In Exodus 17 we have some important introductions to people who will feature in the larger story of the Bible.
In verse 9, we encounter the first mention of Joshua, the man who will one day become Moses’ successor. Whereas Moses, who represents the Law of God, escorts the children of Israel for forty years through the wilderness to the border of the Promised Land, he is not able to bring them in. The Law can point to the Inheritance but cannot bring you into it. That deed is for another to accomplish. Joshua, who represents God’s provision of A Savior, will be the one who leads the people of God into the Promised Land, The names of ‘Joshua’ and ‘Jesus- Yeshua’, are essentially the same in Hebrew, meaning ‘God saves’, ‘God is Savior’ or ‘Yahweh is salvation’, ‘God to the rescue’).
The Holy Spirit sovereignly inspires the writer to record the journey of the Israelites so that we can draw many lessons from it. We recognize the consistent patterns and typology. (As mentioned above, Moses represents the ministry of the law and Joshua the ministry of Another (Jesus) who would uphold the Law and be both willing and able to lead God’s people into their Promised Inheritance!) More is to come on Joshua. Keep your eye on that young man!
In verse 8, we are introduced to the role of the Amalekites as representing those who continually assault God’s people, particularly those who are weaker, isolated, and vulnerable. The Amalekites will represent the forces that afflict God’s people, enemies that war against the soul– the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Although Amalek is first mentioned in Genesis 36:12 as the son of Eliphaz by his concubine Timna, making him the grandson of Esau, it is not until we get to Exodus 17 that we see the sons of Amalek as active enemies of Israel. Agag was a descendant of Amalek and Agag became a dynastic name of the kings of Amalek. We see their hatred for the Jews come to full manifestation with Haman, the Agagite, in the Book of Esther. Haman is the man who authored the decree to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire during the reign of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I).
The Hebrew historian. Flavius Josephus, (in Book 12, Chapter 8) tells us that Herod the Great was an Idumean, making him also a descendant of Esau. Herod ordered the death of all the baby boys that were thought to be a potential Messiah, King of the Jews. The Lord tells God’s people to “Remember Amalek”. There are lessons for us here. Not only are we to be on guard from anti-Semitic attacks, but also the Amalek-like enemies that war with our souls and could catch us off guard.
Exodus 17:14-16 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “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.” 15 Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner; 16 and he said, “The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”
Deuteronomy 25:17-19 17 “Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18 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. 19 “Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.
The Lord will not make peace with the flesh (our Adamic sin nature). He has judged it as unfit for the kingdom of God and will put it to death at the cross. So we must learn to mortify (put to death) the deeds of the flesh and cooperate with the Holy Spirit who opposes it and enables us to stand in the victory Christ has already won on our behalf (Galatians 5:16-17).
THE LONGEST WAR IN HUMAN HISTORY?
When Amalek attacks the Israelites, Moses delegates the authority and responsibility to Joshua to choose the fighting men who would go against them. This shows that Moses had come to trust Joshua’s judgment. It also reflects the role of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, who executes the Father’s plan in the valley of space-time history.
But Moses is pictured as having an important role to play in the battle also. He was to station himself on the top of the hill overseeing the battle. The Law would have to be upheld if the battle is to be won.
His hands would have to be lifted to the heavens, a picture of his receiving the grace of the Lord to prevail against the enemy. “Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory!”
Moses was weak as a human intercessor. However, he received three-fold-support:
- A stone to sit on (the intercession of Christ our Rock, who ever lives to make intercession for us- Hebrews 7:25)
- He needed his brother (Aaron) to uphold one hand (we need the intercessory support of the church, our brothers, and sisters).
- He needed Hur (a companion of Moses whose name means whiteness, a good type of the Holy Spirit) to hold up the other hand. We need the intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:26-27 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Exodus 17:11 11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.
The good news is that at the end of the day Joshua and his men overwhelmed the Amalekites. But there would be future battles to face. The Lord’s war with Amalek has been the longest war in human history. It lasts “from generation to generation.”
We see that Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, and a priest of Midian, responds to the good news that Moses brings — the God of the Hebrews has vindicated His promise to Moses and delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians!
Exodus 18 verses 10-12 record Jethro recognizing the superiority of the God of Moses to the tribal gods of the middle east. He demonstrates his faith by eating a covenant meal “before God”.
Exodus 18:11-12. 11 “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.
Not long after this conversion, Moses’ father-in-law has wise counsel for his son in law who has been appointed by God to serve as the spiritual and civic leader of the nation of Israel. He functions as the sole judge and arbiter for the people. Jethro sees how this burden is too much for one man. Jethro recommends that it is possible, with proper spiritual discernment, to select people of good character, who are trained in the ways of the Lord and are familiar with the teachings of Moses and give them the responsibility to attend to cases appropriate to their competency. Some could judge thousands, some hundreds, some fifties and tens.
Today a quorum of ten men gathering in Judaism for prayer or for forming a synagogue is called a minyan.
Moses still was God’s point person and maintained his accountability before God all of his life as a leader, but he implemented this pastoral system for effective ministry through healthy delegation and communication. Delegation- Train and deploy able leaders. Communication-Jesus demanded an account from his disciples (Mark 6:30). Appropriate ongoing feedback is needed for the system to work.
To whom are you accountable in your spiritual community? Are you part of a minyan, a group of fifty, a hundred? Do you realize that the leaders of these delegations are accountable to God for you? (Hebrews 13:17).
Moses adopted what is called The Jethro Principle of Delegation: A decimal system of pastoral and judicial care. The Praying Indians used this system as a pastoral model for their praying villages. One of the prominent Indians from Musketequid (the original name of Concord, Massachusetts) was given the Christian name of Jethro. The famous tree, where the town of Concord was purchased, was named after him.
APPOINTMENT AT SINAI
An important scene is coming up. God is about to establish a covenant with his people at Mt. Sinai. Notice the recurring reference to the number ‘three’ in these episodes- three days journey, in the third month from the day of the Exodus, and prepare for the third day. Three is a number symbolizing the transition from death to life.
Exodus 19:1 1 In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
The Lord calls Moses from the top of the mountain. He intends to make a covenant with His people. We see how the Mosaic covenant is only fulfilled by Christ, and the ones who become the kingdom of priests unto Him are those who believe God’s Word about Him.
Exodus 19:5-6 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Israel as a nation never gave God the obedience He required. But in Jesus, we see the true Israel, “one who is ruled by God” the true vine, the true planting of the Lord. So the Apostle Peter explains that it is by coming to Jesus that we are born again and come to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
1 Peter 2:4, 9 4 And coming to Him … you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
We will see how God’s invitation to take part in a universal priesthood in the nation of Israel is rescinded through disobedience. Intended originally for all twelve, it will become restricted to one tribe, the Levites, due to their obedience in Exodus 32. But there will be disobedience among the Levites, and the priestly privileges will diminish until there is only one Mediator between God and man, the God-man, Jesus Christ fulfills the requirements of the Law on our behalf.
I am sure that the overconfidence of the people to profess faithfulness to the Law of God would haunt them for the remaining 39 years and 9 months.
Exodus 19:8 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.
We have a dramatic preparation for God’s self-revelation at Sinai. The Lord has promised to come down. He desires a relationship with His creation. He has called Israel for His choice purpose to be blessed among humanity and to bring blessing to all humanity through the Messiah.
The scene closes with the people being reminded of God’s holiness. You cannot go out of bounds. You cannot go up the mountain anytime or any way you feel you would like to. He is not a cuddly god. He is not in the trees or the mountains. He is the Maker of the trees and mountains. He is above the mountain and comes down to the mountain. He is God. You cannot approach Him on your own terms. As we shall see, a violation of God’s command means death. “Prepare yourself for the third day” is the prophetic call to consecration and the prophetic yearning of our hearts for Christ, the heavenly Lawgiver, who saves us to become the Law-keeper in our hearts.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Matthew 22:34-23:12
LIFE’S MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION: ONE THAT SILENCES THE OPPONENTS; HOW WILL YOU ANSWER?
The New Testament reading goes along well with our reading of the Old Testament. A so-called expert in the law of Moses sets out to test Jesus’ understanding of the Law. Jesus is able to summarize the 613 commandments of the Torah, which summarizes the 10 commandments also.
Matthew 22:37-39 37 And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Jesus is right. A perfect love for God will lead to a perfect love for those whom He created in His image. We are to love those whom He puts before us. We are to treat our neighbor as we would want to be treated.
But Jesus does not leave it there. He turns to the experts in the law and asks them a central question that needs to be understood if you want to understand the gospel of God in the Old Testament and New—What do think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?
They give their succinct answer: “The Son of David”.
Jesus confronts their blindness to the fact that the Messiah is God the Son, and is standing before them at that moment. He cites the fact that David, the ancestor of the Messiah, recognized that his descendant would be his lord! His superior! His God!
Psalm 110:1 is repeated in the New Testament by Matthew, Mark and Luke in the Book of Acts and also by Paul. The writer of Hebrews refers to it twice.
Jesus quotes it here in Matthew 22:44: The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
Matthew 22:45-46 45 “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” 46 No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.
Jesus then teaches the people that the religious system of his day is apostate, having fallen away from the true faith and consequently ignores the truth about Christ and their need for him. Jesus is not very complimentary of the system of traditions that they have replaced as a means of manufacturing their own brand of righteousness.
We are to look to Him as God’s provision for our Righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). We are to live through Him to love and serve others (1 John 4:9):
True spiritual leadership involves humble faith with a Christ-centered focus and a servant’s heart to live through Him.
Matthew 23:10-12 10 “Do not be called leaders (some translations say Teachers, Masters, it all applies); for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (He is the Truth that is taught and the Truth that teaches; He is the Leader and needs no competitor. His followers will be the best leaders, and function as accurate signposts to Jesus! – italics mine)
11 “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE PSALMS
The second half of this psalm is a prayer recognizing one’s need for God’s grace in every circumstance. (Psalm 27:7). The first half of this prayer had to do with the Psalmist having confident trust due to his setting the Lord before his face (Psalm 27:8). Now he prays for help with the assurance that God is the God of his salvation who has been his help in the past. (Psalm 27:9). In praying this prayer, he counsels his own soul to be patient and wait upon the Lord. He counsels his soul to heed the Lord’s teaching. When he prays, “Lead me in a level (plain or straight) path” he is not asking for an easy path. He looks to the Lord to show him the path that will expose all the strategies and ploys of his enemies, so he will not fall prey to them (v. 11-12).
The psalm ends with a resumed confidence in a blessed outcome:
Psalm 27:13-14 13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.
THE PROVERB FOR TODAY:
This is not just a warning of the painful repercussions of the sins of adultery and fornication. It is a warning of the danger of getting caught in the snare of pornography. When we allow our minds and imaginations to go into the bedroom of one who is not your spouse, we are practicing a form of voyeurism. Voyeurism is defined as “the practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity.” You touch her body with your mind. “Whoever touches her will not go unpunished. (Prov 6:29). Today’s films and graphic material take the viewer to places and situations that anyone with a functioning conscience would know they should not be, if they were really in that place or situation. In a real situation, if you had any sense of propriety you would excuse yourself for being inappropriately present instead of standing there letting the images hook your inordinate desires. Our culture has normalized inappropriate voyeurism by making it commonplace, dulling our consciences, and polluting our minds.
Science has shown how pornography hijacks the brain. Check out the book reviewed here: https://www.christianpost.com/news/neuroscientist-explores-how-porn-hijacks-male-brain.html
It hijacks and rewires the brain and sets it on a path of self-destruction. “He who would destroy himself does it.” (Proverbs 6:35)
PRAYER: Lord, You are God and we are Your people. Forgive us when we get this backward and think that we are gods and You are our mascot, or our religious icon, or when we reduce You to fit into a marginal compartment in our lives. Thank You for the revelation of Your holiness at Mt. Sinai. You are a God of Truth, but full of grace. With the revelation of Your righteous demands, (the commandments), You also reveal Your plan of salvation by grace through faith in Christ (the tabernacle). You give us a picture in the Law of a tabernacle in which our sins are paid for by the offering of a perfect sacrifice. Thank You that Your Word was made flesh in Jesus and tabernacled among us (John 1:14). He is our High Priest, our Mediator, offering Himself as a propitiation, making full atonement for our sins. He is the Truth of the Holiest of All, the Life of the Holiest of All, and the Way into The Holiest of All. He is the Holiest of all who satisfies Your every demand. We embrace this fact by faith. By Your doing, we are “in Him” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and are saved. Thank You for making us a kingdom of priests, showing us the importance of prayer, and the wonderful provision of a daily intake of Your Word. Now we ask You afresh: Teach us Your ways, and lead us in a plain path! Amen!
– Pastor David