The Fight of Faith | Exodus 17:8-16
Brian Hedges | November 13, 2022
Let me invite you to turn in Scripture to the book of Exodus, Exodus 17.
It has been well said that the Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground. I think it’s easy for us to forget that sometimes in the relative ease with which we live in the West. We are not often persecuted for our faith, and it’s pretty easy for us to just settle down and be comfortable in our Christian lives, and to forget that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. There’s a real battle, a battle for our souls, a battle for our hearts, a battle for our faith.
This morning we’re going to talk about that battle, and we’re going to learn about it from the very first battle that is recorded in the book of Exodus. This is a literal, physical battle that took place between the children of Israel and the nation of the Amalekites, but it is a battle that has spiritual lessons to teach us as well.
We’ve been studying together through this book of Exodus. We’ve called it “Exodus: The Story of Redemption,” and what we’ve been learning in this book is that the vocabulary and the stories and the images in this book are really foundational for understanding both the Christian gospel as well as the Christian life. We come to understand redemption by seeing this first redemption that took place in the story of God’s people in the Old Testament, and we learn a lot about Christian living as well, especially in this section that we’re in right now, the whole wilderness section. As we saw last week, we learn certain lessons that take place in the wilderness, and today there’s another one of these lessons, and it all has to do with our spiritual warfare, the battle for faith.
We’re reading this morning from Exodus 17:8-16. This is a shorter passage of Scripture, so I’m going to read all of it here at the beginning, and then I want to point out three lessons that I think we learn from this passage. Let’s read God’s word, beginning in verse 8.
Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
This is God’s word.
I want us to see three lessons about our spiritual warfare from this passage. The lessons are these:
1. We will be attacked on our spiritual journey
2. We must then fight the battles of faith
3. The Lord is the source of our strength
1. We will be attacked on our spiritual journey
You see the attack in verse 8, the attack on the Israelites. “Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.”
Now, of course, this is a historical war that took place between Israel and the Amalekites. We have to understand a little bit about the historical context before we make the more spiritual and personal application. The Amalekites were descendents of Esau, who was the brother of Jacob—Jacob who was Israel, the father of the children of Israel. They were inhabitants of the Sinai peninsula, and we learn from another passage, Deuteronomy 25, that the Amalekites, when they attacked the children of Israel, they actually attacked them at their weakest point. They came in from behind and were attacking the weakest point of this emerging nation of Israel. Remember, these are former slaves. These are not trained military people. And Amalek comes and attacks them, men, women, and children.
This was a great act of injustice and oppression from a war-mongering nation, as they come up against the Israelites. Deuteronomy 25:17-19 states the case very strongly. This is 40 years later, when it is written, but it says, “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.”
It’s just a reminder to us that Israel, in this case, was certainly not the aggressor. They were not the initiators in this war, but they had been attacked in this unjust way. Amalek as a nation was people who did not fear God. That was their greatest sin, and it was that lack of fear of God that gave them such impudence that they would attack this people, the people of Israel.
I think it is this situation that accounts, then, for the very strong denunciation of the Amalekites in this passage and the memorial in verse 14 that their memory was to be blotted out from under heaven.
Now, we have to place this whole episode within the wider story. You remember that the children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years, and then God, through great and mighty acts of power, delivered from Egypt. They’ve now been redeemed, they have been set free from the oppression of Egypt, and they are in the wilderness, on the way to Sinai. It’s in that situation that this conflict comes.
I would suggest to you that what was historically true for Israel is also spiritually true in our lives. It is a picture of what happens in our own spiritual journey. Every single one of us, if we are believers in Christ, we have been redeemed from slavery to sin. We’ve been set free. We have been delivered by God. We’ve experienced God’s saving grace. We are on a journey to our heavenly rest, to the promised land, to the new heavens and the new earth. We’ve not yet fully inherited all that God has promised for us; we’re still waiting for the fullness of our redemption. In between the salvation we have experience and the salvation that we are yet to receive, we’re in this wilderness, the wilderness of this world. We are on a journey. We are on a pilgrimage. In the middle of this journey we face battles. We are attacked.
You see this pattern again and again in Scripture. In the New Testament—just read the New Testament letters. Take Ephesians, for example. Ephesians 1, using exodus language, tells us that we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we’ve been forgiven of our sins, we have been adopted as the people of God, the sons and daughters of God, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, and we are awaiting an inheritance.
But you get to Ephesians 6 and there is a rousing call to arms, as the apostle Paul tells us to stand strong in the Lord and in the power of his might and to be ready for the battle, because we’re wrestling not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual powers of darkness, the forces of evil. We are to be clothed in the full armor of God so that we’re able to stand in the evil day. You have been redeemed, but now you have to stand in the battle.
You have the same thing in the letter of 1 Peter. First Peter 1 talks about how we have been born again “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” We’re waiting for this inheritance that is kept in heaven for us, even as we are kept by the power of God now.
But you get to 1 Peter 2:11 and you read these words: “Beloved, I urge you, as sojourners and exiles, to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” The passions of the flesh are attacking us, waging war against the soul.
Or take 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober-minded, be watchful; your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith . . .” You’ve been redeemed, you’ve been born again, you’ve been saved, and yet there’s a battle. You are going to be attacked. The passions of the flesh and your adversary the devil—and we could add to that the world itself—are waging war against our souls.
That’s the first point. We will be attacked on our spiritual journey, just as Israel was attacked. They probably weren’t prepared for this. They weren’t expecting this. They’re in the wilderness. They think that the conflict is all over, and yet here’s a new battle that needs to be faced.
I think this teaches us some important things in our lives, and I just want to frame it in two application questions.
(1) Here’s the first: Do you have realistic expectations of the Christian life? I think some of us expect that the Christian life will be a life of ease; that once we come to Christ, our struggles against sin should be over. The reality is that when you come to Christ your struggle with sin is just beginning, because now you are in the enemy’s crosshairs, and there is going to be this warfare.
If you expect a life free from temptation and struggle and conflict and battle, you are either going to do one of two things: you’re either going to live in denial, which means that you’re not going to recognize that the struggles you’re going through and the temptations that you’re facing are actually battles for your heart in which you have a personal responsibility to be active and to make every effort to follow the Lord. You’ll live in denial, which means you will blame-shift. You’re going to blame all of your struggles on other people or on your surroundings or your circumstances, but you’re not really going to do that heart battle, the heart work that needs to be done, because you have an unrealistic expectation of the Christian life.
Or you will live on en emotional roller coaster, where you’re constantly up and down, up and down. You’ll be up when you feel like you have the upper hand in the battle, but as soon as you begin to struggle again with a sin or a temptation that you think you should have defeated a long time again—as soon as you begin to struggle again you’re going to be cast down, you’re going to lack assurance of salvation, because you’re only going to feel like you’re saved when you’re doing well, and when you’re struggling you’re going to be full of doubts again. You’ll be up when you feel close to God, but you’ll be down when you’re struggling and you feel like you’re back in the wilderness, back in the desert experience—all because you have an unrealistic expectation of the Christian life.
I’m sure that many people have done a disservice, either in their books or writings or sometimes pastors like me who paint a picture of the Christian life that kind of glosses over the difficulty, it glosses over the battle. We have to be realistic, and realism means that there’s going to be struggle, there’s going to be temptation, there’s going to be a fight, there’s going to be a conflict. We should be prepared for that.
(2) That leads to the second question: Are you watchful, or will you be caught off guard?
You remember how Jesus told his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.”
There was a woman named Charlotte Elliot who many years ago wrote a wonderful hymn based on those words, and it’s a great exhortation for us. She said,
Christian, seek not yet repose;
Hear thy gracious Savior say,
“Thou art in the midst of foes;
Watch and pray.”
You’re in the midst of foes. You’re surrounded by enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil. You’re in a battle. You’re going to be attacked. So, how do we respond? We watch and we pray.
That’s the first point: We will be attacked on our spiritual journey. Let’s have that expectation and be prepared.
2. We must then fight the battles of faith
Point number two: We must then fight the battles of faith. If you’re attacked, you have to defend yourself, right? We know that.
We see that in this passage. In verse 9, after the warriors of Amalek come and attack Israel, Moses said to Joshua—this is the first mention, by the way, of Joshua anywhere in Scripture, Joshua who becomes this captain who’s leading the Lord’s people into the Promised Land some 40 years later; but here he is now in verse 9. “So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek.’” Verse 13 tells us that “Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.”
For the children of Israel, this was a literal, physical battle, and it would not be won without them brandishing their swords. They had to fight. It was also a spiritual battle for them, as we’re going to see.
I think, again, we have to just put this in the context of what’s going on in this book. This is the first battle that the children of Israel as a nation fight, and it is the first and only battle that is recorded in the book of Exodus. It’s interesting that, if you just think about it for a minute, the contrast between the children of Israel’s experience with the Egyptians and their experience with the Amalekites.
When the Egyptians chase them to the brink of the Red Sea, God is the one who delivers them, and he does it without the children of Israel lifting a finger, without them raising a sword. Do you remember what Moses had said in Exodus 14? He said, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” Then Moses raises his staff, the Red Sea parts, the children of Israel walk through.
I think that teaches us something. It teaches us that we don’t lift a finger in our justification, in our regeneration, in our salvation from sin and death. There’s nothing that you do. You contribute nothing to God’s saving grace. We’re saved by grace and by grace alone. Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Saved by grace.
But here they are, probably only about six weeks later. The Amalekites come, and they have to fight the battle. Now, God could have just vanquished the Amalekites, but that’s not what happened. They have a battle to fight. Why is that? Well, at least one reason is it’s teaching us a lesson: that in the Christian life, though we are saved by grace and grace alone, once we are redeemed—once we’re saved, justified, born again, all of that—when you get into the battle of sanctification, you have to do something. It actually requires effort on your part.
In fact, when you get to the New Testament and you look at the language that is used to describe the Christian life, it is full of military imagery—“fight the good fight of faith,” right? “Wage a good warfare.” “Put on the armor of God.” “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.” It’s full of military imagery and warfare, as well as athletic imagery—“Run the race that is set before you.” This imagery says to us that there’s effort required in the Christian life.
That great Anglican author of the 19th century, J.C. Ryle, wrote this classic book on holiness; I highly recommend it. There’s a whole chapter in J.C. Ryle’s book on holiness called “The Fight.” Ryle says, “There are no promises in the Lord Jesus Christ’s epistles to the seven churches except to those overcome. Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.”
There’s a battle, and it’s a battle for your heart, and you have to do something in the battle. You have a battle to fight.
That means that we need vigilance, we need effort, we need holy violence—not against other people, not against other nations. I mean, that’s not our calling as Christians. In our Christian life, the battle is against sin and it’s against the flesh and against the devil. It’s against these spiritual enemies. We need holy violence against those enemies.
This suggests for us both a caution and a reminder.
Here’s the caution: beware of overly passive approaches to living the Christian life. Just as you should not have unrealistic expectations of the Christian life, don’t adopt a passive approach. Theologically, this is called “quietism,” and it’s perhaps best been expressed in that old maxim, “Let go and let God.” It’s the higher life/deeper life teaching. It was expressed a number of years ago in a famous Christian song that went like this:
It’s not in trying, but in trusting;
It’s not in running, but in resting;
It’s not in wondering, but in praying
That we find the strength of the Lord.
Those are beautiful lyrics, but they’re only half true, because the Bible actually says you do have to run. It does say, “Make every effort.” So we don’t pit these two things together. Yes, prayer is important—we’re going to see that in a moment—but you do have to run, and you do have to try. You do have to make every effort to grow in Christ. Read 2 Peter 1. We have to beware, then, of these overly passive approaches to the Christian life.
J.I. Packer I think gives us a great illustration in this. I’ll just recount the story of Packer. When he was a young man, he was in a lot of these higher-life kinds of circles, or “deeper Christian life” kinds of circles, where the teaching was, essentially, that you have a crisis experience—this crisis moment of surrender—and once you’ve surrendered everything to the Lord the struggle is over. If you’re still struggling, it means you haven’t really surrendered enough.
Packer says—I’m paraphrasing him—it almost drove him insane, because he was constantly “scraping out his insides” trying to figure out what he had not yet surrendered to the Lord and why he was still struggling. What really rescued Packer and kept him from going insane was discovering the literature of the Puritans. When he read John Owen’s treatise on the mortification of sin, he began to understand that he had to fight sin. He had to exercise some effort and some discipline in the Christian life.
Packer, in a very memorable one-liner, got the formula right. He said, “The Christian’s motto should not be, ‘Let go and let God,’ but rather, ‘Trust God and get going.’” There’s something for us to do. There’s a fight for us.
Philippians 2 gets the balance right. Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
So, there’s something for you to do. Work out your own salvation, fight the good fight of faith, put on the armor of God, watch and pray, and so on.
But here’s the reminder: we must remember that it is a fight of faith. It’s a fight of faith! Faith is crucial in this battle.
That means that while, on one hand, we are not to be overly passive—not the “let go and let God” theology—on the other hand, we must not think that victory can be won in our own strength. It’s not merely a matter of self-effort, it’s not merely a matter of trying harder, but we fight by faith as we trust in God.
3. The Lord is the source of our strength
That leads us to point number three: the Lord is the source of our strength. Once again, we see this beautifully illustrated in the text. Look at verses 9-10.
So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
I love the way Old Testament commentator Alec Motyer puts it. He said, “The fight may have taken place in the valley, but the victory was won on the mountain.”
Moses says, “I’m going to go up on the mountain with the staff of God in my hand.” What is this staff? We’ve come across this numerous times in this book. This was the staff that Moses had initially consecrated to God in Exodus 3. It was the staff through which God worked his mighty wonders, as he brought the plagues upon Egypt. Remember the plague of locusts, the eighth plague in Exodus 10? The Lord says to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they will come upon the land of Egypt.” Moses does so, and the locusts invade the land.
It is the staff that Moses had used in Exodus 14 when the Red Sea was divided in two. And now God says, “Moses, take the staff.” Moses goes up onto the mountain.
Verse 11 tells us that “whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.” It seems to be suggesting that whenever the staff was raised up, Israel was winning the battle; but when Moses’ hands grew weary and he brought his hands down, the staff came down, Amalek began to win the battle.
It is a vivid illustration for us of the truths we find elsewhere in Scripture. “Some trust in horses and some chariots, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God,” Psalm 20:7. Or, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts,” Zechariah 4:6. Or, as Paul says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds,” 2 Corinthians 10:4. The battle depended on the Lord, and Moses holding up that staff was central to the battle.
Now, what was he doing? There are a number of different interpretations of this. Some think that as Moses held his hands up that staff was functioning something like a banner to rally the troops and to encourage them to press on, sort of like troops who keep looking at the flag and it keeps them charging on. I think there’s more to it than that.
Others believe that the staff of God was something like a conduit of God’s power. Certainly we can see that in the book of Exodus the staff was the instrument through which God wielded his power through Moses.
But Moses with his hands lifted I think suggests to us that Moses was in prayer for the people of God, in prayer for the battle. You certainly find this connection between lifted hands and prayer elsewhere in the Old Testament. Psalm 28:2 says, “Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands towards your most holy sanctuary!” Psalm 141:2 says, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
In addition to that, we also read in Exodus 17:15-16 that Moses built an altar and called the name of it “The Lord Is My Banner,” saying, “And hand upon the throne of the Lord.”
I have to take a minute to explain that, because that final statement, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord,” is very difficult to interpret in Hebrew, or to translate. The different translations interpret it differently.
There are really just three key words: the word for “hand,” the word for “throne” (but it’s a shortened form of the Hebrew word, and that’s why there’s some difficulty with it), and then a shortened form of the name of God; it’s the word “Yah” rather than Yahweh. So, a hand, a throne, and Yah, and there are several interpretations.
Some interpret this as God’s hand upon the throne, with the effect being that God himself takes an oath. That’s why the old King James has it, “The Lord has sworn,” in this passage.
Others take it to be the hands of the Amalekites who have lifted up their hands against the Lord. That’s how the NIV translates it: “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.” That makes sense of what follows in the verse.
But if what Moses is saying here really connects to what goes before, then the ESV is a better translation, where he simply says, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord.” The reference then would be to Moses’ hand laying hold of the throne of the Lord in prayer, so that the Lord is decisively winning the battle for the people.
We could debate which interpretation is true, but this principle I think is certainly true: that it is through prayer that we win our spiritual battles.
Once again, let me quote Alec Motyer, and then we’ll move into some application. Motyer says,
In this battle (the only one in Exodus), the victory depended on the uplifted hands of Moses. The symbolism of this is not explained in context, but there is no reason to believe it to be any different from what we find in the rest of the Old Testament, where it is the customary gesture of prayer or praise. The sustained prayer of Moses was the secret ingredient securing the military victory of Joshua. Without prayer, nothing will bring victory. The essential battle is the battle for the secret place. Moses himself expressed it this way, literally, “For there is a hand upon the throne of Yahweh” (v. 16). The uplifted hand touches the throne, so movingly illustrated by the moment when Esther touched the golden scepter of her husband, the king (Esther 5). It was this touching of the throne which brought the help the Israelites needed (v. 11), and was met with the response that the Lord would never cease to be the enemy of those who sought to hinder his pilgrims’ onward march.
Or, as we sang this morning,
So when I fight,
I’ll fight on my knees,
With my hands lifted high;
O God, the battle belongs to you.
Once again, there’s some application for us here.
(1) Here’s the first: We can only win the battle of faith through conscious dependence upon the Lord. Effort is required; I want you to get that. I want you to understand that you’re going to have to do something in your Christian life if you want to grow, if you want to beat temptation, if you want to kill sin, if you want to not be a casualty of spiritual war. You have to do something. But that effort will only be successful as you live in conscious dependence upon God.
You see it in Ephesians 6. Stand stand in the Lord, put on the armor of God, and he lists those pieces of armor. Then verse 18 says, “. . . praying . . .” You put on the armor of God, praying. That’s how you put the armor on. Put on the gospel armor, / Each piece put on with prayer, as the old hymn puts it.
What does that look like in our lives? What does it look like in the Christian life to consciously depend on God?
Our staff were actually talking about this a week or two ago in a staff meeting. We’ve been reading through a book that was kind of suggesting some things like this. Brad shared something that was really helpful that he got from John Piper. So I’m not going to put Brad’s picture up here, I’m going to put John Piper’s picture up here. But it’s really good.
It’s this acronym APTAT. It stands for this five-step approach for how to live the Christian life in conscious dependence on the Lord, using your efforts as you depend on the Lord. APTAT.
A - Admit you can do nothing without God. John 15:5: “Without me you can do nothing,” Jesus says. You and I are helpless without the Lord’s power; we need to admit that.
P - Pray for help. You ask, “Lord, help me! Help me in the struggle, help me resist this temptation, help me put this sinful attitude to death, help me read my Bible today, help me be kind to others, help me love, help me serve.” You admit you can nothing without God, you pray for help.
T - Trust a specific promise. This is where the word comes in in such a practical way, as you take the Scriptures and you take the promises of God and you pray those into your heart and your life. Then you get up and you act.
A - Act. You do you what you’re responsible to do. And the final T is . . .
T - Thank God for his provision and goodness. That’s really helpful. That’s really practical. Putting that into practice into your daily life, where you are consciously depending on the Lord through prayer, and at the same time you are acting in faith as you trust in the promises of the word of God, so that in your battles of faith you’re doing both at the same time.
You see, it’s not an either/or. It’s not, “Depend on the Lord and do nothing,” and it’s not, “It’s all up to you, God’s not going to help.” It’s rather, “Trust in the Lord,” along with sanctified, holy, consecrated effort in the Lord’s name.
Let me just give you a couple of examples of how this may work. Let’s say that you are fighting the battle against doubts—doubts about your salvation, maybe a lack of assurance. It may be that you’ve been a Christian for 15 years, but you still struggle with assurance of salvation. Those doubts can immobilize you, they can get you down, they can get you depressed. What do you do? You get on your knees and you ask the Lord for his present, assuring grace, and you trust a promise such as Philippians 1:6: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
“Lord, you say in your word that if you’ve begun a good work in me that you will complete it. I’m trusting in you to keep on doing your good work. You’ve done something me; that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m praying. I want to be a Christian, I want to walk with you. I’m trusting in the work that you began. You continue it, you complete it.” You do that; you trust God to finish his good work. Then you get up off your knees and you walk in confidence in God’s keeping grace. You don’t live by your emotions.
Let’s say you’re struggling with anxiety and with worry, and you just feel like those worries are coming at you from every side. You’re worried about finances and you’re worried about your kids and you’re worried about your health and you’re worried about your job and you’re worried about what’s happening in the world, and you can’t go to sleep at night because your mind is just churning with all the worries and the fears. What do you do?
You get on your knees and you ask the Lord to help you to fight the battle against worry and anxiety. You pray for help; you admit you can do nothing without the Lord. Then you trust the promise of his word, Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” You pray that back to the Lord, then you get up off your knees, you attend to your responsibilities, you trust the Lord’s guidance and provision; or, if it’s at night, you pray that to the Lord, then you rest your mind in him and you go to sleep.
Let’s say you’re struggling with evil thoughts. Maybe you have lustful thoughts or you have bitter thoughts or angry thoughts or vengeful thoughts that are coming into your head. Use Philippians 4:8-9: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.”
You read a passage like that, you pray it back to the Lord, get up off your knees, fill your mind with good things, noble thoughts, read a good book, listen to good music, sing a hymn, get your mind on the Lord, and go on and walk with God. That’s how you do it. I think that’s how the Christian life is meant to be lived. We only win the battle of faith through conscious dependence upon the Lord.
One more application. I think this is beautiful and so practical for us. When we are weary in the battle, we need the help of others. Look at verse 12. “But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on in, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”
Listen, even Moses needed help. You think you can be a Lone Ranger Christian? You can’t! You can’t live the Christian life on your own! You need a community. You need friends. You need the church. You need a small group. You need someone that you can dial up and say, “Hey, I’m really struggling today. Can you pray for me?” or somebody that you can send an email or text to and say, “Listen, I’m struggling again. It’s the same old battle; I’m struggling again. I feel like I’m not doing well this week. Will you pray for me?” You need that. You need somebody that you can reach out to who can help you strengthen the weak knees and lift up the weary hands and who can hold you up in the battle. Moses needed it—Aaron and Hur beautifully do this for him—and you and I need it as well.
We’ve seen three things this morning, haven’t we? We’ve seen that you’re going to be attacked—it’s going to happen in your spiritual journey, so expect it. Expect there to be a warfare, expect there to be a battle. You’re going to be attacked. Have realistic expectations.
We’ve seen, secondly, that you have to fight. You have to fight this fight of faith. You have battles to fight, and you have to give some effort to that, but you do it in God’s strength. The Lord is our strength, and therefore we do it in conscious dependence on him.
I think ultimately, brothers and sisters, when you look at this passage, the reality is that Jesus himself is the greatest and ultimate fulfillment of what happens in this passage. I’m drawing it from the old Puritan Matthew Henry, who put it very beautifully. He said, essentially, that Christ is both our Joshua—did you know that the name Joshua is the name Yeshua, it is the name Jesus? Jesus in the New Testament is the new Joshua, the greater Joshua. Christ is both our Joshua and he is our Moses.
Just read Hebrews 3-4. Christ fulfills both of those roles. He is the captain of our salvation, who has fought the decisive battle against sin and death on our behalf. He’s already been through the wilderness for us, and he’s been to the cross, and he has won the decisive victory. That’s one reason we can be confident that we will win our little skirmishes, our little cleanup efforts. We’re not fighting the decisive battle; it’s already been won! It was won at Calvary.
He is our Joshua, and he’s also our Moses, because he is right now at the right hand of God, and what is he doing? He is praying. He’s praying for you. You fight the battle here on earth, but that battle is won in heaven by your intercessor, Jesus Christ, your advocate at the Father’s right hand, who prays for you day and night that your faith will be sustained. That’s why the Lord is our strength; that’s why we depend on the Lord: because of who Jesus Christ is.
So brothers and sisters, fight the battle. Fight the battle of faith this week, fight it practically with the tools of the word and prayer, and fight it with your eyes on the Lord. Let’s pray together.
Lord, once again we thank you for your word and we ask you for grace to believe it and to put it into practice in our lives. Lord, you know the battles that each one of us are facing. None of us are immune or exempt from this. Every single one of us faces temptations; we all struggle with sin in some way or another, and none of us are fully sanctified yet. So that means that this week, and probably this afternoon, and maybe before we get out of this building today, there will be a battle to fight. Lord, we can’t do it on our own. So we ask you, Lord, to strengthen us. We ask you to give us abundant grace through your Spirit. We ask you to fill us with your word, that we are strong in your strength and can overcome the evil one. We ask you to help us become watchful and prayerful, and we ask you to help us live in the triumph and the victory that Christ has won for us.
As we come to the table this morning, may the table be for us a means of grace, reminding us once again that the atonement is complete, that Christ has paid the penalty of our sins. And not only that, but he is now presently food for our souls, to give us strength for the battle, strength for the journey. Help us, Lord, to draw near to you and to prepare our hearts in these moments. We pray that you would be honored and glorified in our worship this morning. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.