Exodus 17 Commentary
The community runs out of water. They react by doubting the presence of the LORD. These lines reflect man’s tendency to associate the LORD’S presence with miracles. A smooth life means the LORD is present while a rough ride means the LORD is absent. They test the LORD by wanting the LORD to prove His presence by divinely providing for them. It’s a request coming from doubt. The LORD hates it.
The battle with Amalek is won but only with intercession. Already things are happening but we suspect not exactly as planned by the LORD. Nevertheless the LORD divinely delivers Israel from the hand of Amalek. It is the second battle that Israel has won (having defeated Egypt already). Both battles are fought by the LORD on Israel’s behalf.
The point seem to be that down in the valley military planners are busy with strategy and the troops must outperform the opposition. But reality is that up the mountain the LORD is directing the flow of events.
We also see that from here the LORD seem to be saying that yes, I will help you but now you need to also work – even when it is just lifting hands in prayer. By this event the LORD is telling us that the scale of victory will be determined by the scale of Israel’s dependence on God – up the mountain on her knees. So man has to contribute something. Man has to work for victory but that work is a trip back to God on our knees in prayer.
Things are not looking good at all. Right up to this moment the LORD had been in the lead, directing the rescue operation. Israel’s behavior in extreme unbelief appears to have thrown God’s grand plan off the rails. Now they must intercede to get things done. It’s an attempt to get at man – using man’s language. So far the only way known by Israel is getting it by complaining or by human means. But we know where this is coming from – Abraham flirted with the Ishmael plan while Jacob’s life was nearly entirely driven by human effort towards free and readily accessible and available blessings.
Clearly this isn’t God’s way but Israel must be taken step by step towards the LORD. It appears that intersession has and must replace quarrel and mindless complaining.
Even today intersession that sounds more like begging God than a show of human care, reflecting the care of God – albeit poor reflection, is very bad intersession.
So we want to understand some happenings in the context of failure rather than a perfect flow of events as purposed by the El-Shaddai God. How the LORD accepts a less than good prayer; a less than good intersession; a less than good methodology is exactly the reason for the Christ, here prefigured by this key rescue operation. And through Christ a perfection is achieved but only as man accepts the invitation.
Moses erects an altar calling it, “the LORD is my banner”. His ancestors built altars to the El-Shaddai God and so the worship continues.
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