One of my favorite Bible stories can be found in Exodus, specifically Exodus 17:8-13. It goes as follows:
Then Amalek came and waged war against Israel in Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some men for us, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him: he engaged Amalek in battle while Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of the hill. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they took a rock and put it under him and he sat on it. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady until sunset. And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.”
I have loved this story since I first heard it, and as I was meditating on this reading the other day, I began to think of why I like it so much. The answer came to me in one word: support.
As Christians, the world does not support us. We can see that this is nothing new; Jesus Christ Himself warned us that the world would turn against us in John 14:18-19 when He says,
‘If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.'”
So, even back in the time of Jesus (and even before Christ!), it can be seen that the world hated us. Saint Paul himself is a grand example of that; he persecuted Christians until Jesus Christ appeared to him and converted him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4.) Christians, as a whole, are barely tolerated and woefully unsupported, and the reason why is stunningly simple. In fact, the Bible reveals the answer to us in the very same chapter of John I quoted earlier, this time verses 20-25:
‘Remember the word I spoke to you, no slave is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates my father. If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, they hated me without cause.‘ “
How disheartening! To hear that the world will not just choose not to support us, but they will choose to persecute us, and all because we preach the Fullness of Truth, because we remind them that the life they are living isn’t true happiness. (In fact, they are actively resisting their own happiness!)
Now, please be aware this isn’t meant to be a callout post: on the contrary, it is more of a statement of facts. The world does not support the Fullness of Truth, and most of us understand why; it is easier to live a life of luxury than a life of servanthood.
But why does the story of Moses and his tired arms touch me so? Why did the word support enter my heart whilst I was meditating on the passage? Well, because it reminds me that just because the world doesn’t support us, doesn’t mean nobody does.
Because the truth is, we as Christians do have a support system. The strongest, most beautiful, indestructible support system in the world -scratch that, the universe, in all of Creation! It has existed since before all ages, became Flesh and walked amongst us, gave itself up for the Church (us), and will continue to exist long after the world has forgotten our names.
Our support, in case you haven’t caught on yet, is our Maker. God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that we would be cast aside, knew that we would suffer for Him, and so, in the coming of Jesus, He not only saved our souls but also gave us an eternal support system on Earth, as it is in Heaven. The Church.
In the reading in Exodus we see that Moses has his hands raised to ensure that Israel would win the battle against Amalek. But Moses, by this point, wasn’t young; on the contrary, he was elderly, and human at that. Even a young man’s arms get tired after being held up for so long, but can you imagine how tired Moses must have gotten after a while? Exhausted. It says in the Bible that “when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” Imagine the pain and guilt he must’ve felt upon lowering his hands for a short while and watching his men -his family- fall on the battlefield, all because he had to rest. He must have felt guilty. He must have felt ashamed and helpless, as he raised his trembling and tired arms back up, staff in hand. Perhaps he simply couldn’t hold them up any longer and they fell again; what was he to do?
God knew Moses couldn’t make it alone. No human being can make it alone; we are not made for eternal solitude. And because God knew Moses couldn’t make it alone, He sent help. The Bible doesn’t say why Aaron and Hur went with Moses, but it does say they did. I like to imagine they watched Moses for a long time, until he lowered his hands, and then they noticed how tired he looked. I imagine them taking in his slumped shoulders and his shaking fingers, and I can see Hur and Aaron looking at each other before going to get a rock for Moses to sit down. I imagine that when they brought it to Moses, he probably collapsed onto it immediately, holding his arms up again and asking the Lord for help. Of course, the Lord delivers.
Moses always felt alone and removed from the Israelites. If you read the Old Testament, you can see that the Israelites never really accepted Moses, and you can see that Moses knows this. So, can you imagine how he must have felt when his older brother (Aaron) and Hur grabbed one arm each and helped him? The feeling of support and gratitude he must’ve felt was probably overwhelming. And you know what? The Israelites would have lost that battle if it wasn’t for the help of Aaron and Hur. If it wasn’t for their support, Moses wouldn’t have been able to keep his arms up, and many Israelites would have perished.
This beautiful story represents our wonderful support system in the Church! Each and every one of us is fighting a hard battle in keeping the faith, in sharing the Gospel, in living God’s Word, and if we don’t stop fighting, we’ll fall behind, and, unfortunately, we might just lose our battle. And just like Moses, we are human. We get tired after a while. Exhausted. We feel pain, we feel guilt, we feel shame at being tired, we think we should be able to go it alone, because we’ve got Jesus and He’s the only one we need, right? Right. But for some reason we’re still failing; what are we supposed to do?
Well. There once was a man who got caught in a flood. The man climbed to the top of his house and prayed to God, “God, please let me escape this flood.” After waiting for a little bit, a man in a small little canoe paddled by and saw the man on his roof, “hello there!” Called the man in his canoe, “why don’t you come with me, and I’ll row you to safety?” The man on the roof shook his head, “thank you, but I’ve prayed to God and He’s going to help me escape.” So the man in the canoe paddled away. A little while later, a family in a good-sized boat came whizzing by. Seeing him, they stopped. Calling up to the man, they said, “ahoy there! Why don’t you come down? We’ll take you to safety!” But the man said no, adding, “I’ve already asked God for help. Thank you, though!” So the family in the good-sized boat left. A few more minutes passed before the man heard a loud whirring sound. Looking up, he saw a helicopter approaching him. A woman lowered a ladder from the helicopter and yelled, “hey! Climb up the ladder and we’ll take you to somewhere safe!” But the man shook his head, “God is coming for me.” The woman frowned, and yelled back, “this is the last rescue in the area! Sure you don’t want to come?” The man shook his head, firmer, “God is coming for me.” So the helicopter flew off. The waters rose, and the man, sadly, died. When the man got to heaven, God Himself was waiting for him. “Hello!” God said. The man waved, and God asked, “do you have a question for me?” The man nodded, “Lord, I asked you to save me, and you didn’t!” God looked at him, amused, and said, “well, I sent a canoe, and you let it pass you by. I sent a boat, and you said no to it, and then, finally, I sent a helicopter, and you still denied the rescue… I wasn’t sure what else to do!”
Our Maker is truly the only one we need. But, as we can see from this story, God shows Himself to us in many different ways. Among them, and most common, is through other human beings. God knew Moses couldn’t make it alone; no human can make it alone! And because God knows we can’t make it alone, He sends help. He sends people to help us when we can no longer fight on our own, sends the Church to support us and through this, we become closer to God, relying on Him even more than before. Beautiful.
Moses always felt alone and removed from the Israelites. Christians always feel hated and removed by the world. The world has never accepted Christianity because they have never accepted the Lord, and Christians know this. But know you, and I, are not alone. We are not unsupported. We have the Church, each other, and we can rejoice in the knowledge that we, like Moses, have people to hold us up when we are weak. God has given us a support system, and right in the middle of that system stands our Maker Himself.
My brothers and sisters, though the world hates you, you are not alone. Though sometimes it may seem like there is only evil in this world, only disaster after disaster, know that you have people standing by you. You are loved; you are cherished; you are defended in battle. You are supported.
God bless each and every one of you,