Exodus 17:8-13 – New International Version
The Amalekites Defeated
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 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—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Following the Catholic liturgical year, today’s passage is from Exodus, a book of the Old Testament. A lot of folks are turned off by the Old Testament. It doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of life. Instead, we read all about war, treachery, lying, adultery… the list goes on. Of course, there’s a lot of really good stuff in the Old Testament too. The Old Testament contains a beautiful love poem about conjugal love, The Song of Songs. And it tells of how God is merciful, just and protects us from evil.
But there’s one key ingredient that we need if we are to be truly protected. And that’s faith. From faith, and a growing relationship with God, we can better learn how to do the right thing.
Now, I’m a psychologist at heart, so I tend to interpret scripture from the perspective of psychology and religion. And when I look at today’s reading, I see someone under attack. And he only succeeds in overcoming this attack when “the staff of God” is held high. Whenever it isn’t held high, his enemies begin to win the battle.
So from a psychological point of view, we can see this as exhorting us to overcome bad things through the power of God. I really don’t believe that we can overcome attacks – from within ourselves or from others – without God’s help. Oh, we can choose to be positive, go for a jog, or take medications. And these things can be an integral part of God’s plan. I don’t deny that. But ultimately, for Christians and many others, the true source of healing and betterment is God.
This sounds great but unfortunately we don’t always feel close to God. Sometimes we get tired from the fight, our faith might waver, and we need help from others. We may need a wake-up call, encouragement, group prayer, or the communal celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
And when we receive God’s help through others, that’s when Aaron and Hur hold up our hands.
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