- Sermon Notes
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
As we come to Exodus chapter 17, we find Israel in the desert. They were set free from slavery in Egypt; they crossed the Sea on dry land, they saw the
defeat of the Egyptian army when they tried to pursue Israel and were drowned with the Sea came rushing back over them.
They came to bitter waters and grumbled only to discover that God was Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals when He healed the bitter water and made it sweet.
They then came to Elim where there were twelve springs and seventy date palms. They camped there for some time. After they left Elim, they traveled into
the wilderness of Zin.
There they grumbled against the Lord because they had no meat, there was not enough food. But God said He would rain down bread from heaven and would test
them to see if they would walk in the instruction of the Lord.
Israel then traveled to Rephidim. Once again there was no water and they grumbled against the Lord. But again, God provided miraculously. He had Moses
strike the rock of Horeb and water came out of it that they might drink.
You see a picture of Christ in each of these places. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life, coming down out of heaven.” He said, “I am the Living Water,
come unto Me all who are thirsty.”
At Rephidim, however, they faced a different challenge; the Amalekites came and attacked them. At Rephidim Israel had their first actual battle. There
are many lessons for Israel in this story and many lessons for us as well.
I. Our Greatest Battle is Within
- God didn’t take Israel directly into the Promised Land by way of Gaza, the area of the Philistines, lest they change their minds when they see war
and return to Egypt. They were not ready to face war. They were weak in faith and weak in general.
- They needed to be transformed.They came out of Egypt where they lived as slaves. They didn’t know how to live as free men before God.
- There is transformation needed in our lives as well.Their journey through the wilderness was a school of discipleship.God is also bringing us through
a school of discipleship.
A. The flesh makes many troubles
- The battle with the Amalekites appears to be completely unprovoked. We can surmise several possible reasons, however, and they all have to do with
the desires driven by the flesh.
- They were descended from Esau and perhaps still carried a grudge that Jacob, the father of the Jews, had been chosen by God to receive the blessing
of Abraham instead of Esau their father.
- It is more likely that they believed Jacob stole that blessing and were now opposed to them as a people. They will become an adversary generation after
- The Amalekites’ might also have been concerned that more than 2 million people were crossing the desert and drinking their 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. The Amalekites, like other desert
people, would have developed cisterns, many secretly hidden.
- The Israelites appeared at Elim where there were 12 springs. When they move to Rephidim, fresh water gushes forth from the rock of Horeb. Israel is
taking the water!
Illus- Water is more valuable than oil. And we know there’s a lot of oil in that region. In Genesis we read about the area of Sodom and Gomorrah where there were many tars pits, in other words, oil — ‘black gold,’ Texas tea.’ But what do you do with oil in the desert? You need water. It’s amazing how expensive a simple bottle of water can be.I remember being at an airport looking for something to drink. I was shocked to see water was more expensive than grapefruit juice.
- The flesh has strong desires, it desires water.It craves after food.It has sexual desire. Enmity, jealousy, strife, pride, all of these are from the
flesh and cause many troubles.
- The flesh has no righteousness, it has no morality, it has no discernment.It simply wants.
Romans 7:18, For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Illus – The Amalekites were descendants of Esau and Esau was a picture of the simple, base desires of the flesh. When he came from the fields desperately hungry, he willingly traded his birthright for a bowl of stew.
- The flesh resists any attempt to control it.
Illus – This can be seen in a young child.Before they can discern right or wrong, they want what they want, and they want it now.And if you resist them, you will have a battle on your hands.
Romans 8:7, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,
B. God is doing a new work
- God was teaching Israel to trust the Lord; that He would give them what they needed.
- When they grumbled against the Lord because they had no food, God gave them manna, but just enough for each day. They must learn to walk in the instruction
of the Lord.
- When they grumbled for water, God had Moses strike the rock of Horeb with his staff that they might know that it is the Lord who provides.
- The rock of Horeb is a picture of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:4, Our fathers all did drink of the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.
App –When Christ died on the cross in our behalf, the Rock was struck! From the Rock of Christ come waters of new life.
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 the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
- This flesh is just a tent to dwell in temporarily, but while we live in this tent, we are to master over it. God is doing a new work.
C. Know when you’re weak
- Before the Amalekites brought this frontal attack, they had used a despicable method of troubling the Hebrews.They had circled around behind and picked
off the stragglers who were weak.
- This is made clear in the book of Deuteronomy…
Deuteronomy 25:17-18, Remember what Amalek 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.
- We are most vulnerable when we are spiritually weakest.
Illus – Many people struggle with their flesh when they’re driving, but I notice that when I am stressed because I’m late, that my flesh is most vulnerable.Instead of being in the Spirit, I’m convinced there is a “traffic conspiracy” against me.
- The wilderness is a school of discipleship.Israel needed to grow in their relationship to God and to learn to trust him for their every need.
- We also must grow spiritually, to gain strength in our relationship to God so we master the desires of the flesh.
Illus – At a conference in Africa, I asked several pastors what their response would be if someone said they were struggling with lustful thoughts. Would they believe that that person was filled with a demon?Indeed, they did.
But it is not a demon that causes the person to have sexual desires, just like it is not a demon that causes people to desire chocolate cake.What we need is more discipleship, to grow spiritually in the Lord, so that the Spirit within us controls.
2 Corinthians 5:14, for the love of Christ controls us…
II. Know Your Part and God’s Part
- Moses instructed Joshua to choose some men and go out and fight against the enemy.
- But what happens next in this story is critical to understand for our own spiritual victory.
- Notice that there are two aspects of this victory; there is what is happening on the battlefield, and what is happening at the top of the hill where
Moses stood with his arms lifted up and the staff of God in his hands.
A. Our part is diligence
- When they were being pursued by the Egyptian army, they panicked. They were not prepared for war, especially against one of the greatest armies in
- Moses shouted to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”
- But here, against the Amalekites, God instructs them to take up arms and stand against them. We have a part to play in our relationship to God and
our spiritual victory.
- And God is involved in all of it.
Psalm 127:1-2, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman watches in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors, for it is He who gives to His beloved even while He sleeps.
- 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 take just enough
for each day. On the Sabbath they were to trust the Lord by not going out after manna at all.
- There is a powerful aspect of faith in doing what God is asking us to do – our part.
Illus – Many years after this when Israel had settled into the Promised Land, they had a king named Saul who was instructed to destroy the Amalekites entirely, even the flocks were to be destroyed. Yet after the battle, when the prophet Samuel arrived, he asked Saul if he had done what he had been instructed to do. “Yes,” Saul answered, “I have carried out the command of the Lord.”
“What then is this bleating of sheep that I hear with my ears?” Samuel asked. “These were taken to sacrifice to the Lord,” was the answer.
1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”
- Be faithful to do what God has asked you to do, and do it with all our might…
Ecclesiastes 9:10, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
B. God’s part – He is our banner
- Here Israel learned a new name for God – He is Jehovah Nissi; God is our banner.
- Joshua’s battle plan was not enough.
- Moses went to the top of the hill and lifted up his hands to God. It was expression of God’s presence with them was the key to their victory.
- But his hands grew weary; whenever his hands fell, the Hebrews began to lose in battle.When he listed his hands again, the Hebrews gained ground against
- So Aaron and Hur came alongside of Moses and lifted up his hands while Moses sat on a rock between them.And the Hebrews saw a great victory against
the Amalekites that day.
- The hands lifted up are a picture of surrender, of giving glory and honor to God, to trust in him in prayer.
Illus – When we lift our hands in worship, we say the same.
- Learn to encourage others.We need people in our lives that will lift up our hands when we are discouraged, when we grow weary. But we also need
to be willing to be an Aaron or Hur in someone else’s life as well.
- Live a surrendered life. The staff was a picture of Moses failure, but became a symbol of God’s power.Our humility, our faith trusts in God.
Illus – Jehovah Nissi, our Banner, can be seen in the importance of the US flag to many people. It represents the power and valor of our nation… the land of the free and the home of the brave.
When we see the flag and hear the anthem, it brings tears to our eyes, even more is God our banner and our allegiance is with Him.
Exodus 17:8-16 NASB
I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and
Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his
hand down, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported
his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. 13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with
the edge of the sword.
under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; 16 and he said, “The Lordhas sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek
from generation to generation.”