“Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.” (Exodus 17:8)
The first half of Exodus 17 tells us of the water flowing from the Rock of Horeb. The second half tells us of Israel’s first of many struggles with the Amalekites. Amalek, in Scripture, is a portrait of the flesh, that part of man that has no interest or capacity for the things of God (Rom. 8:7). Amalek was a descendant of Esau (Gen. 36:12), the brother of Jacob who so despised the things of God that he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup (Gen. 25).
Defeated, but never completely wiped out, the ongoing struggle of Amalek against the Children of Israel is a portrait of the Christian’s struggle with the flesh. Let us consider some parallels here in the Hebrews’ first encounter:
Amalek Came Upon Them In The Wake Of Spiritual Victory
As is so often the case, Amalek showed up right after a time of great blessing. Perhaps it was the mighty river of flowing water that came from the Rock of Horeb that drew the Amalekites’ interest in the first place, just as the child of God’s flesh so often rears its head immediately following a period of spiritual growth. It never seems to be during the seasons of backslidden coldness that the flesh makes much noise, but during those times when the Lord is drawing us closer to Him is when the flesh puts up its biggest fights.
We are told simply that Amalek came. Not from whence they came, nor that they marched or travelled a great distance over land. They simply arrived. These cousins of the Hebrews were never really that far away from them. Much as the child of God abides with their own flesh, the Hebrews lived in close proximity to Amalek for a very long time.
Amalek Cannot Be Defeated By Our Struggle
We first meet Joshua, the future leader of the nation, here in Exodus 17. Moses put him in command of the troops who would go out to face Amalek on the field of battle. But it was not Joshua and the army of Israel (if we can really even label them an “army”) who were the most important factor in the Hebrews’ victory. It was Moses, Aaron, and Hur on the mountaintop, high above the battle, who played the pivotal role.
Moses, hands raised to the sky and the rod of God in his grasp, was the man most crucial to the mission. It is with our own hands raised, in prayer to the Lord, that Amalek is defeated in our own lives. The flesh cannot be beaten by fighting with it, it is only through prayer that the Spirit of God overcomes the power of the flesh in the Christian’s life. Lest we think that it is enough to lift our hands occasionally in prayer, consider that each time Moses’ hands fell, Amalek began to take the victory. Our own struggle with the flesh cannot be won today by the prayers of yesterday. Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses is a good reminder of the stength that others can bring by adding their prayers to our own.
God Will Never Compromise With Amalek
“For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:16)
Two great truths are revealed here: that the battle with the flesh belongs to the Lord, and that the Lord will never compromise with our fleshly desires. The Holy Spirit will continue to struggle with the child of God’s flesh until that flesh is ultimately conquered by Him when we leave this world. One day, this Old Nature of ours will be completely vanquished by the Spirit of God but, until then, He will have war with it from generation to generation.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,