Saturday, February 3

Sword and staff

Scripture: Exodus 17-18, Acts 10

Exodus 17:9–13 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.


The Amalekites, distant cousins of the Israelites, attacked them on their journey to the promised land. Moses charged Joshua with leading the troops to defend the Israelites, while Moses went up on a hill with his staff—“the staff of God,” the one that Moses had used in multiple miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea. There, Moses held up the staff in his hands, presumably in prayer. As long as Moses’ hands were up, the Israelites prevailed. When Moses grew weary, Aaron and Hur propped up his hands until victory was secured.

It could be that the sight of Moses and his staff raised in prayer inspired the troops below. While the text doesn’t say that Moses prayed, most scholars understand his lifted hands to symbolize his appeal to God. Certainly, the staff of God was no magical amulet, but it was a strong reminder of God’s presence and power.

Which leads to the question: who should get credit for the victory? Joshua and the troops who did the actual fighting? Moses, who lifted up the staff in prayer like a banner? Aaron and Hur, who propped up Moses’ tired arms? Or God? 

The answer is…yes! 

“Both elements are to be operating: (1) the sword in Joshua’s hand and (2) the staff (symbol of divine intervention) in Moses’ hand. Once again divine sovereignty and human responsibility are linked in carrying out God’s will.” (EBC)


I like that explanation: the sword and staff operating together. Our part and God’s part. Of course, God always does the heavy lifting. But while the victory belonged to God, our Banner, it wouldn’t have been accomplished without Joshua and the troops, or Moses and Aaron and Hur holding up the staff of God.

There is so much I cannot do—I must trust the Lord to intervene. For that, I lift my hands in prayer. I lean on the Lord our Banner. 

But I also know that God gives me a role to play and expects me to be part of the battle. It comes down to discipleship 101—listen to Jesus, do what He says. That’s all I can do—the rest is in God’s hands.

What battle are you facing? What has God asked you to do?


Prayer: Lord, I lift my hands in prayer to You and ask You to intervene and do what only You can do. The battle is the Lord’s. And show me what I’m to do and I’ll do it…sword and staff together.