The Battle Belongs to the Lord
January 6, 2019
Do you like things new like New Year? See, for me, I love the New Year because it's like opportunity, like what is God going to do this year. I love new things. When we think about New Year, oftentimes of course, we make New Year's resolutions. I mentioned this Wednesday that typically our New Year's resolutions oftentimes have something to do with our physical being.
In other words, like we're going to lose some weight. "This year for sure, I'm going to lose that 20 pounds I've been meaning to lose for five years. This year I mean it," or "I'm going to work out. This year, I mean it. I'm going to work out. I'm going to get to the gym, I'm going to do it this year." Oftentimes, it's like that, or "I'm going to get organized. This year for sure, I'm going to get organized."
The thing is, the soul is the most important part about us. If we want to set goals, to me, spiritual goals are the most important things we can set because these bodies of ours, though it's good to lose weight. It's good to go to the gym. I have no problem with that. That's good but these bodies of ours, we're not taking with us. We are leaving them behind. Amen to that.
Well, you got to take care of it. Well, you got to take care of it, but the soul you are taking. You're taking your soul with you to heaven. That makes it the most important part of you. Therefore, what we do in the soul, the strengthening that God wants to do in the soul, in the inner man, is the key to what God would do for us this year. I'm convinced we need to draw nearer and grow stronger in our faith.
He tells us the key. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. We need to grow deeper in the word and so I'm thankful for the commitment that verse by verse, chapter by chapter, we're going to have God's Word to speak life and draw nearer to the Lord this year. Amen. Let's get into His word as we go. Through God uses the word to show us things about ourselves.
When we look at what God is doing in the history of Israel, there's a lot to apply for our own lives as well because He is transitioning, He's transforming them, they got to change. They got to move from what they were. He brought them out of Egypt as slaves, but they've got to change. That mentality that they had in their lives is going to impact them all their lives unless something changes.
Really, this is a story that we're going to look at about God and what he would do to bring about that transformation in our lives. In Exodus 17, we get to this point, Israel is now in the desert, they've been set free from their slavery. One of the greatest miracles of the Old Testament, they crossed through the sea on dry land, one of the greatest miracles. Then, the Egyptian army was destroyed when they pursued after them and the sea rushed over them and drowned them.
Then, after that, they were in the desert, they were in the wilderness, they were thirsty and they found water but it was bitter water. They started grumbling against the Lord, but that's when they discovered a new name for God. He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals as He healed that bitter water and made it sweet. There's a message to it. That tells us that they came to Elim where there were 12 springs and 70 date palms.
It's like His picture of rest and restore and refresh, the big picture. They stayed there for some time, but God continued to move them. Then, they travelled into the Wilderness of Sin. They're getting nearer and nearer, they're heading towards Mount Sinai, a great event where God is going to give them the law. They travel into the Wilderness of Sin and there, they grumble against the Lord because there was not enough food.
God then did one of the great miracles of the Old Testament, becomes the theme when he gave them manna. Manna was like a flake-like, bread-like substance that they would go out every morning. It felt like dough. They would go and bring it in and they could bake it or boil it or cook it in various different ways. It was sweet. It was God's provision, a miracle every day. That's the God's provision for them, manna.
He said it tasted sweet and like coriander seed. It's like Krispy Kreme doughnuts but good for you, really tasty, flavorful, you'll long for it. Then, they came travelling farther. Once again, there was no water. They grumbled against the Lord testing. It says they tested the Lord, "Is God with us or not?" Again, God provided miraculously as Moses was instructed to take his staff and to strike the rock and then when he struck the rock, then it burst forth and came forth with fresh water, fresh living water.
Now, this is important because in each of these events, he's showing us Jesus Christ and the provision of God in answering their needs. See? Because it's not just about water, it's not just about bread, it's about what God is doing. It's about picture of Christ Jesus that, "I am the bread of life coming down out of heaven." Then He said, "I am the living water. Come unto me all who are thirsty," because He's speaking to the need, not just of the need for water, bread, of the soul.
The soul has great longing and great need. Then, they come to Rephidim. Rephidim, they face a completely different challenge, they are attacked. The Amalekite people came out in a frontal attack against them. Here, Israel has their first banner, but here, they learn a new name of God and a new provision for what God would do in their lives. That's a great lesson for us. Let's read it.
Exodus 17, we start in verse 8. We'll cover the other verses Wednesday at our verse-by-verse study. Verse 8, Amalek came, fought against Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua-- This is the first time we meet Joshua. He will play significantly into the history in the story of Israel and in many ways, he's a picture of Jesus Christ himself. In fact, his name is exactly the same name, Jesus and Joshua have the same name, one's Hebrew, one's Greek.
We've kind of Englified it, Englishified it. That's a new word, I made that up. We've Englishified it because in the Greek, his name is Iēsous. We made it Jesus, but it's almost a transliteration. His name in the Hebrew-- Now remember, Hebrew has no J, so it would be Yah, so Yahshua is his literal name in the Hebrew. You've heard the expression likely, Yahshua Ha Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, that literally is Joshua the Messiah.
It's a picture of Jesus Christ. We'll hear more about Joshua as we read through the story. Moses said that Joshua, "Now, choose men for us. Go out, fight against Amalek. For tomorrow, I will station myself at the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." Joshua did as Moses told him and he fought against Amalek and Moses and Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.
It came about that when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. There's a point to this. It's not just the hand. There's nothing magical about the hand, something God is doing which we'll see. Moses' hands became heavy and they took a stone and put it under him. He's hand- he's had Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, one on the other, thus his hands were steady until the sun set.
Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write this down." We're glad he did. That's why we have what we're having to read now. Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Moses built an altar there and he named it Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord is my banner.
He said, "The Lord had sworn it. The Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation." We know this is true in the history of Israel. We know that in fact it was true. The new name is established over them. He is our banner. It's a very powerful story in the history of Israel, a lot of lessons for us to learn. We have to recognize that it's about transformation.
God is doing a work now, transforming Israel from the slaves that they were into a people that going to walk with God and have faith and to begin to live as men who are free in God. This is important because when we are saved, we come out of the world and we bring a lot of the world with us. The key now is to understand that God doesn't want to leave you in the condition in which He found you, He wants to transform and the work is done inside.
I. Our Greatest Battle is Within
See, this is important to recognize, what God is doing because the greatest battle is, in fact, within. The greatest battle. There's a lot of external things and external problems and things we face, but inside, the greatest battle is within. It tells us a lot's needed to be changed here with Israel. One of the things that we see right away, He did not take them right from Egypt right directly into the Holy Land. There is a straight path. There's actually a highway. They could have taken right to the Holy Land, but they would have encountered the Philistines and immediately face war.
They were not ready for war. They were weak in faith and they were weak in general. There's a lot that God would have to do in them. They need to be transformed. They came out as slaves. They need to learn to live as men of faith. Us too, we need transforming and it's the wilderness experience for them that becomes the school of discipleship. For us, we're in a school of discipleship too. The experiences of life, the ups and downs, the struggles, the troubles, the challenges.
A. The flesh makes many troubles
God uses those things as a school of discipleship. To do what? To transform us from the inside because the greatest problem and the greatest battle is internal, inside. This flesh of ours gives us fits. In fact, let's just say it straight up, the flesh makes many troubles and there's a work that God needs to do. Because you can see the problem also.
In the Amalek people, the Amalekite people, the problem can be sorted right from their history. Why are they doing this? This is a completely unprovoked attack. There is no reason to attack Israel unless we understand something. They're related. The Amalek people and Israel are like cousins. They are the descendants of Esau, Israel being the descendants of Jacob, Esau and Jacob were twins, remember? Esau was born first making him the oldest even by a few minutes, but nevertheless, typically, the oldest would be the patriarch, he would be the inheritor of the wealth and the power of the father, but God made a prophesy. While they were in the womb, that the older would serve the younger and that the younger would be the one of power and the blessings of Abraham would flow through him.
Now, the descendants of Esau, the Amalekite people, they attack Israel, unprovoked. Were they carrying a grudge? Grudges are of the flesh, the problem's inside. Carrying a grudge that their father had been chosen instead of Esau. More likely, they believed Jacob stole the blessing, you stole it and now they're going to be an adversary. In fact, we know in the history of Israel, they became an adversary, generation after generation. Then also, they may well have been concerned that this large group of people, perhaps two million plus are going to the desert taking their water. What are you doing, invading our land, taking our water? The flesh has strong desires and thirst is one of them.
The only way to survive in the desert is to master the water. I remember several trips back when we were in Israel. We're going again this September and we've gone many times, but I remember one trip. We went out into the desert. We took the whole group out and it was a great experience because you can really get a sense of what it would be like travelling year by year in the desert. Often times, they would travel through Al Wadi. Al Wadi is a dry river bed, and they pointed out to us, there're these cisterns, these hidden secret places where there's water. You've got to understand the mastery of the water.
You can be sure that they're concerned. Here comes Israel. They go to Elim where there are 12 springs and they take the water, then they go into the Wilderness of Sin, and somehow someway, water comes out of the rock. They're taking the water. Water is more valuable than oil. Did you know that? When you get a bottle of water, you're paying more for that water than you're paying for gasoline. We know there's a lot of oil in that region. We know that as a fact, right? In fact, it told us in the book of Genesis, that up in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah, around the area of the Dead Sea, it says that there were many tar pits. In other words, there was oil. Black gold, Texas tea.
Who knows where that's from?
Okay, you're old. That's what I can say.
What are you going to do with oil in the desert? For them, they need water. It's amazing how expensive water can be. I remember I was in the airport one time, I needed something to drink, of course everything is expensive in the airport but I was shocked because the bottle of water was something like, I don't know, $2.50 and next to it was grape fruit juice like $1.89. I'm thinking, wait just a minute here, there's a lot more involved in making grape fruit juice but water so expensive. The craving of water.
See, to the desert, and water are a great picture because there's a longing. It's not just about water, that's not the point. There's more, it's about the craving and the flesh has many cravings. It craves water, it craves food, it has sexual desires but also enmity, jealousy, strife, pride. All of these things come from flesh. And all of these things cause many troubles in our lives. The need is to be changed on the inside.
See, the flesh has no righteousness. The flesh has no morality, the flesh has no discernment. It just wants, it wants what it wants. Romans 7:18, Paul says the same thing, ''I know that nothing good dwells in me that is in my flesh, for the willing is present but the doing of good is not.'' The Amalekites are descendants from Esau, Esau, I tell you is a picture of the simple-based desires of life. Just want, me want. Remember the story, right? Esau was an outdoors man and Jacob was more of a mamma's boy, literally, actually stayed in the house, right?
Esau is out in the fields all day, he had been out hunting. He comes back at the end of the day famished. See, the drive of the flesh, there's no discernment, there's no morality, just wants. Me want. He sees Jacob, he's making this stew, it's a red stew. You can imagine you're famished, it smells delicious and so he comes in and he says, ''Give me some of that red stew there.'' Jacob says to him, ''Sell me your birthright for it.'' Your birthright for a bowl of stew? That doesn't compute. That's not right. That's not a fair exchange, but Esau says, ''What good is my birthright if I die of starvation.'' Which is a complete exaggeration, but Jacob presses it further and says, ''Swear it, swear it,'' and he did.
He swore it and gave away his birthright for a bowl of stew. Do you know how many people give away their birthright of what God wants to do over a bowl of stew? I mean that in a spiritual analogy. When you think about what people give up for the little that they gain, the flesh, I tell you gives us many fits, it gives us many troubles and the flesh will resist any attempt to control it. It will resist any attempt to control it. All you have got to do is look at a young child, before a child can discern wrong or right, you can see in them that they simply want, they just want, they want what they want and they want it now.
''I want the chocolate boat, daddy, and I want it now.'' That's like a spoiled child of the flesh. Just want. That's what Paul is referring to in Romans 8:7, "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile toward God." It doesn't subject itself to the law of God. It's not even able to do so. What we see then is that God is doing a new work. God is doing something about the need to be transformed in the inner man, God's doing something.
B. God is doing a new work
He's doing a new work. He's teaching Israel to trust God, that He would meet their need. The cravings of the soul, the cravings of life, let God meet them. When they grumbled against God because they had no food, He gave the manna but just enough for each day, that they would have to trust God every day, that they would walk after God for their daily sustenance. The cravings, the desires, let God meet them.
When they grumbled for water, God had Moses strike the rock with his staff and water gushed forth that they might know that God is the one that will meet your need. Bread is not about water, it's about God meeting the need. That's why Moses said to Israel later in Deuteronomy, "God gave you bread, manna in the desert, that you might know that man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." It's not about the bread, just like it's not about the water, it's about what God is doing.
It's like when Jesus came to the woman at the well and He said to her, "If you knew who asked you for water, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water. For whoever has living water will never thirst, it will spring up in his soul to eternal life. She said, "Give me this water that I might not thirst again and come back to this well to draw, give me this water." Here's an answer, I just think this is an amazing response. She says, "Give me this water, Sir." He responds, "Okay, go get your husband."
Now, that to me, is a very strange response. "Give me this water, sir." He says, "Go get your husband." She said, "I don't have a husband." He answered, "You have rightly said that you have no husband, for in fact, you had five husbands and the man you are now with is not your husband." She said, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet." She then heard Him as He began to speak about the Spirit and life, the spirit of truth, he who worships in Spirit and truth, God is the one who transforms the soul and He began to speak to her life.
It's not about the water, it's about what God is doing. For that water is in fact Christ Himself. Paul said it exactly so in 1 Corinthians 10:4, "Our Fathers all did drink--" Listen to this verse, "Our Fathers all did drink of the same spiritual rock. For the drink of that spiritual rock that followed them and that rock was Christ." When Christ died on the cross, He was struck, you could say, for us.
That rock brings forth newness of life. We can now live. Jesus says, "I've come that you have life and have it abundantly to the full." We crave, we have so much desire, there's something missing in the soul. "I've come that you have life. I will satisfy the deepest longing of your life, the deepest desires of your soul. I've come that you have life but you'll find that life in God's provision."
Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in this flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." That is a great verse right there. See, this flesh, it gives us so much fits. This flesh is just a temporary tent to dwell in, but while we're in this tent, we must master over it. God is doing something about it. He's doing a new work. Therefore, we need to understand the condition of our soul. Like, what's the condition of your soul? It's important to recognize because it's part of the story.
C. Know when you’re weak
See, you need to know when you're weak. We need to recognize and know when you're weak. See, before the Amalekites brought this frontal attack, we understand from the book of Deuteronomy that they actually use a despicable method of troubling the Hebrews. What they did was this, they circled around behind and they picked off the stragglers that were weak, just picking them off, picking them off, picking them off, troubling, troubling, troubling, picking them off, picking them up.
We know this right out of Deuteronomy 25:17-18. He said, "Now remember what Amalek did. What he did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt. How he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God like you should have. That's an interesting part of the story. When people are weak, they're vulnerable to the enemy picking them off. When they straggle behind, they're vulnerable to the enemy picking them off.
See, we got to recognize the importance of strength and our faith, our relationship, because our flesh can make us weak spiritually. When your flesh for example is tired, if you're tired, you're maybe a hungry or angry or whatever the word is, your flesh, it's easier to start getting irritated in the flesh. You're weak, your flesh can start having trouble. Given your fits, gives you trouble.
I remember when I was younger, I'm getting older so I hope I'm learning this lesson but when I was older, I tried to fit so much in the day that I was often running from thing to thing to thing and I was often late because I had a good reason. I was trying to fit many things into my day and I'm late and as I'm late, now I'm driving stressed, which makes the flesh weak and vulnerable and you get more irritated when people start doing stuff in traffic.
Are you with me on this one? I started thinking, "You know what? There is a traffic conspiracy because when I'm in this lane, it's the slow lane and everybody they're going faster in that lane." I think, "Okay, I'll get over there in that lane." As soon as I get over there in that lane, that's the lane that slows down and that lane starts going faster. Has this ever happened to you? I'll tell you there's a traffic conspiracy, but you start getting irritated.
If you're tired, you're weak, you're not eating or you're sick, you start saying things you should not say to the people that you love, you should not say because you're weak, and so the enemy, it's easy to pick you off. The wilderness is a school of discipleship, they needed to learn, we need to learn, we need to learn. We need to grow spiritually. We need to gain strength to master the desires, the cravings, and the longings of the soul.
I remember I was at a conference in Africa, it was a pastor's conference and we had opened it up to the pastors of the community. We at one point had a question-and-answer session and we were answering different questions and I decided at one point to pose a question to them. I said, "If someone came to you, and they said that they were struggling with lustful thoughts, that's a weakness of the flesh and they're struggling with lustful thoughts." I said, "Would you believe that that person was filled with the demon? Would you blame that on a demon filling them, the demon of lust?" Many of them said, "Yes."
This is a very common thinking. This is a very common thing in Africa. "Yes," but I said, "It's not a demon that causes a person to have sexual desires. Just like it's not a demon that causes a person to desire chocolate cake or vanilla ice cream. The problem is the flesh, the cravings and the desires." What we need is to grow in the Spirit, to grow spiritually, the inner man within needs to be strengthened that in that strength, it masters the flesh. That's the transformation, that's the work of transformation.
II. Know Your Part and God’s Part
2 Corinthians 5:14 says, "The love of Christ controls us, compels us. You grow closer to the Lord, the Holy Spirit begins to move in power in your life. We need to grow. Then we got to see this part in the story of Exodus 17, know your part and God's part. Your part, God's part. Moses instructed Joshua to choose the men, go out and fight against them, but what happens in the story is critical because there are two aspects to the victory. There's what's happening on the battlefield and there's what's happening on the top of the hill where Moses stood with his arms lifted up and his staff in his hand.
A. Our part is diligence
There's two things happening and both are critical to understand. Our part, God's part. Our part is diligence. Now, what's interesting is that God is doing something different here. He did not bring them up straight into the area of the Promised Land to the Philistines because they would have encountered war. They're not ready for war. They’re weak in general and they're weak in faith.
Then the Egyptian army comes out to pursue them. A Dixie cloud of dust approaching as the mass of one of the greatest armies of the world is now bearing down on them. God does something interesting. He does something different here than He did back there. See, they saw the army of Egypt, the people panicked. Moses shouted, “Don't fear. Do not fear. Stand by and watch. See the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent. You will do nothing. God will do it all.”
That's what He did with that, but now He's doing something different here against the Amalekites, Amalekites God instructs them to take up arms. Take their stand. You be involved. We have a part to play in our relationship to God and in our spiritual victory, but God is involved in all of it. Can I give you a verse? I tell you it's one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Actually, it's two versus but they show us our part and God's part and you can't separate them, our part, God’s part.
Psalm 127:1-2, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” This really a great verse, because it shows us both, our part, God's part. Unless the Lord's involved in it, unless the Lord's blessing it, unless the Lord’s over it, it's in vain. Goes on. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman watches in vain. Put a watchman on the wall. Put a watchman on the wall. Have them watch over the city, but unless the Lord's guarding that city, won't help.
Do it, put a watchman. You can't just say, “Well, I guess the Lord’s watching, so no need for a watchman." No, put a watchman on the wall. Your part. Watch, but believe that God is part of the thing. See, because He'd been- He has His verse, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread painful labor’s, for it is He who gives to His beloved even while he sleeps.” I love that verse. If there are people who would say, “I'm going to do this thing. I'm going to do it on my own. I'm going to get up early. I get up earlier than anyone. I will do this thing.”
God says, vain. “I will work so long. I will work all day long. I will retire late. I will work longer and harder than anyone.” God says, vain. "I will eat the bread of painful labors, I will survive. I will pull this up by my own bootstraps. I am the man.” God says, vain, vain. Unless the Lord builds it, unless the Lord does it, it’s in vain. Don't you know He says, "It is He who gives to His beloved even while he sleeps"? God's at work blessing your life while you're sleeping. You're going to discount God's hand in your life, must not.
The key, our part, God’s part. God was the provider of their daily manna, but they had to walk in the instruction of the Lord. They had to go out each morning and bring in just enough for that day. Their part. On the Sabbath, they were not to go out at all. Get a double portion a day before. Trust me. I provide. I provide. All your work, all your efforts will come to naught without me.
There's an aspect of faith in doing what God asked you to do. Your part. It's like many years after this. Okay, there's a story. Israel is now settled into the Promised Land. They had King Saul over them and King Saul had been instructed by Samuel the prophet to destroy the Amalekites, same people. Destroy the Amalekites completely even the flocks were to be destroyed. After the battle, the Prophet Samuel comes and says to Saul, “Did you do what God instructed you to do?” He said, “Yes, I have carried out the command of the Lord.”
Samuel said, “Well, what then is this bleating of sheep that I hear my ears?” "Oh, those sheep? Those sheep, you're talking about those sheep. Well, you see those sheep, I decided to keep those sheep separate.” “Why would you do that? That's not what God said. God said even the sheep are to be destroyed. Why did you do that?” “Well, I did it because I want to offer God a sacrifice.” See, how you put honorable thing to it. Then we learned this great lesson. This is a spiritual lesson.
1 Samuel 15:22. Listen to this lesson because it's so powerful. “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying? Obey the voice of the Lord. Behold, it is better to obey, is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fatter rams." Be faithful, your part, be faithful to what God asks you to do. In Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, your part."
B. God’s part – He is our banner
Don't for one moment think that you are pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, because that is vain. Your part is diligence. That's for sure. God's part is He is Jehovah-Nissi. He is our Banner. Joshua's battle plan is not enough. Moses goes to the top of hill. He lifts his hands to God. It's an expression of dependence to worship, a prayer. God was with him. His hands will grow weary. How long can you hold your hands?
See, Moses is not fighting. Moses is not striking with the sword. He's holding his hands. It's an expression of need, humility, of honor to God. How long can you do it? How long can I do it? You get tired. You grow weary. The flesh grows weary. They help him. They've found a rock and then Aaron and Hur came and they helped him. It's a great picture of this, but the picture is that of God being Jehovah-Nissi. When his hands were lifted up, Joshua and Israel prevailed. If he put his hands down, it was an expression of not trusting, no longer needing God and Amalek prevailed. We need God, put their heads back up, its expression of prayers and expression of God's presence. He's our Jehovah-Nissi.
It means God is our banner, banner might be compared to like a flag. The flag of the United States represents the nation, the power of the nation, the valor, the character. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of respect for the flag. We stand when the flag, we put our hands over our hearts. Say the pledge of allegiance to the flag. It's inspiring. We sing that song, The Star-Spangled Banner. It's very inspiring.
Even the song is inspiring. "Oh, the rockets’ red glare. The bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave or the land of the free and the home of the brave," so inspiring. Then the jets fly over. [growls]
[laughter] There's power, but God is our banner. How much more should that inspire when we recognize that He is the banner over us and His banner over us is love? It's God's part to watch over, to bless. God's hand on our lives is what we need. It's the relationship of faith that strengthens us and helps us to understand how to walk this life. We need to understand it. God is transforming us, and part of that transforming is to understand that we've got to have God involved in all things that we're doing. We need His blessing. We need His hand. We need Jehovah-Nissi.