The Amalekites — Sixth in a series
At the end of the last post, Israel was marching north, near the Moabites whose king had hired Balaam to curse them, but Balaam could not resist the Lord's power and blessed them instead. God had promised Abraham that Canaan would belong to his progeny and was close to fulfilling that promise.
The Moabites were not to be disturbed (Deut 2:9); they were cousins not Canaanites. But they were persistent in their desire to confound Israel. At Balaam's counsel (Num 31:16), Moab's daughters drew the Israelites into whoredom and idol worship (Num 25:1, 2), helped by their neighbors, the Midianites. (Num 25:6)
God told Moses to slay each Hebrew who had fallen to their schemes. When one man brought a Midianite woman into their midst and then into a tent, Moses' great nephew, Phinehas, followed them in and speared both in one thrust. For his zealous deed, God's anger was turned away, and Phinehas was promised God's covenant of peace, And he shall have it, and his seed after him, [even] the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. (Num 25:12, 13) Indeed,
the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of [them] whose heart [is] perfect toward him. (2 Ch 16:9)
The Lord commanded Moses, Vex the Midianites, and smite them. (vs 17) This was to be Moses' final work before he died. We recall that Moses' wife was a Midianite: the Lord is not sentimental.
For the Israelites to take the land, there was urgent necessity that they honor and obey all of God's commands and punish any among them who would not. As they did so, victories began to mount up: first, Jericho, then Ai, though there was a step backward for the disobedience of Achan who hoarded some of the spoils from Jericho.
Again and again, the Lord urged them to victory, saying, The LORD your God has delivered them into your hand (Jos 10:19) or giving similar encouragement. All the battles had been won before the fight if obedience were at hand.
Finally, the enemy nations (except for the Gibeonites of the Hivites who deceived Israel to gain their protection) were defeated — there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. (Jos 21:44)
However, small pockets of enemies were left to test the Israelites' faith and zeal for obedience, and after a time, as God's people joined with those remnants in idol worship, they had no strength to hold their land. (Judg 2:14) Even so, if they cried out for deliverance, God was faithful to restore their possessions.
When Deborah and Barak called the Israelites to battle against the Canaanites, many of the tribes, but not all, responded. The ones who did were commended in Deborah's song (Judg 5). Ephraim was praised for battling the Amalekites, who once again had joined the Canaanites to defeat Israel, (Judg 5:14) as they had done many generations prior in their second attack on Israel.
We recall that Moses had built an altar after the Amalekites' first attack, to mark God's promise to war against the Amalekites from generation to generation (Ex 17:14-16). Evil is persistent, but is never as determined, irresistible and successful as the LORD in all his plans.
As we consider these lessons from the Old Testament, we can see their application to us:
- God's people must be wholehearted and careful in their obedience to all of his commands.
- Amalek, the personification of presumption and arrogance, must be leveled in every generation. For us, this is a charge to defeat these tendencies from ruling our hearts.
- Those in Christ have been given a land, the kingdom of heaven, a place of our security in the Lord here on earth and for all eternity, and by our obedience, its borders and walls are retained or reestablished.
- To the Lord a thousand years is as a day (2 Pet 3:8), and we are never to overlook any of his commands, no matter how long the world goes on. They do not change.
As we are obedient, we will be empowered to resist the devil and to win each battle. (Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-10) We cannot be obedient without God's love and help.