EXODUS 17:8 - 18:12
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.”
Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.Now Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer(for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians.
Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God.
The book of Exodus (meaning departure) recounts the saving acts of God, narrates how the Passover came to be, and shows us the giving of God’s law. It portrays Moses, the first of many prophets, and Aaron, the first high priest. Exodus is especially important to Christians because Jesus fulfilled its great themes: He became the Passover lamb and He sealed the new covenant with His blood. Exodus helps us understand the central message of the New Testament.
In this section of Exodus, we see God using the wilderness experience to shape and form His people. They have had 400 years of pagan surroundings. He will now shape them to display His glory among the nations.
Our text tells us two narratives. One is Israel facing their first outside enemy after the exodus. The second is Moses’ visiting father-in-law reuniting his daughter and grandsons with Moses and his interaction with Moses. There is much more going on in these narratives than meets the eye - and it speaks to us.
Let’s unpack these two stories.
Seeing Ourselves in the Amalekites
The Amalekites (a nomadic people group that followed Amalek) sound like the many other “ites” that God’s people will face and fight over many years. Amalek is the grandson of Esau. Jacob and Esau were brothers that were at war with one another. They were deceitful and conniving. Jacob’s family line leads to Israel - Esau’s leads to the Amalekites. The Amalekites were bandits who raided others to get their wealth.
The war between these brothers mirrors the war between Cain and Abel and reflects the brokenness of relationship between God and His creation. The broken, rebellious, and bitter past of people’s relationships can always be traced to the spiritual darkness and spiritual forces of the enemy of God.
The Amalekites decided to not bow to God, but rather make war against God. They foolishly decide to fight against a people group that had just been miraculously delivered from the Egyptian army - the strongest army of the known world.
We are introduced to Joshua - who will become a major character in the story of God’s people. Many years later he will lead God’s people into the promised land and be known for his courage. Now he is a warrior. Joseph is asked to choose men and go fight the Amalekites. Moses will take Aaron and Hur to the top of a hill and hold up his staff. Verses 11-13 tell the miraculous outcome. The staff was a sign of God’s judgement. When it was raised it brought plagues and swallowed an army.
We would like to see ourselves as Joshua, Moses, or Aaron and Hur - always on God’s side - always on the good side. In reality, the Bible says all of us are born with a nature that is bent toward the Amalekites and not toward the kingdom of God. The Amalekites have their fist raised against God and just want possessions regardless of how they get them.
In Romans 1, Paul says that all of us have loved creation more than we’ve loved the Creator. Plainly, we want God’s stuff, just not God. God creates all the things that we enjoy, but we do not want Him - we just want His stuff. This is the God of the Bible, and we see ourselves with the disposition of the Amalekites.
God’s Plan For The Nations
At this point the narrative takes a strange turn. God is talking about wiping the Amalekites off of the face of the earth, and then Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, arrives. He is the priest of Midian. He is also a Gentile. Like the Amalekites, he is not of the people of Israel. In fact, he worships other gods and makes sacrifices to other gods on behalf of the Midianites. He is not of the household of faith.
God’s covenant with Abraham promises to bless all other nations through the nation of Israel. At the judgment of Egypt, God had said that all other nations would know that He is the Lord. The Amalekites saw it and responded with violence. But here Jethro, a Midianite, hears from Moses all that God has done to deliver them and says, ”Now I know that He is greater than all gods” (verse 11). Jethro worships God in repentance, and he breaks bread with elders in the presence of God (verse 12). Very different people brought together by a great God - this continues to happen today.
What brings us together is simply being recipients of God’s grace. We have all been transferred out of the kingdom of the Amalekites into Jesus’ Kingdom. We were all born bent towards raising our fist toward God, the Gospel, and God’s love. These two kingdoms are still at play today - you are a part of one of them.
Jethro ends up giving wonderful leadership advice to his son-in-law Moses. It blesses Moses and the people. God is shaping His people. He still shapes His people. He still saves people who cry out to Him and believe in Him.
Allow God to shape you in community
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?