Hands Held High

Exodus 17:8-16 defines one of the roles I play as an ezer kenegdo (Genesis 2:18), a strong helper, an ally in battle – that of holding high my hands in prayer on behalf of my loved ones. 

When the Israelites were coming out of Egypt, and were weary and worn out, the Amalekites (descendants of Esau) met them on their journey and attacked all who were lagging behind.

Deuteronomy 25:17–18

We have been journeying a long time and we are exhausted. The destination remains out of sight and the road is rocky and dry. Although we are following our Savior, without a vision of the promised land, we lag behind. When unsuspected and unprovoked, our enemy’s attack is especially despicable.

Moses sent Joshua, a young warrior, out with an army to fight back. Moses then promised to participate in the battle by standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in his hands. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the enemy was winning. Now, this seems like a strange battle strategy, but most commentators believe what Moses was actually doing, was praying. Raising one’s hands to heaven was a common prayer posture for the Israelites. 

Holding up one’s hands for a long time is very tiring, if not impossible. So Moses had some support. His brother Aaron and Hur (possibly his brother-in-law), found him a stone to sit on and held his arms up— one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands could remain steady till sunset. This way, the battle was won. Joshua fought with the sword and Moses prayed. 

Are you like Joshua? What battle are you fighting? Do you use the sword, also known as the Word of God, as your weapon (Ephesians 6:17)? Or like Moses, has God given you the job of praying? Or maybe you are like Aaron and Hur who support others who are praying. Remember even Jesus needed friends to pray with him. I believe my job is to pray for some loved ones who are fighting a tiring battle. It is easy to quickly give up. After all, prayer is hard work and doesn’t always garner visible results. And I can’t do it alone. I have some friends who know the specifics of the battle and are holding up my hands and praying for me and with me.

After the victory was won, Moses recorded the event on a scroll and built an altar so that Joshua and the generations to come would remember what God had done. He called the altar, ‘Jehovah-nissi’, which means ‘The Lord is my Banner’. The banner that flew before an army indicated whom the army represented. Moses and Joshua were declaring that they were God’s people and He was their God. After the battle, the banner still flying indicated which side were the victors. 

Moses understood that the real victor was God himself. He plays both roles. He fights and he prays. I am encouraged by the truths that the Lord your God fights for you (Deuteronomy 1:30, 20:4, Joshua 23:10) and the Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26–27). 

I pledge to labor fervently and continue earnestly in prayer (Colossians 4:2, 12) with confidence because the Psalmist promises: May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests (Psalm 20:4–5).

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