Old Testament Study:

Exodus 17:8-16

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Amalek, pt. 1,

by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

 

8Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9And Moses said unto Joshua, “Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.” 10So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14And the Lord said unto Moses, “Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” 15And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: 16For he said, “Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.  (Ex 17:8-16 AV)

 

One thing that impresses the writer more and more in his studies in and meditations upon the contents of this book of Exodus is the wonderful variety and the comprehensive range of truth covered by its typical teachings. Not only do its leading events and prominent characters foreshadow that which is spiritual and Divine, but even the smallest details have a profound significance. Moses is a type of Christ, Pharaoh of Satan, Egypt of the world. Israel groaning in bondage pictures the sinner in his native misery. Israel delivered from their cruel task-masters speaks of our redemption. Their journey across the wilderness points to the path of faith and trial which we are called on to walk. And now we are to see that the history of Israel also adumbrated the conflict between the two natures in the believer.

Our previous studies have already shown us that the experiences of Israel in the wilderness were a series of trials, real testings of faith. Now we are to see another aspect of the Christian’s life strikingly set forth: the Israelites were called upon to do some fighting. It is very striking indeed to note the occasion of this, the stage at which it occurred in Israel’s history. Not only is there a wondrous variety and comprehensiveness about the typical teachings of this second book of scripture, but the order in which they are given equally displays the Divine hand of their Author. God is the God of order; Satan of confusion. The thoughtless reader of the Scriptures loses much by failing to observe the perfect arrangement of everything in them.

In our last article we contemplated the smiting of the rock, from which flowed the stream of water and of which all the people drank. This, as we saw, typified the smiting of our blessed Savior by the hand of Divine justice, and the consequent gift of the Holy Spirit to those who are His. But after the Holy Spirit comes to take up His abode within the believer, after a new and holy nature of His creating has been implanted, a strange conflict is experienced, something hitherto unknown. As we read in Galatians 5:17, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other.” It is this which the scripture to be before us so accurately depicts.

The typical scene which we are about to study is of great practical importance. Ignorance of what it sets forth, the truth which it illustrates, has resulted in great loss and has been responsible for untold distress in many souls, How many a one has thought, and how many have been taught, that when a sinner really receives Christ as his Savior, that God will change his heart, and that henceforth he will be complete victor over sin. But “a change of heart” is nowhere spoken of in Scripture. God never changes anything. The old is set aside or destroyed, and something altogether new is created or introduced by Him. It is thus with the Christian. The Christian is one who has been “born again,” and the new birth is neither the removal of anything from a man, nor the changing of anything within; but the impartation of something new to him. The new birth is the reception of a new nature: “that which is born of the Spirit, is Spirit” (John 3:6).

At the new birth a spiritual, Divine nature is communicated to us, This new nature is created by the Holy Spirit; the “seed” (1 John 3:9) used is the Word of God (see 1 Peter 1:23). This explains John 3:5: “Born of water and of the Spirit.” The “water” is the emblem of the pure and refreshing Word of God (cf. Ephesians 5:26). This is what is in view, typically, in the first half of Exodus 17. But when the new nature is communicated by God to the one born again, the old sinful nature remains, and remains unchanged till death or the coming of Christ, when it will be destroyed, for then “this corruptible shall put on incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:53). In the Christian, then, in every Christian, there are two natures: one sinful, the other sinless; one born of the flesh, the other born of God. These two natures differ from each other in origin, in character, in disposition and in the activities, they produce. They have nothing in common. They are opposed to each other. This is what is in view, typically in the second half of Exodus 17. The two natures in the Christian are illustrated in the life of Abraham. He had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. The former represents that which is “born of the flesh;” the latter, that which is “born of the Spirit.” Ishmael was born according to the common order of nature. Isaac was not. Isaac was born as the result of a miracle. God supernaturally quickened both Abraham and Sarah, when the one had passed the age of begetting and the other was too old to bear children. Ishmael, born first, was of “the bondwoman”; Isaac of the “free-woman” (Galatians 4:22). But after Isaac entered the household of Abraham, there was a conflict: “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian which she had born unto Abraham, mocking” (Genesis 21:9). That what we have just heard said about the two sons of Abraham is no fanciful or strained interpretation of ours, will be seen by a reference to Galatians 4:29, where the Spirit of God has told us, “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit even so it is now.”

The two natures in the Christian are also illustrated in the life of Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob had two names: one which he received from his earthly parents, and one which he received from God. The Lord called him “Israel” (Genesis 32:28). From that point onwards the history of Jacob-Israel presents a series of strange paradoxes. His life exhibited a dual personality. At one moment we see him trusting God with implicit confidence, at another we behold him giving way to an evil heart of unbelief. If the student will read carefully through chapters 33 to 49 of Genesis, he will notice how that sometimes the Holy Spirit refers to the patriarch as “Jacob,” at other times as “Israel.” When “Jacob” is referred to it is the activities of the old nature which are in view; when “Israel” is mentioned it is the fruits of the new nature which are evidenced. For example; when Joseph’s brethren returned to their father from Egypt and told him that his favorite son was yet alive and was now governor over all the land of Egypt, we are told, “And Jacob’s heart fainted for he believed them not” (45:26). But, “They told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them; and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: And Israel said, ‘It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive’” (45:48).

It is blessed to note the closing words concerning him: “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the spirit... and the physicians embalmed Israel” (49:33; 50:2). “Jacob” died; “Israel” was embalmed. At death only the new nature will be preserved! But that which we particularly emphasize here is that, during the Christian’s life on earth, there is a conflict between the two natures. Just as Ishmael “persecuted” Isaac, and just as the Jacob-nature frequently set aside the Isaac-nature, so it is in the Christian: “the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

What, then, is the remedy? Is there no way by which the flesh may be subdued? Has God made no provision for the believer to walk in the spirit so that he may not fulfill the lusts of the flesh? Certainly He has; and absence of victory is due entirely to our failure to use the means of grace which God has put in our hands. What these are, and how the victory should be gained are clearly set forth in our type.

 

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