“And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed”Exodus 17:11
Over the years the application that I have predominantly heard concerning this passage is that this is a lesson in prayer. That if we are to defeat the enemy we need constant prayer and that it is a team effort. I doubt any true believer would argue against the necessity of prayer, both personal and corporate, but I have often wondered if that is the main theme of the passage. It has been assumed from Moses’ posture that prayer is the theme but raised hands can also be an expression of praise and worship.
This is the first mention of Joshua by name in the Bible (v 9) and he has been appointed to lead slaves, militarily untrained, against a people prepared for war. Perhaps there is something important that the Lord wants Joshua to learn. Moses told Joshua that he would stand on the top of a hill and hold up the rod of God. Ever since the burning bush Moses’ rod has been the symbol of God’s authority, power and presence. Moses, with help from Aaron and Hur would hold up this rod. This is to be a lesson to Joshua. Follow-up lessons are recorded from Joshua 5:13. He would lead the military arm of Israel for the next forty years and, later, the whole nation.
The Lord commanded Moses to make a written record of this event and “recount it in the hearing of Joshua” (v 14). In the heat of the battle Joshua may not have noticed what was happening on the hill so the Lord makes sure he found out. Joshua would have a written record that he may read over and again.
Rather than a lesson only on prayer, this was an early lesson preparing Joshua to trust the Lord in the battles he would face. We are inclined to take matters into our own hands rather than trust the Lord. The evidence that we are doing this is that we become anxious, frustrated or panic. Joshua would need further lessons on this and we will also but the Lord has laid the foundation for Joshua and us here. Prayer is an important part of trusting the Lord and an expression of trust and faith. I believe that the main lesson to Joshua and us is that we rest in the Lord, especially in the battle, and trust Him for ultimate victory.
Raising the symbol of God’s authority, power and presence denoted trust in the Lord. Amalek was resisting the will of God, not just the fledgling nation of Israel.