10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Exodus 17:10-13 NIV)
This story – the first military engagement the Israelites face – follows hard on the heels of the miraculous provision of water from a stone. Moses uses the same staff with which he struck the Nile (17:6) and the same one he had used to strike the rock and bring forth water.
The fortunes of Israel wax and wane depending on whether Moses holds up the staff – not on Joshua’s military leadership or the skill or bravery of the men involved. There is a contrast – a disconnect? – between verse 13 and the rest. Joshua overcomes with the sword but does so because Moses keeps the staff aloft with the help of Aaron and Hur.
Today is one of those days that as soon as I read this passage I knew it was the one to journal. Other days I read the whole section assigned to the day without getting a glimmer or a poke. Not today.
I tend to rely so much on my skill, my gifts, my strengths (real and perceived!). I tend, in short, to rely on me. Joshua the victor faces personal risk and leads well I am sure. But the man behind the battle, Moses, is the human agent of their victory and God is the one who works through him. Not what Joshua knows or does. I am a Joshua and not a Moses!
Moses further illustrates this truth in his failing strength. He cannot support the army even with this supernatural gift without help.
I just don’t get it… I spend myself far too often and my arms drop to my sides and I wonder why I can’t just make it. When the real lesson is not just the power of God but the power of God in community, the power of God in partnership, the power of God that is greater than a single person can channel or sustain.
God of Moses and Joshua, teach me to not rely on me as much as on you. Teach me anew to lean on the gifts and strengths of others today in serving you and in living as a follower of Jesus. My own strength is never enough. My own gifts are never adequate by themselves. I need you but I also need so very much those whom you have placed around me. Amen.