Joshua the Warrior: How God Equips Us for Battle – Exodus 17:8-16
It is no wonder that Moses first records Joshua as a warrior. This is his primary occupation in his leadership. Moses shepherded the people; Joshua motivated and led the people. In this first episode, Joshua defeats Amalek by the power of God, and this sets a precedent for his entire tenure as a leader.
We read in verse 8, “Then Amalek came.” They came when Israel had just tested the Lord’s omnipotence and doubted His provision. The Lord proved Himself by bringing water from the smitten rock. But after one test, another came. Who would defend Israel in battle? Moses had no doubts of Joshua’s competence; thus we see him, not explained in the passage, but assumed as being significant.
Joshua’s Wisdom in Choosing Out Men (v. 8-9)
Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
Joshua obviously had knowledge of the need since he could appropriately organize the armies of Israel by the next day. But he only applied his knowledge with the promise of spiritual intercession. His wisdom never supplanted his dependence upon God.
Joshua organized Israel’s army based on three factors: the enemy (Amalek), the victims (Israel), and the location of the battle (Rephidim). Competent leaders are always deliberate in their defense. They know the strategy of the enemy, the value of the defendant, and the particulars of the location. We need men like this in our assemblies, men of skill and of keen insight. Are you a leader? Assess your battle in these three areas, and you will be in good standing.
But never forget prayer. Joshua chose out men because Moses would stand before God during the battle. God-given natural wisdom is essential in leadership. God designed our minds; therefore, we must honour Him by utilizing them. But simultaneously, we are helpless. This is the paradox of leadership. We aim to be skillful but find ourselves incompetent. We aim to be strategic but do nothing without seeking God’s face. We aim to apply basic wisdom but find it powerless without the help of God. Both sides are necessary, yet in a way that gives God the full glory.
Joshua’s Victory in the Defeat of Amalek (v. 10-13)
Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. 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. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Though Joshua’s wisdom was the channel of his victory, it was not his source. His source was the power of God brought by the intercession of Moses. When Moses’ hands were raised upward, Israel progressed; when lowered, Amalek prevailed. Because of the constancy of Moses’ intercession, Joshua gained the victory at last and “overwhelmed Amalek,” that is, stripped them of power since the power of God was for him. This illustrates our final victory over our spiritual enemies through Christ’s intercession. Notice:
- Christ is for me positionally (v. 10): Moses, Aaron, and Hur were at the top of the hill. They were not on the battle ground; they were before God. This points us to Christ Who has already accomplished the greatest victory and has ascended to stand before God on our behalf. That He is a real and righteous man in heaven should strengthen us. By His very being there, our cause has weight in the holy presence of God.
- Christ is for me actively (v. 11): Moses was not only before God but lifted his hands unto God. Though Christ is in heaven on my behalf having entered once for all time, there is abiding freshness to His merits before the throne of God. There never ceases to be relevance to our specific situations in His Priesthood. “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
- Christ is for me sufficiently (v. 12a): Moses, Aaron, and Hur were engaged in interceding. With Moses as the mediator, Aaron as the high priest, and Hur as the advocate, we see Christ in His complete threefold intercession for God’s people. As the Mediator, He answered my problem of sin and reconciles me to God. As the Great High Priest, He answers my problem of weakness and presents my cause before God. As the Advocate, He answers my problem of faults and restores my communion with God. Never doubt the complete and entire dedication of Christ to your cause. The battle rages, but with greater strength than a Moses He raises His hands to plead on our behalf.
- Christ is for me perpetually (v. 12b): Moses’ hands were “steady till sunset.” This reminds us of Hebrews 7:24-25, “Jesus. . . because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God by Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” In the heat of the battle, our “sunset” seems distant. Sometimes the enemy prevails; sometimes we prevail. But there is one consistent factor: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” What the Lord has started by entering into heaven for us He will finish in that He is faithful. Dear believer, is “Amalek” fierce in trampling you down? Gaze into heaven and remember the One Whose hands are raised on your behalf, ensuring your final victory.
- Christ is for me victoriously (v. 13): Joshua overwhelmed Amalek at last. Though the day was long, the victory was real. We read, “Joshua overwhelmed [weakened] Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” There is a day when our fierce enemy will be weakened forever, destroyed unto impotence. The Lord provides freedom from sin’s power, but He promises freedom from sin’s presence in a day to come. “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Take hope, for the Lord will be faithful. But be challenged, for the battle must still go on until the final victory. Never expect moments of relief to be permanent in this life. Always watch. Always battle. Always look to the Intercessor.
Joshua’s Memory of the Lord’s Warfare with Amalek (v. 14-16)
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 memorial of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”
This episode closes with a memorial for Joshua. The Lord commands Moses to write His promise in a book, and the promise was, “The Lord will have war against Amelek from generation to generation.” Joshua had to realize that his struggle with Amalek set a precedent for Israel’s future. That the Lord initiated war with Amalek meant He was actively pursuing their suppression and actively preserving Israel’s defeat. But in that the Lord would make war, Israel had to face a constant battle. This first battle under Joshua established the foundation for this warfare for generations to come.
God does not promise to eradicate our spiritual enemies, particularly our flesh. Generations of Christians have lived and have faced the battle with self. But God promises to “make war” with this enemy, and that guarantees His provision for victory. But it also guarantees a struggle for us. We must face it in the power of God. The pain is real, but since God has told us to expect it we cannot cower from it. Like Joshua, may we remember that our life’s victory sets a precedent for generations to come, and our testimony of God’s power will inspire others to live on for Him. We cannot give up, and we need not give up since our Lord intercedes for us.