Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Story time: Exodus 17:8-15

As we gathered to worship on Sunday night Pastor Joe read a story to us from Exodus 17. I knew the story and as he read it my mind began to craft the words into a story like what I used to tell on the bridge at Manitoqua. I don’t have a bridge with children here to tell the story to, so I’ll do my best to write it out and share it with all of you. Enjoy!

A long long time ago in a land called Rephidim there were two nations, Israel and the Amalekites. Israel was led by Moses and his trusty sidekick Joshua and the Amalekites were let by Amalek. Something happened and the two nations had a disagreement. We don’t know exactly what they were disagreeing over, but we do know that water was scarce there, so let’s pretend they were fighting over water. G-d had just done a miracle through Moses in which Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came out of it, but that is a story for another day.

So, the Amalekites and the Israelites drew up lines for battle. The battle was going to be fought in a valley between two hills. In the division of labor of the Israelite nation, Joshua fought with the troops and Moses was the big head commander person. Moses gave Joshua his instructions. He was to go down into the valley with the Israelites on the following day and fight the Amalekites. Moses himself was going to stand on top the hill and hold his staff above his head. This must have sounded rather strange to Joshua and I imagine it even sounded strange to Moses. After all, he was taking his instructions from YHWH and YHWH didn’t always give the clearest instructions, at least not instructions that make sense (like hitting a rock with a stick to get water).

Early the next morning Joshua took the Israelite army down into the battle to fight the Amalekites. Moses went up on the hill and took his two friends, Aaron and Hur with him. They got to the top of the mountain and as the battle started, Moses raised his staff above his head, just as YHWH had instructed him to. Things were looking good down in the valley. The Israelites were winning. G-d was definitely on their side. After a while Moses’ arms began to hurt. You try and hold a stick over your head and see what happens! They began to burn and started to shake. He wanted nothing more than to lower them down and rest, but YHWH had told him that he had to keep them up. He bit his lip and tears ran down his face. How long did YHWH want him to hold this staff up? And what was the purpose? The time continued to pass and even though he tried hard his arms began to droop. He couldn’t do it any longer. As the staff started to fall something changed in the battle in the valley. The lower the staff got the worse the Israelites did. When the staff wasn’t in the air, the Amalekites were winning! Moses knew that if the Israelites were going to win he had to keep the staff in the air. He raised his arms again and the battle turned around again. The Israelites were winning! Moses’ arms grew so tired though. Thankfully his friends Aaron and Hur figured out what was happening and were very resourceful. They knew that Moses couldn’t keep his arms above his head all day, at least not by himself. Quickly they found a large rock and had Moses sit down on it. Then, Aaron went to one side of him and Hur to the other. Each of them took and arm and held it up. For the rest of the day they stayed with Moses and held his arms up. It wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t glamorous. It was long and boring, but very necessary. At the end of the day, the Israelites had won the battle as sure as the sky is blue.

As the troops returned from the battle they did the typical Israelite thing and made an altar and praised YHWH for giving them the victory. With the help of his friends, Moses had been able to follow YHWH’s instructions.

Those of you who know me well know that I like to do things myself. Some of you even call me stubborn. There is nothing wrong with being independent except for the fact that we weren’t created to be islands unto ourselves. Each of us is fighting a battle of our own and it may look different for everyone, but the one thing that is the same about it is that we can’t fight the battle by ourselves. In the 48 hours since coming back to campus I’ve been reminded of this again and again. I can’t do life on my own. Yes , I have G-d and he is always with me, but I also need you—my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. And you all need your friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. Together we can fight the battles of life. We can hold each other’s arms up like Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms.  And I am willing to hazard a guess that it won’t look quite the same as it did in Exodus 17 and that it won’t even look the same for each situation. Somedays it might look like praying with a friend or for a friend, lifting them up to the Lord. Somedays it might look like having a meal with a friend and listening to them talk about what is going on in their life. Somedays it might look like going on a walk, or driving someone to Walmart, or sending an encouraging e-mail, or attending corporate worship, or giving a hug, or giving someone space to be vulnerable, or or or…the possibilities are endless.

Who’s arms are you going to hold up?

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