And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. (Exodus 17:11-12)
I return often to these verses, for they provide a reminder of an incredibly simple yet perfect provision for imperfect people. Especially during times of trial, when it seems strength is waning and the battle may be lost, despite the will and the desire to keep on toward victory. We all have those moments, and so often we are weighed down by a sense of failure, a sense that our faith is as weak as our diminishing strength.
The reality is that no one can fight the battles for us. Many Christians are somehow disillusioned when they realise that their battles are their own, and they must fight each of them themselves – relying only on the grace and empowering of God to get them through. Our battles come our way to teach us and to strengthen us, and we each have different things to learn.
The other kind of Christian is one who feels they cannot reach out to others, that they must silently endure and fight on alone, that because it’s ‘their battle’ they cannot admit weakness. Perhaps they fear that their struggle will suggest a lack of faith, or diminished ‘spirituality,’ or even that they cannot display weakness. What a tragic perception, because it excludes God’s perfect provision for an imperfect people.
Moses stands out as a ‘mighty man of God.’ We see him confronting the might of Pharoah, and leading his people out of Egypt. We see him meeting with God on Mount Sinai and receiving the stone tablets, returning so bathed in the glory of the Lord that the people cannot bear to look at him. In this battle, Moses literally held the fate of the Israelites in his hand. Joshua may have been leading the army, but the Bible is very clear on this point: while Moses held the rod of God high, the Israelites were winning. The battle rested not on the soldiers, but on the raising high of the rod – the ‘overseeing presence’ of God himself, and the type of Christ in the future.
But, for all his ‘larger than life’ qualities, Moses was an imperfect person, just like you and I. Battles tend to go on a long time and, inevitably, Moses’ arms got tired. Here he was, this ‘mighty man of God’ holding the outcome of the battle in his hand, and he just couldn’t do it. And here’s where it gets interesting. Aaron and Hur didn’t condemn him for his ‘weakness.’ They didn’t have a debate about his spirituality, or whether his faith was weak. They simply stepped up, found him a rock to sit on, and each took hold of his arm, one on either side, and held it up and the rod with it.
Two things are important here. The first is that they didn’t try to take the rod and hold it for him. They knew only he could do that, but also knew he needed a little support. The second is that they were immensely practical. They didn’t stand around praying religious prayers – don’t misunderstand me here, genuine prayers are good and necessary, but there are moments where ‘works’ are needed too – and they didn’t throw him well-meaning bits of advice or fruitless platitudes. They saw the ‘problem,’ recognised the need, and did what was necessary to make a difference on a very practical level.
I will never underestimate the essential nature and value of prayer. We are commanded to pray for one another at all times, and I have no doubt whatsoever that God responds to fervent, unselfish prayer to intervene in even the darkest moments. I do not advocate that we should either stop prayer or stop asking for prayer. In fact, prayer should be the ‘first and ongoing’ support, because no amount of ‘works’ will ever be effective without it. But often practical help – the meals, taking care of children, offering someone a lift even though it’s out of our way – can provide a manifest release and enable a person to focus on the battle and winning through.
Our God does sometimes choose to provide sovereign, miraculous intervention. But, for whatever reason, the almighty God of the universe has chosen to manifest His presence, His love and His care for us through other people. Needing support from fellow Christians, and offering the help that is needed, is His way of doing things. It’s not weakness, or lack of faith, or being ‘unspiritual.’ Its being imperfect. But God has already put a plan in place. He has already provided the ‘everlasting arms’ beneath us in our moments of trial and struggle.
Alone, we cannot stand. Together, we can not only stand, we can obtain the victory. We were created as different parts of a single body, and when we are weak, He steps in to reveal His strength. God has a perfect plan for imperfect people – it’s other imperfect people.
Thank you, Lord, for Your incredible grace and for the the knowledge that underneath are Your everlasting arms. Help me to see and to hear, to discern moments of need. Give me strength to give, but also strength to reach out in my weakness, so that You may be made perfect through our human frailty as we manifest Your love, Your compassion, and Your faithfulness to each other.