Sometimes I will be reading scripture and come across a tiny story, tucked away in the middle of a larger story or squeezed between lists of genealogies or “laws.” I love the tiny stories in the Bible.
The big ones, too.
But the tiny ones really fascinate me. A four or five-verse story in scripture enthralls me and gets my imagination working overtime to fill in the blanks. I am often amazed at a profound idea subtly placed there. I stumbled across one such story in Exodus 17:8-13.
This is how I imagine it…
“Hmm. This doesn’t look good.” Aaron noted as he watched the battle from their perch at the top of a hill. He stroked his chin thoughtfully, then wiped the perspiration from his furrowed brow.
“What’s going on?” Moses asked. “Can you see anything?”
“Yes, a messenger is coming. I can’t really tell from here but…” Aaron’s voice trailed off as the messenger came within earshot and began shouting breathlessly,
“The enemy… the enemy prevails!”
The children of Israel had just left Egypt and were making their way toward the Promised Land. They did not have the Ten Commandments yet and after 400 years in Egypt - and what they felt was silence from God, their faith was newly rekindled and untested by this generation. It was at this point that they came under attack by the Amalekites. This was the first battle that they would have to face, and they had no idea what God might do for them – if anything at all!
“We must pray!” Moses shouts as he lifts his arms toward heaven and begins to petition God for victory. Soon the tide turns in the Israelites’ favor and they begin to feel that they might win after all. With great relief, Moses, Aaron and Hur sit back to watch and wait.
– But the Israelites are again overcome by the enemy!
Again Moses lifts his hands in prayer and again the Israelites begin to attain a victory. Suddenly the men look at each other in surprise as they realize that as long as Moses is praying they are winning, but when he stops the enemy prevails!
Moses determines to pray until the Israelites have won a sound victory.
As he continues in prayer, the minutes seem to last an eternity. It is not long before his arms feel like blocks of lead and the tingling sensation makes him feel as though he were being pricked by a million sewing needles starting in his fingers and radiating down through his arms… his neck… his back… Moses becomes weary.
What difference would it make if he just gave up? he wonders. He struggles to pray, and even to remain awake yet, by shear will power, he continues.
Aaron and Hur can see that this is something that Moses must do – they cannot do it for him – but they look for a way to help. They find a large rock and set Moses down on it. Standing on either side of him, they prop up his arms against their own bodies to hold them up.
As the eternal minutes turn into tortured hours – hours of numbness, weariness, and pain, the three men remain steadfast in their determination to pray until the Israelites could claim a victory.
Finally, as sunset approached, the last messenger came shouting, “The enemy retreats in defeat!” Aaron and Hur sat down for the first time in hours, and Moses attempted to unfold his seized muscles and release the pain and tension in his back – a pain that lasted several days, reminding him with each movement that God granted them the victory because he remained faithful in prayer.
This story made me think of this quote:
“Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the mood it was made in has passed.”
There are many times throughout our lives when we find that we must choose to remain steadfast to a commitment even though it feels really hard – even impossible at times. Marriages, parenting, jobs, and other relationships offer the choice to be faithful or give up. God extends encouragement as we face these opportunities,
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal.6:9)
Whatever struggle that you may be facing in your life, remember this – God is with you, and He is saying, “Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up…”
“The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 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.’ So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 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 ‘til sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” Ex.17:8-13