“Water and War” sounds like the title of a novel or a government report on disputed water rights. Wars over water rights were common in the frontier days of America’s “Wild West,” and unfortunately are all too possible in the Middle East today. However, this article is not about war over water rights, but about two events in Exodus 17: God’s providing water for Israel in the wilderness, and Israel’s war with Amalek. Real Water “The Lord answered Moses, ‘Walk on ahead of the people. Take ... in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’” (Ex. 17:5-6 NIV).
In Exodus 16 we read of the Lord’s miraculous daily provision of manna, the food which satisfied the physical hunger of His people. In Exodus 17, the Israelites needed water. By this time in their travels, they should have learned that God would provide for them. Instead they grumbled, and defiantly asked Moses why he had brought them out of Egypt to die of thirst in the wilderness! Moses actually feared that they were ready to stone him. Once again, in His great grace, God miraculously provided for His people – in spite of their complaining and lack of trust. He showed Moses a rock and told him to strike it with his rod. Miraculously, fresh water flowed from the rock to quench the people’s thirst.
“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up … so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword” (Ex. 17:10-13).
The Amalekites were a fierce nomadic tribe that lived in the Sinai peninsula. They were descendants of Esau. Deuteronomy 25:17-18 tells us that this attack on Israel was from the rear. But God protected His people, and, under Joshua’s leadership, they defeated the Amalekites. As Moses stood on the hilltop overlooking the battle, his raised arms were key to that defeat. As long as his arms were raised, Israel prevailed, but when his arms dropped, Amalek prevailed. Aaron and Hur became important contributors to Israel’s victory by supporting Moses’ raised arms.
In Israel’s wilderness trek, both the water and the war are parts of the overall spiritual lesson that God has given us. First Corinthians 10:11 informs us that all the events in the travels of God’s people from Egypt to Canaan are examples, or “types,” from which we can learn spiritual truth. A “type” is an Old Testament person, place, event or other item that pictures New Testament truth. In what ways do the water from the rock and the war with Amalek picture New Testament truth?
The water from the rock is a spiritual picture of the water of the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 10:4 says that the people in the wilderness “drank the same spiritual drink … from the spiritual rock.” Does this mean that the water and the rock in the wilderness weren’t real? No, they were definitely real. The rock from which water flowed is a type or spiritual picture of Christ, the source of living water. On the cross He was “struck” with the “rod” of God’s judgment because of our sins. Spiritual life, or living water, is now available for anyone who is spiritually thirsty. Besides representing new spiritual life in Christ, the water also portrays the Holy Spirit who empowers that life.
Remember what Jesus said at the Feast of Tabernacles: “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If a man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified” (Jn. 7:37-39). This is the same “living water” that the Lord promised to give the woman of Samaria if she would turn to Him as Messiah (Jn. 4:13-14). The promise of new life by the Spirit is available today to all who come to Christ, the smitten Rock, to quench their spiritual thirst.
The war with Amalek is a spiritual picture of war with our sinful nature – sometimes called “the flesh” in the New Testament. When we become believers we receive the water of life by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but our sinful nature is not yet eliminated. In fact, the war is ongoing between the flesh and the Spirit. As Galatians 5:16-17 says, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other.” The war between the flesh and the Spirit is pictured in the war with Amalek.
We saw that the Amalekites were descendants of Esau, a godless, immoral person (Heb. 12:16) who was controlled by his fleshly or sinful nature. This background emphasizes how Amalek is a picture or type of the activity of the flesh in the believer’s life. Although Amalek was defeated in this battle, Hebrews 12:16 tells us that Amalek was not destroyed. As war continued between Amalek and Israel from generation to generation, so throughout our lives there will be war between our flesh and the indwelling Spirit. In Romans 7, Paul wrote of this warfare from his own Christian experience. Praise the Lord, the war between the flesh and the Spirit will be over when we get to heaven and have our resurrected bodies, which will be sinless (Phil. 3:20-21).
In the spiritual picture in Exodus 17, we see several principles of victory in the war between the flesh and the Spirit. First, we need to gratefully recognize that the Lord is on high, always “interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Moses on the mountain, as the leader of God’s people, pictures the truth of the Lord making intercession for us on high. Moses with upraised hands also emphasizes the importance of prayer in spiritual battle. As long as his arms were raised in prayer, God’s people prevailed, but when his arms drooped, the enemy prevailed. Because the sinful nature is always active, we must stay alert and “pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17).
Another principle of victory in the war between the flesh and the Spirit may be seen in Exodus 17:13. In the spiritual picture, the defeat of Amalek by “the sword” may portray the necessity of our using the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, when we engage in spiritual battle with the enemy (Eph. 6:17). The Spirit, who lives within us, battles against the flesh by filling our minds with the Word so that we are strengthened in the Lord. He can bring specific verses to mind to oppose the persistent sinful nature. In addition, we learn in Hebrews 4:12 that through the two-edged sword of the Word, the Spirit can bring to our attention problem areas where the sinful nature has gained control over us. But remember, we must know the Word so the Spirit can prepare us for spiritual battle.
Are You A Hur?
Do you ever feel that you’re just an ordinary believer and not a multi-talented Christian? Do you feel like your prayers are common-place? Be encouraged. Maybe you’re a Hur! All he did was support one of Moses’ arms. He didn’t have a “starring” role, but Hur had a very important role! Do you see the application? Do whatever you can to support the work of the Lord – and His workers.
Be on the lookout for jobs that need a willing helper, jobs that are often viewed as unimportant. Look for people who need your prayers and encouragement. Maybe a battle-weary leader in your church needs your support. Maybe a hurting friend needs your comfort. Your supporting job may not seem big, but Christians who play “supporting roles” are very important for winning spiritual battles. In fact, the faithful, “supporting role” believer may be the difference between defeat and victory!
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org