innocent. Set free by faith in the propitiating work of God through Christ on the cross. Now he can judge Israel’s enemies without having to destroy his own people. And he can judge your enemies without having to destroy you. Praise God.
“To live is Christ” is to live under the banner of God’s judgment. His judgment is no longer our greatest fear it is our banner of love. It is now our glorious identity. He was judged in our place. Now we can follow Joshua into battle as slave warriors. With Yahweh our Banner we can fight against the army of evil knowing that evil has been gloriously put to death in our own lives forever by our life giving union with Christ.