One story I frequently return to when times are tough is the defeat of the Amalekites in Exodus 17. Amalek comes to challenge Israel, and as Joshua fights them with the men of Israel, Moses stands above, on the hill of Rephidim.
So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.Exodus 17:11-12
12 But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other.
What a picture God here presents!
Moses, resting on the rock, his hands outstretched, held up by Aaron and Hur, a man from the tribe of Judah.
And thus his hands were steady until Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people, until the sun set (v. 13; see also Ex. 9:33).
This imagery appears again, this time contrasted, in 2 Samuel. Here, Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, hears that King Saul’s cousin and commander-in-chief of his army Abner has died in Hebron. The text tells us that at this news, Ish-bosheth’s hands dropped (2 Samuel 4:1), a sign of lost courage.
When Israel repeated stories of their history like this to their children, they were teaching them to watch out for the coward, the deceiver, to look instead for the Word Made Flesh, their Messiah (see Deut. 6:7, Jn 5:38-40). Indeed, Jesus’s life, death and resurrection saturate the Old Testament! And more than that, Jesus Himself would trace the steps of His people Israel but in perfection, doing what they could not do, completing what they could not finish.
In the battle against Amalek, God’s sign of victory appeared in the combined strength of three men: a prophet, a priest, and a man from Judah, tribe of kings.
But at the cross, Jesus raised His arms alone. The hands that had healed the sick and comforted the weak and weary (Lk 13:13), these were nailed to the cross. And there His hands remained, outstretched until the sun was darkened (Lk 23:44-45), until our Messiah was delivered into the hands of sinful men (Lk 24:7), to death itself (1 Pt. 3:18-12).
And having risen again, His enemy and ours defeated forever, our Prophet, Priest and King appeared again to His people.
And he led them out as far as to Bethany.Luke 24:50
And he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
Now Jesus our Rock reigns, seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, upholding all things by the Word of His Power (Heb. 1:3). In Him, we meet the perfect fulfillment of what the Lord had promised to Moses and to His people at the battle at Rephidim, “place of rest”.
Truly, the Lord is our Banner. In His strong and loving arms, we find complete victory and rest, from dawn until the sun sets. Until the stars appear.
Then the Lord said to Moses,
“Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua,
that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner;
16 and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”