GET UP AND FIGHT
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published|
(or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923
A spirit of evil dwells among us, a fierce and mighty spirit of evil. He is constantly active. He tempted the first people to sin, has been actively tripping up everyone who thinks he stands ever since, and will only be compelled to stop when Jesus returns for the final act of salvation. The irony of it is, he has no real power. He cannot hurt God in any way, and even in the case of men, the power he holds is chiefly what we gave him. In the Wartburg Castle, near Eisenach in Thuringia, you can see a spot on the wall where Martin Luther threw an inkwell at the devil. Apparently he missed, but here is the lesson for us -- while Luther's action might have been ineffective, his simple defiance of evil is an example for us all. No one can avoid the conflict. In our lesson for this morning we can all see how it came to Moses and Joshua at Rephidim.
No doubt the Lord could have permitted the Israelites to cross into Canaan in peace, so He could make our walk through life easy as well. That does not seem good to Him. Rather, He permits a fierce, clever, and relentless enemy to attack us in countless ways. Thus, enter the Amelekites. They came to Rephidim just to pick a fight with Israel. Moses turned to Joshua, his secretary of defense, and instructed him to institute a selective service system. Moses put the whole people on red alert. How often that same devil tries to stand between us and our goals, our hopes! He would have us forget the Lord, or be afraid of men, or trust in our own wisdom, strength, or wealth, or if all that should fail, to wallow in the mire of despair. The prophet calls his people, and us as well, to Get up and fight. Yes, we have to fight. At this point the story divides. As Joshua led the troops down into the valley, Moses would go up to the hilltop. In his hands he held the staff which not so long ago had turned into a snake and back again. He probably looked at it from time to time concerned that it still had its straight shape. Moses would need that staff, because God ordained that he hold it up in the air. Joshua and his men down in the valley did their part with sword and shield, getting wounded and perhaps even killed. Without their effort there would be no victory, but Moses also had to do his part, holding up the staff hour after tiresome hour with stiffness and agony, assisted by Aaron and Hur. If they let the staff down even for a short time the soldiers in the valley suffered reverses. Rise my soul to watch and pray. So we battle on both levels in the face of temptation.
The Prince of Darkness stands between us and our eternal Canaan, our Father's house. He is the Amelekite that attacks us day and night. In his train are legions of fallen angels, bitter to the heart, with no hope of reconciliation. Their great delight is to pull us down into the realm of death. God has had mercy on us, and redeemed us by the blood of Jesus, restored us to His favor, and promises us His warm, brilliant presence forever. How bitterly the evil ones envy that mercy! What will they not do to get us to turn from it? They bring into our lives the grossest vileness and ugliness, the fiercest hostility, the most strident injustice, and the most subtle deception. No one is safe even in a house of worship consecrated to all that Satan hates. What precinct could have been more consecrated than Eden, what worshippers more beautiful than the parents of our species? Yet so quickly they became outcasts, marred by guilt, smitten by mortality which included the possibility of their redemption (see Genesis 3). Who served the Lord better than Job, yet so quickly his fortunes turned that he sat motionless in the ashes, a beggar who had lost his children (see Job 1-2). As for Judas, he was a trusted disciple of Jesus. One moment he held eternal life in his hand. A moment later he had exchanged it for silver coins (see Matthew 26:1 - 27:10).
Can the Lamb get up and fight against the Lion? That is a good question, but the Lamb that fights for us is a Lion, the Lion of Judah. Here consider the second verse of A Mighty Fortress:
With might of ours can nought be done, soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.
Yes, it is He who appointed our guardian angels, it is He who is both Moses and Joshua for us, yet He loves us enough to do it. Although we are urged to resolve the fight, it always continues. Sometimes we find ourselves in the trenches with Joshua, other times praying with Moses. Either way, we have nothing to fear.
Against a spiritual enemy one needs a spiritual sword, a spiritual shield, a spiritual helmet. We have the Word of God. Paul used that sword to make the Governor Felix tremble (see Acts 24:1-25). Peter used it to convert 3000 people on the first Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-40). Luther fell back on it too when the inkwell didn’t work. In today's Gospel we see how Jesus used it to drive the Tempter from His presence (see Matthew 4:1-11). We may be spiritual Davids up against a formidable Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17:1-50), but every chief part you have memorized, every hymn verse you can recall, every sacred text that sets your struggle in perspective is another smooth stone in your sack. The Word assures you that God forgives you, places Himself between you and harm's way, and comforts you with hope.
Let's take a longer look at Moses now. The Israelites would have been defeated had Moses not been so constant in prayer. He held up that consecrated staff for hours, but he points us to the Greater Moses, on the hill of Calvary, holding up His hands in even more agonizing conflict. There was no one to assist Him, only thieves who were no help at all (see Matthew 27:45-54). His footsoldiers had all fled, so He had to be Joshua as well, the spiritual Amelekites assaulting Him with all their fury. But He won. He defeated them once and for all. As He was briefing Peter, James, and John in Gethsemane He told them Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation. If you fell and you are far from God, ask yourself whether you have neglected to pray. Even that can be a fight, can it not? But the Greater Moses intercedes still. After the battle, when He had risen from the dead, He went across the greater Jordan to intercede for us in the heavenly sanctuary. The one who tells us to get up and fight, got up and fought. The Lamb was the Lion. There is our defense -- our enemy is a lion, so is our Lord. And He is going to see this thing through. AMEN.
~Rev. Lloyd E. Gross