Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pray or Fight?

Reading: Exodus 14-17   
Exodus 14 begins with Israel, having left Egypt, backed into a corner against the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-3). So Pharaoh and his armies approach the Israelites. The Israelites begin to accuse Moses of being in league with Pharaoh to commit genocide: bringing them to this place because they needed a mass grave (Exodus 14:10-12). Meanwhile, Moses still seems to be working out exactly how it would be that the Lord would work in delivering them.
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.  15Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.  16Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” (Exodus 14:13-16)
Moses seemed to think that God would work while they stood still. So the Lord says, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell them to get moving.” Now, if that were the end of the story, we might think it was all up to them. However, as they obey and “move on,” the Lord does indeed work by 1) dividing the sea; 2) causing the Egyptians to pursue them into the sea; 3) guarding them from the rear as they moved forward; and 4) he threw them into a panic and caused the wheels of their chariots to fall off as He fought against them (Exodus 14:17, 19-22, 25).”
Moses was correct to think, “the Lord will fight for you.” He did indeed. He was incorrect to think, “You need only to be still.” There may be times when being still is just the right posture, but often times we are called to obey and act as we trust the Lord to work.
In chapter 17, with Israel now on the other side of the Red Sea, we find the Amalekites coming out to attack the Israelites. This time I think we get a clearer picture of how God would work on their behalf. Joshua takes the army out to meet the Amalekites, while Moses goes to the top of the mountain lifting up his hands on their behalf. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.” (Exodus 17:9-11) They were fighting, but it was supported by prayer.
Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.   16He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD....” (Exodus 17:15-16)
This idea of a “banner” is a picture of the Lord going before them, leading them. This is vitally connected to hands being lifted up to the throne of God. Paul captures this story in a line in 1 Timothy 2:8, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.” It is not just for Moses to pray, or for the pastors to pray, it is for all of us everywhere to pray. And as we pray, the Lord goes before us — or to say it another way, we will be led by the Spirit as we engage the world with the Gospel.
Christ has come and reigns as King in the Kingdom. Our calling on him in prayer, our lifting holy hands in prayer, as it were, as a dependence up on Him for the Spirit's power gets to the very heart of His rule over us that Israel rejected when they asked for a king. They didn't want the Lord, the invisible God, to go before them, they wanted a physical earthly power they could trust in (1 Samuel 8:20). Why? Because they didn't trust.
What do we trust in? One way to answer that question is to ask how we are doing in applying 1 Timothy 2:8 and Exodus 17:15-16. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). It is absolutely vital that we let the Lord fight those battles, so we can love our neighbor here on earth, and win the battles. We love our neighbor, we are to be patient and kind, gentle and compassionate, and He fights the battles leading us in triumph as we lay down our lives for others. If we don't pray, we will likely end up fighting more often than not, as we will be trusting in the flesh.  For more on the topic of prayer and love, and how loving our neighbor is our battle see Fight! You Have an Inheritance to Take.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

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