Exodus 17:8 – 13
This Sunday, we will hear from the Book of Exodus. As you will recall, the Book of Exodus is the second book of the Pentateuch, picking up where Genesis left off. Its title derives from the LXX name given it. You will recall that the LXX refers to the oldest Greek version of the Old Testament, traditionally said to have been translated by 70 or 72 Jewish scholars at the request of Ptolemy II: most scholars believe that only the Pentateuch was completed in the early part of the 3rd century B.C. and that the remaining books were translated in the next two centuries. The original title given it in the Torah is – שמות ואלה – “And these were the names”, since the book begins with those words. “Exodus” does not really do justice to the entire book since only the first 15 chapters speak of the journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai. The remainder of the book treats of the covenant and religious regulations. Its literary form is most aptly designated as a religious epic. It contains sound historical facts, as well as facts that have been embellished to epic dimensions. This style serves a twofold purpose: to enhance the greatness of the God of Israel and to give a unique character to the people God has chosen. Although it is traditionally attributed to Moses, it is made up of accounts by the Yahwist, Elohist, Priestly and even a little Deuteronomist sources. The final redaction probably dates from the 5th century B.C. The period it speaks about, however, is somewhere in the 13th century B.C. It was under Pharaoh Seti I (1309 – 1290BC) that the Israelites were oppressed, and early in the reign of Ramses II (1290 – 24BC) when they fled Egypt. Most scholars place the date for the actual Exodus at 1280BC, which would place the conquest of Palestine around 1250BC. Archeological evidence of the destruction of numerous Palestinian towns (e.g., Hazor, Lachish, and Tell Beit Mirsim) confirm this dating.
The account we hear from on Sunday speaks of the moment the Israelites, with Moses in the lead, approached Canaan. If you look at your maps of the Exodus, you will see Meribah, also named Kadesh-barnea. So, the battle occurred near there. As you will read in your footnotes, the Amalekites were an aboriginal people of southern Palestine and the Sinai Peninsula. They controlled the caravan routes between Arabia and Egypt and so they resented the intrusion of these Hebrews. This is the first military event for the newly freed people. Their victory depended on the intercessory powers of Moses. This incident establishes him as a mediator, prefiguring Christ. This account is recalled in Dt 25:17-18; Amalek is mentioned in Numbers 24:20. There is an interesting omission in the Deuteronomy account – the mention of Moses erecting an altar on the spot. Deuteronomy has a consistent theme of one place of worship, so this part of the story does not fit. For the first time, we hear of Joshua as he takes the role of military leader. He is mentioned frequently in Exodus and Numbers after this.
The purpose of this reading on Sunday is to demonstrate the efficacy of prayer. As long as Moses prayed – as was indicated by his raised arms – the Israelites were winning. And, it’s important to see this account as another sign of God’s care for his people. If you review the previous chapter and first verses of chapter 17, you will see that this event occurs shortly after God had given them quail, manna and water as they followed his lead through the desert.
Let’s read vvs 8 – 16.
8 At Rephidim, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.
Amalek: As you will read in your footnotes, the Amalekites were early inhabitants of southern Palestine. As I mentioned above, if you look at your map that shows the route of the Exodus (map 3), you will see Meribah. The Israelites had just left Meribah so it was in this region that they encountered the Amalekites. If you look at the map that depicts the setting of the narratives of David and Solomon (map 5), you will notice the region of the Amalekites just south of Judah.
9 Moses, therefore, said to Joshua, “Pick out certain men, 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.”
10 So Joshua did as Moses told him: he engaged Amalek in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur.
11 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.
12 Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
13 And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Moses kept his hands raised up… when he let his hands rest: his raised hands were indicative of his prayer of supplication to God. You’ll notice that there is no mention of him saying anything in prayer; he was merely turned to God at this time of need. That’s an important lesson for us. We don’t have to say anything when we are in God’s presence in prayer; he already knows everything. We just need to turn to God and he will lead us where we are supposed to go.
Luke 18:1 – 8
This week, we continue to hear from Luke’s Gospel, picking up right where we left off last week, except for an interesting commentary on the coming of the Kingdom of God; that section is heard only during the weekday readings. The parable we will hear on Sunday speaks of prayer and its efficacy. As you will see in your footnotes, this is another example of a uniquely Lucan pericope. The particularly Lucan material in the travel narrative concludes with two parables on prayer. The first (Luke 18:1-8) teaches the disciples the need of persistent prayer so that they not fall victims to apostasy (Luke 18:8) – this last sentence is the lesson of the parable. The second (Luke 18:9-14) – which we will hear next week – condemns the self-righteous, critical attitude of the Pharisee and teaches that the fundamental attitude of the Christian disciple must be the recognition of sinfulness and complete dependence on God’s graciousness. And again, the last sentence presents the lesson in this parable; pay attention to it.
1 Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said,
2 “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
3 And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
used to come to him: literally “kept coming”. Notice the persistence.
4 For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
5 because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'”
Strike me: the Greek verb translated as strike means “to strike under the eye” and suggests the extreme situation to which the persistence of the widow might lead. It may, however, be used here in the much weaker sense of “to wear one out.”
6 The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
7 Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them?
Will he be slow to answer them? This is an interesting question. God’s time is not our time.
8 I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?: the parable has an eschatological purpose – will we be living faithful lives when the Lord comes for us?
2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2
We continue to hear from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Paul continues to admonish Timothy in very strong language. Let’s read 3:1 – 4; 4:3 – 5. It sounds as if it could be Paul writing to us today!
Let’s look at Sunday’s passage which is found in between these two passages:
14 But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it,
15 and that from infancy you have known (the) sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
from infancy: this recalls that Timothy had a faithful mother and grandmother who taught him sacred scripture when he was still a baby.
16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
All scripture is inspired by God: As you will read in your footnote, this could possibly also be translated, “All scripture inspired by God is useful for. . . .” In this classic reference to inspiration, God is its principal author, with the writer as the human collaborator. Thus the scriptures are the word of God in human language. See also 2 Peter 1:20-21. Even at this early date, it was understood that Sacred Scriptures – in this case the Hebrew Scriptures – are inspired by God, not just the work of human hands. Remember, at this time, most wisdom was passed on orally so Paul is speaking of written wisdom. The Greek empire had fostered a great deal of written wisdom that was taught to the Greek children. Paul is making a distinction between human wisdom and divine wisdom; an important distinction for us today, as well.
17 so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Useful for teaching . . . every good work: because as God’s word the scriptures share his divine authority. It is exercised through those who are ministers of the word.
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power:
in the presence of God, and of Christ The gravity of the obligation incumbent on Timothy to preach the word can be gauged from the solemn adjuration. coming as universal judge, and by his appearance and his kingly power (2 Tim 4:1). Patience, courage, constancy, and endurance are required despite the opposition, hostility, indifference, and defection of many to whom the truth has been preached (2 Tim 4:2-5).
2 proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
whether it is convenient or inconvenient: there is a real urgency here.
All three readings this Sunday call for persistence – in prayer and doing God’s will. Just as God has been persistent in his love for us and his work to bring each of us back to him, so we are to be persistent in our searching of God’s will and trusting in him as we accomplish it. We accomplish this by carefully attending to God’s inspired word and through prayer, when we humbly present our needs to God and patiently await his will. These two hallmarks of our faith will serve us well!