By Vince Antonucci
The Amalekites attacked the Israelites. The Israelites were God’s people and the Amalekites were a thorn in their side. It seems like every time they turned around, the Amalekites are attacking again.
I think we can relate. Yes, we may be God’s people, but that doesn’t keep us from having a thorn in our sides. We all have something we struggle with. Whether it’s a temptation to be prideful, to look at pornography, to gossip or be greedy, to fantasize about being married to someone you’re not married to or to pretend you’re something you’re not, we know what it’s like to be attacked again and again. We’ve all got our Amalekites but it’s not impossible to find victory in the midst of the battle.
A Stick Like No Other
The Amalekites attack, and things look desperate for the Israelites. They don’t know what to do but Moses remembered the stick. God had appeared to Moses years earlier and had Moses choose a stick, through which Moses did impossible things. The stick turned into a snake, he used the stick to part the Red Sea, he hit the stick against a rock and it produced water. Moses tells his guys to fight the Amalekites the next day and he would hold up the stick. He thinks holding up the stick up will help give the Israelites victory in their battle.
The next day the Israelites run towards the battle, and Moses holds up the stick.
All the other miracles God had done through the stick happened instantly, so I bet Moses thought they would win the battle immediately. The Israelites would charge the frontlines and the Amalekites would just fall dead or run away like little girls. Nope. The battle goes on for a while.
Whenever Moses held up the stick, the Israelites would be defeating the Amalekites. When Moses’ arms got tired and he put the stick down, the Amalekites would be defeating the Israelites. Finally, Moses gets some of his friends to hold up his arms. With the stick permanently up in the air, the Israelites experience victory over the Amalekites.
To commemorate the victory Moses builds an altar and calls it, “The LORD is my Banner” (Exodus 17:15). I might have expected, “The STICK is my banner,” because that stick had some serious awesome-sauce. It would have been tempting for everyone to worship and put their hope in the stick. But it was clear to Moses that the stick was just a tool God chose to use. Moses was an appreciative fan of the stick, but he gave all the credit to God. He knew victory belonged to the Lord.
But It’s Just A Stick
You have a stick. Right? There’s something that’s helped you. There’s something you’ve looked to get you past your problem.
Your stick might be your own determination and strength, or your church, or your pastor, or your 12-step group, or your spouse, or your counselor, or your support group, or a friend.
There’s nothing wrong with using a stick. God was the one who decided to have Moses use a stick. If you have a stick that’s helping you, keep using it. But don’t get confused because it’s just a stick. A stick that God is choosing to use in your life but it’s only a stick. Ultimately, your stick is just a stick. Only God can give victory.
And I wonder: Is it possible you’ve been looking to a stick, or maybe a series of sticks, and never truly looked to God for victory?
What would it look like for you to make the Lord your banner? How would you put your trust in God for the victory, but, concurrently, use whatever stick he’s provided you?
There’s a verse in the Bible I think can help us. “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).
That verse is talking about a literal battle, like the Israelites fought against the Amalekites. And, that verse describes what the Israelites did that day. They trusted God for the victory. That’s why Moses was on the sidelines, holding up the stick. The Israelites knew they would lose without God, and it was only through His power that they would defeat the Amelekites. If there was going to be victory, it would belong to the Lord.
Prepare For Battle
But here’s what they didn’t do: They didn’t just stand there, watching and waiting to see how God was going to defeat the Amalekites. No, they prepared their horses for battle. They sharpened their swords. Then they went into battle. And if you watched them in battle, they wouldn’t have looked different from any other army. They were riding their horses and swinging their swords. They wouldn’t have looked different from any other army, but there was something completely different from every other army – the Lord was their banner. That’s why Moses was holding up the stick. Though they prepared their horses for battle, they believed victory belonged to the Lord.
Becoming a “prepare your horse for battle, but victory belongs to the Lord” type of person means you trust God can and will give you victory. That doesn’t mean you just sit around, watching and waiting to see how God is going to do it. No, you do what you need to do, but while you do it you are relying completely on God. You’re praying it’s a stick he’ll choose to use in your deliverance. Your attention is lifted high, and even if you grow weary, even if you have to get some of your friends to help you, you keep it fixed on God.
So, like the Israelites, you might not look different from any other person fighting a similar battle. Just like them you show up for your counseling session, or to your support group meeting, or you read the book someone suggested, or you install the filtering software on your computer, or you start getting up early to exercise, or you create a budget. But unlike them, before you do it, while you do it, and after you do it, you pray.
Victory Belongs To God
Take time to pray for God’s direction before you read the book suggested by your friend. “God, let me get some wisdom from this. If there’s something that can help me in here, point it out and use it in my life.”
While you’re listening to your counselor or friend or support group leader, you have an undercurrent of prayer, “God, this person is great, but … a great stick. Only you can make this work in my life. Please use this.”
After you create the budget, “God, this budget makes sense, and if I use it I would stop overspending and I would eventually get out debt. But I know I can’t live out this budget on my own. I’ll end up buying something I can’t afford like I have in the past. This must be you, God. Please empower me to live by this. I can’t do this God, but you can.”
What do you do? You prepare the horse for battle, but you know God IS victory, and victory belongs to the Lord.
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