Declare Your Dependence

Throughout their journey to the Promised Land, God tested the people of Israel. In Exodus 17:8-16, they faced the first military test of their sojourn. A group of bedouin raiders, the Amalekites, came and attacked the Hebrews. When that attack came, rather than complaining and grumbling like they typically did, Moses and all Israel responded in faith.

At the end of the battle, Moses set up an altar as a memorial. It wasn't what we normally think about when we imagine an altar. I think of large stones built together to make a grill for burning sacrifices. Bible scholars believe this memorial was more like a tall obelisk or flag pole. There may have even been a flag flying at the top of it, because Moses called it, "The Lord is my Banner" (17:15).

As an American, that picture surprised me. When I think about flying a flag, I think about how we celebrate and declare our independence. This Bible story show us our need to do exactly the opposite. The banner memorial is a declaration of dependence on God and one another. The battle teaches us two key truths:

  • First, we can't win without God.  When the Amalekites attacked Israel, Moses spoke to his field general, Joshua, "Choose some men to go and fight the Amalekites" (17:8a) Then Moses said, "Tomorrow, I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands" (17:8b). Moses didn't hang back because he was an old man. He went to the top of the hill to intercede for the battle. By attacking Israel, the Amalekites had "lifted their hands against the throne of the Lord" (17:16). They had called into question God's plan to give the promise land to his people. Moses lifted up his hands as an appeal for the Lord to remember his promise and fight for his people. And, while Moses cried out in desperation on the hill top, Joshua, whose name means "God saves" fought in the valley.

    The scene is a picture of the gospel. Sin and Satan wage war against our souls. Sometimes we think we can fight in our own strength. If we know enough gospel truth or sin-fighting technique, we'll have victory. But we can't beat sin without God's intervention. Like Moses, we must cry out for help. God gives us the new Joshua, Jesus, to fight for us in the valley. Israel couldn't win without God, and we can't either. Like Moses, we're most victorious when we cry out in brokenness and appeal to his promises.
  • Second, we can't win without each other.  The Hebrews only experienced victory to the degree that Moses expressed his dependence. "As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning" (17:11). But, lest Israel be tempted to place their faith in Moses, God used the battle to show the leader's weakness. Before the battle was over, the energy in his arms and the strength of his prayer ran out. Moses needed other men to support him. He needed  Aaron and Hur. "When Moses hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it" (17:12a). Then, "Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset" (17:12b) 

    The scene is a picture of the church. In the church, God has given us a band of brothers and sisters to hold up our arms. We strengthen one another. But, incredibly, strength and victory only come as our friends and fellow sojourners  help us to courageously declare our weakness.

After the battle, God gave Moses a final instruction. God said, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered." In other words, God said, the next generation needs to hear this message

So put a flag in the ground and ask yourself today...

  • Do my kids see me declaring my dependence on God or my own independence and freedom?
  • Do they see me embracing weakness or relentlessly projecting strength?
  • Do they see me leaning on the church for help when I'm attacked?
  • Would they describe me as someone who lives a life characterized by trust?

Family Friday Links 2.20.15

Here are a few of the things we've read online from the past week. We could call this week's edition, "For Parents".

Aaron Armstrong wrote a post on his blog about books kids should read. He starts out by saying, "I love reading great books - and really love introducing new books to my kids." If you are a parent of a reader, this is a great place to start them reading some things that may not be on your radar.

Ron Brooks had a post on the topic of teaching kids about faith. He defined faith this way based on Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is believing in something you can't see." Parents we need to be helping our kids understand spiritual things. Pastor Brooks goes on to explain why, "You do not have to have all the answers. The important thing is you spend time in discussion, and that you try." You'll never do it perfect, but that doesn't diminish our responsibility to be faithful.

I (Pat) wrote a post on my personal blog on the topic of becoming better parents. It's based on a book I'm reading by Craig Jutila called Faith and the Modern Family. I highly recommend this book to parents.

What have you been reading online? Leave us a comment (and maybe even a link) for us to check out.

Family Friday Links 1.23.15

Here's what we've been reading online from the past week:

Craig Jutila had a post on parental frustration (and and who among us parents haven't been there?);  and how to overcome it. He writes that in order to deal with them in a healthy way we should us what he calls the "MAP" method - be MINDFUL, be AWARE, and be PRESENT. To learn what he means by those, go read the post. Parents this is an important post.

Connected Families had a post on what discipline teaches kids. Commenting on Hebrews 12:10 & 11, the post reads, "God's discipline is not intended to have immediate results, and those results are not about right behavior but about God's righteousness and peace." Parents, this is another post well worth your time.

Trevin Wax had two great posts over on the Gospel Coalition blog. The first was a post the struggle of passing on faith. He laments, "... the biggest failure, the biggest sadness, of so many people of my generation, including parents, educators, and leaders in the church, is our failure to pass along our faith in a compelling way to the generation not taking our place." He goes on to explain why that is. The second from Trevin was about parents entering their kid's world. In it he wrote, "Our kids aren't intruding. They're inviting." Both encourage parents to take the responsibility of both their faith and parenting more serious than they do.

Sam Luce had a post on the 50% myth about marriage and divorce. He wrote this near the end of the post, "While encouraged by the finding in this article I find the thing that couples need most (my marriage included) is an understanding of need for daily grace." This is good advice for all relationships, not just marriage relationships.

What have you been reading online and found helpful and/or encouraging? Leave a link in the comment section and one of us will check it out!