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Exodus 17:8-16 - Homilies By D. Young

The discomfiture of Amalek in Rephidim.

I. AMALEK 'S IGNORANCE OF THE RESOURCES OF ISRAEL . Amalek attacked Israel in Rephidim. Rephidim stands very well as the type of all places and positions where human resources appear utterly wanting. It was a place where no water could be found, and where of course there must also have been little growth. Everything therefore would lead Amalek to say, "We shall easily conquer these people, being but an undisciplined, unmanageable crowd." How should outsiders understand anything of the way in which the Lord had led Israel? To Israel itself, the way had been one which it -knew not; and to Amalek, able to judge only by first appearances it would seem the way of folly, rashness, and certain ruin. The Amalekites could very well see that there was no ordinary source of supplies open, and extraordinary sources were beyond their ken, beyond their powers of imagination. We shall do well to consider, before we oppose anything, what its resources are; apparent weakness may not only hide real strength, but may be almost the condition of it. We shall do well also to consider whether under erroneous notions of self-preservation, we may not often be found fighting against God. These Amalekites went out to war against Israel upon motives of self-interest. It seemed to them if they did not destroy Israel, Israel would destroy them. Yet if they had only inquired, if they had only asked the question how this great company had managed to get so far, they might have been spared all anxiety and the great destruction which came upon them. The wisest plan would have been to leave Israel alone and wait; then it would have been seen that Israel was not going to stop in that district.


1 . The spirit and conduct of Moses are to be considered . Hitherto in his difficulties he has cried to the Lord, not of course despairingly, but feeling deeply his need of Divine direction. Here however he is ready for action at once. No mention is made of recourse to God, from which we assume that the line of action was at once apparent to Moses. The promptitude of his action is indeed remarkable; and yet it is clear from the result that there was nothing presumptuous in it. Everything evidently accorded with the will and purpose of God. This was an occasion when Israel could do something, and they were bound to make the attempt. Moses was a man who appreciated the principle that God helps those who help themselves. When the people were entangled in the land by the lied Sea they could do nothing; when they came into the wilderness with its scarcity of food and drink, they could do nothing; they had simply to wait on God's provisions. But here where fighting men appear against them, and there is space and time for resistance, Moses rightly takes means to bring the strength of his people into operation.

2 . The spirit and conduct of the people are also to be considered . Their faith, promptitude and composure are also very remarkable, more remarkable even than the like conduct on the part of Moses. Those who had been so long, and only so lately, unbelieving and unmanageable, all at once manifest a surprising readiness to meet the foe. Considering the way in which they had recently behaved, it is a marvellous thing that all was not thrown into panic and confusion, immediately on the appearance of Amalek. To what then can this composure and readiness be attributed? Evidently it was the effect—a temporary effect certainly, yet not insufficient for its purpose—of the gift of the manna and of the water in a dry and thirsty land. God took care that all troubles should not come on them at once. They were strong with a strength Amalek knew nothing of; and it was in the fresh consciousness of that strength that they made ready for the battle. We imagine that on this occasion, Joshua found abundance of volunteers, and that those who went out against Amalek were the very pick and pride of Israel's warriors.

III. THE WAY IN WHICH GOD SIGNIFIES HIMSELF TO BE THE CONTROLLER OF VICTORY . Moses knows right well that after all preparations, the victory must come from Jehovah. He sets the discriminating Joshua to lead a chosen and competent army against Amalek, as if everything depended upon them, and yet at the same time he remembers that God must be glorified in the very best of human preparations. God will have us to honour him by our very best, and yet our very best must be considered as no more than the humble channel of his power. We must not suppose, because it pleases God in his wisdom, to put the excellency of his treasure into earthen vessels, that we are at liberty to offer him anything which first comes to hand. And then Moses, having done his best in the choice of means, takes his conspicuous position on the hill, to cheer his fighting friends with the sight of the lifted rod. Through the lifting of that rod the energies of victory were to flow into the bodies of Israel's warriors. To Amalek the sight of Moses told nothing. They knew nothing of the significance of the rod, and may rather have wondered why he should stand so long in this position of constraint. But Israel, we cannot doubt, quickly discerned the significance of their leader's attitude and the close connection between the lifted hand and the progress towards victory. The lesson for us is the oft taught one, that while God would have us to labour strenuously and bear the heat and burden of the day in all the inevitable conflicts of life, we must do it with the remembrance that victory really comes from him. We are only strong, as Paul felt he was, by the strength which Christ puts into us.— Y .

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