Grace to you!
Exodus 17:8-15 has one of the many beautiful stories in the Old Testament. It is the story of Israel’s battle with Amalek.
The Amalekites waged war against the people of Israel at Rephidim (meaning, place of rest), by Sinai Peninsula. Moses asked Joshua to gather Israelite soldiers and engage Amalek, whereas he, Aaron and Hur went up to the mountain. Up on the mountain, Moses held the rod of God and lifted it up with two hands. Whenever the rod was lifted, Israel triumphed, and whenever Moses brought down the rod, Amalek prevailed.
Though bible scholars disagree regarding the exact meaning of the raising of the rod of God by Moses, there are some likely interpretations. The Jewish Scripture scholar, Nahum Mattathias Sarna, says it’s a Jewish understanding that the hand, often seen as the symbol of action and power is also the “instrument of mediation.” Hence, Moses action is an intercessory role, focusing God’s power on Israel for victory.
Rashbam (Rabbi Shmuel Ben Meir) provided a more probable interpretation. For him, Moses’ action symbolized “the presence of God in the Israelite camp.” The name (Yahweh Nissi – The Lord is my Banner/Standard) that Moses gave to the altar after the battle, supports this explanation.
Hence, following the tradition of the Jewish, rabbinic school, the lifted hands of Moses did not control the war but it set a standard of reference for Israelite soldiers to look up to God on high, their Father in heaven so they could win the war as they did (see Sarna, N. M. (1991). Exodus (pp. 95–96). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society).
One could, therefore, say Moses’ lifted rod was a symbol of the banner of God. The book of Psalms declares, “I lift up my eyes toward the mountains; whence shall help come to me? My help is from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
The Israelites had to look up to God as the inspiration for the battle. Believers have to look up to the Lord Jesus Christ who is our banner of victory in the battlefront.
A more Christological (Christ-based) interpretation sees Moses’ action as a typology of Jesus Christ’s action on the cross. Jesus Christ, whom the Book of Hebrew calls the High Priest of our faith, offers to God the petitions of all his children, we the pilgrims.
As the gift (victim) of the sacrifice, Jesus is crossed on the horizontal and the vertical wood just like Moses’ hand lifting the rode of God, so those in the battlefront, believers (the pilgrim Church, also called the Church militant) could get victory. Just like the story of the battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD) when Constantine received victory by the sign of the Chi-Rho (the cross), by this sign of the cross, there is victory (In hoc Signo vinces – in this sign you will conquer).
By way of application, it shows the powerful impact the leader’s prayer of any church community has on the life of the entire community. If you are a leader, in the domestic church (the family), in the parish, the religious house or a ministry; please pray for the entire people working with you, those who depend on you for their spiritual support. Lifting your hands to God in prayer could strengthen their resolve in the spiritual battle against evil. Pray!
Dads, pray for your family. Be the spiritual leader you are called to be. Moms, pray for your children and your husband. Be the agape of victory. Husband and wife support each other in this prayerful intercession for the church of the home, your family. Single moms never forget you are also called to lift your child before God, and lift your burdens to God. Children, support your parents by your intercessions.
Another imagery here is the role of the two people (Aaron and Hur) who held the hands of Moses when he was becoming weak. This shows we need a support system, co-prayers, prayer-partners, who would carry the intercessory burdens with us. No one can make it alone to the finish line. We need each other.
Jesus assures us of the efficacy of prayer of intercession. “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily” (Luke 18:7-8).
Keep praying. Keep asking. God hears. God will not let you down.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.