Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: As Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains, early in his career Joshua was called to fight while his mentor prayed.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: He would see Moses' uplifted hands and that staff in his hands. What an encouragement that would be to the troops below and to Joshua as he was leading those troops, as they saw Moses reaching up to heaven on their behalf! They were reminded of the source of their strength, and their faith for the battle was fueled.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, August 5, 2014.

Yesterday, Nancy showed you how to lean on God for those those big, dreaded tasks. That was part of a series called "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 1): Learning to Be Victorious." It’s one of several series you’ll hear this year on Joshua here on Revive Our Hearts. 

Nancy: We've just started into a study on the life of Joshua, and as we said a couple of sessions ago, the life of Joshua kind of breaks down into different seasons. We're looking at him right now as a younger man.

He's learning the things that he needs to understand in order to fulfill God's ultimate purpose for his life, so he's learning to be obedient. He's learning to be a good follower. Good followers make better leaders, and he is learning to be faithful. He's learning to depend on the Lord.

He is a younger man who is learning how to engage in battle. The day will come when he is the leader, when he is the one giving the instructions. He needs everything he's getting at this point to prepare him for that day, for his later years when he will be a leader and then for his last years of his life when he will be leaving a legacy.

I know we have, and I'm so thankful that we have, a lot of younger women who listen to Revive Our Hearts. I want to just say how thankful I am that you are being intentional about seeking the Lord and seeking to be God's woman at this season of your life. 

You may not be thinking down the road right now (but the older I get, the more I am thinking down the road), but if you want to leave a legacy for your children, for the next generation, then the things you're learning now in the trials and the challenges and the battles of life will stand you in very good stead when you come to later seasons of your life. We're going to see that that was true in the life of Joshua.

Now, we're looking at Exodus chapter 17, and we're taking our time. We're working our way through this incident in Joshua's life. We're beginning at verse eight, and let me just reset the scene here by reading the first two verses. Exodus 17, “Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.”

The Children of Israel had just come out of Egypt. They had crossed the Red Sea. God had provided manna. God had provided water in the wilderness. God was leading His children by His presence and heading for the Promised Land. The Children of Israel are following God, and in the midst of following God, this enemy comes against them and attacks them.

Verse 9, “Moses said to Joshua,” now Moses is the leader. Moses is the older man. Moses is the one that God had appointed to lead His people, and “Moses says to Joshua”—first we've ever heard of Joshua.

He appears out of nowhere, as far as we're concerned, reading the text, but apparently Moses had noticed Joshua or had gotten to know him or had observed him in action. Maybe he'd seen some qualities there that he thought were good signs of the heart for God and capability in leadership.

Whatever the reason, Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” Moses assigns to Joshua the task of choosing troops for the battle, pulling together an army, and leading them into battle against the enemy.

That word for choose, “choose men,” it's a word that means "to make a careful, well-thought-out choice." In other words, make sure you get the right guys. Pick men carefully.

It required discernment, and Moses says to Joshua, “Once you've got this detachment of men, you go down and fight the Amalekites, this fierce army that has been coming against us again and again. They've been picking a fight with us. You go down and fight, and I'll stand here on the sidelines and cheer you on. Have a good day.”

Now, if I were writing this script—when I saw verse 8, “Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim,” the way I think I would have scripted it, and perhaps you would, too, is, “Then Moses said, 'And we will go into battle, and follow me into battle.'” I mean, Moses was the undisputed leader of the Children of Israel, so why didn't Moses do this important task himself?

Why didn't Moses recruit the army? Why didn't Moses say, “I'll lead the army into the battle”? Well, we don't know why, but let me give you a couple of possible suggestions.

First of all, Moses was eighty years old, and he knew he would not be around forever. He knew that the younger generation would have to handle battles without him at some point. Now, Moses did not know that he was not going to enter the Promised Land. He did not know that it would be forty years before they got to the Promised Land.

They were only an eleven day journey away from the Promised Land. I'm sure he thought they were going to be in the Promised Land, like, week after next. But without even knowing what lay ahead, he knew that the day would come when younger leaders would need to be ready and trained and in position to lead God's people.

So whether he realized it or not, he was training his replacement. Even though the baton would not be officially passed to Joshua for another forty years, Moses was building, equipping a future leader, and so he delegated this important job rather than doing it himself.

As I've been studying this passage, and when I study a passage, I read it over and over again. I think about it. I journal about it. I turn it every which direction, like if you were looking at a diamond ring, you want to see it from every direction. The Word of God is rich; it's priceless; it shines differently from every angle.

I take the different words and I try to put myself in the story. I try to experience in my thinking in my head what was going on there. As I was meditating on this passage, I couldn't help but think back to opportunities that people gave me to serve the Lord as a young girl and as a young woman. As I think back on those, I thought, What were they thinking?

Somebody sent me a tape not too long ago—it's one of those cassette tapes, so you know it's been awhile. It was an older preacher and he was going through his stuff, and he came across a cassette tape in his possession of me speaking to a group of people when I was twenty-three years old. I was speaking on the family, marriage and family. I was a single, twenty-three-year-old girl.

I listened to that tape, and I just laughed. I said, “Well, you sure were confident about what you were saying.” You know, I said things that I would probably say today, but I was thinking about the poor people sitting in that audience.

I thought, What were they thinking? Did they think I was nuts? Why did anyone listen? Why did anyone ever invite me back to speak about something I knew so very little about? But God was gracious in those early years to give me some opportunities to minister His Word.

When I was eight years old, a Sunday school teacher was going to be out for a week, and she gave me a chance to fill in for her with our third grade Sunday school class. I'd love to have a recording of that class! I certainly was no Bible scholar, I can tell you that, and am not today, but certainly in those days. But God was training me. God gave people, apparently, the sense to say, “Give her a chance.”

You may not be training up a radio speaker or somebody to teach the Word, but those of you who have daughters, you're training them to be mothers; you're training them to be wives, training them to be godly women, whether God ever gives them a husband and children or not. There's a sense of always thinking about how you're developing the next generation to serve the Lord.

Well, Moses knew that when it came down to it—as he thought about turning over this important task to such a novice as Joshua—Moses knew that the outcome of the battle was not going to be determined by Joshua's skill, and it wasn't going to be determined by the prowess of Israel's troops. They were a motley crew at best.

The outcome of the battle would be determined by the presence, the power, and the protection of Israel's God. So because his trust was in Jehovah, Moses could delegate this important responsibility to a young, untested, inexperienced, unproven leader-in-the-making.

This was an opportunity for Israel to learn that the Lord would fight their battles, that it wasn't Moses who was so great. It was God who was great, that they would win only in His strength and not in their own.

Now, as I've reflected on this passage, I think it took humility and faith on Moses' part to do this. Humanly speaking, it was risky to relinquish control, so to speak, to a younger, less experienced man. What if he blew it? What if the Amalekites wiped out the Israelites? Moses was going to be in big trouble with God then.

It took humility. It took faith to think, I'm not the only one that God can use in this battle. It took faith on Joshua's part to accept the responsibility. He had seen Moses be God's man, "but me? I'm half his age! I have no experience in battle." It took faith, not in Moses, but in God, on Joshua's part.

Then I love the first phrase of verse 10, “So Joshua did as Moses told him.” This is the first recorded statement of any action on Joshua's part, and I think that phrase just reveals a lot about Joshua's character and heart. “Joshua did as Moses told him.”

Now, notice first that Joshua did not initiate this opportunity. He didn't campaign for this job as commander-in-chief. He didn't ask for the responsibility. There's no sense of self-promotion here.

I think it's most often true that the best leaders are those who have a humble estimation of their own abilities and don't promote themselves. They're not seeking for a position.

I mentioned earlier in this series that I had recently read the book, 1776 by David McCullough. I'm currently reading John Adams by David McCullough. I'm reading these stories. It's just so fascinating to me about the early days of our country. But as I look at the great ones of the founding fathers, you realize that it was true of them that they didn't push themselves into these positions of responsibility. Others saw their qualifications and pushed them into the battle and said, “You need to take some leadership here.”

You want to be a leader? You want to have fruitful ministry? You want to have influence for God? Then let God raise you up.

I periodically, maybe even I could say often, have young women come to me with earnest hearts. I can just see it in their eyes. I can hear it in their voice, and they say in essence, “I think God's calling me to do what you do. I'd like to be a speaker to women. I'd like to write.” There's something burning in their heart that they want to say, they want to be used by God.

I'm so thankful for the desire that some of these younger women have to serve the Lord, but in the counsel I give them . . . They come to me to say, “What can I do? How can I develop to have the kind of ministry God's given you?” I say to them,

  • Be faithful. Be faithful where you are.
  • Be a learner.
  • Don't promote yourself.
  • Focus on being a woman of God here and now.
  • Don't focus on getting some big responsibility, some great audience, some great platform.

I can honestly say that the way God is using me now in writing and speaking, conferences and radio, none of those were things I ever aspired to or sought after. That's a helpful thing when it comes to the really tough days, which ever calling in life has, because I know I didn't put myself here. I know God has moved day by day, piece by piece of my life, as He is in yours. So I say to these young women:

  • Study God's Word.
  • Get to know God and be available as God opens opportunities to serve Him, to serve others.
  • Don't look for the big opportunities. Look for the little ones.
  • Be available.
  • Cultivate a heart for people.
  • Cultivate a servant's heart, a heart for ministry.
  • Be loyal.
  • Be available when you're called upon.

Joshua did as Moses told him. He didn't initiate this, and I think this is a fundamental quality of a good leader, that he was willing to take direction from his leader. He was obedient to orders, no questioning, no pushing back, no challenging.

He didn't suggest that perhaps it would be better if he would join Moses on the top of the hill, that he could better steer the battle from there. He didn't suggest that maybe Aaron, Moses' sidekick and the one who often spoke for Moses—that maybe Aaron would be better suited for leading the troops into battle. After all, he'd been with Moses longer.

He didn't question whether people would follow his leadership. He didn't propose, as far as we know, a counter-battle plan. He knew that Moses was God's man in charge at that moment, and he supported Moses' leadership by doing as he was told, trusting God to order the outcome.

I think that helps explain why, after Moses' death, people were so quick to follow Joshua's leadership because Joshua had a proven track record and a life message of following God's appointed leader. When it was his turn to be the leader, people followed him.

Speaking of that, how good are you at following leadership? How good are you at taking direction? You want your children to follow your leadership and your direction? What are you modeling to them in your response to authority, to the authority of God's Word and the human authorities God has placed in your life? Good followers make good leaders.

Well, verse 10, "So Joshua . . . fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed” (vv. 10–11).

Joshua leads the troops into battle against the Amalekites, but he is not left to fight on his own. He's not dependent on his own, natural ability or some brilliant strategy or on the troops that he has assembled. Because while Joshua is fighting the physical battle in the valley, Moses is on the hill above, standing with the rod of God uplifted in his hands. Whether Moses held up his hands with that rod or lowered his hands with that rod determined the course of the battle.

When Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed. Whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. The battle apparently went back and forth multiple times, and it had nothing to do with what Joshua was doing down in the valley.

I mean, what he was doing was necessary, but it wasn't the secret. It wasn't the key. The key was what was happening up on that mountaintop. Victory depended on Moses' hands being uplifted with that rod.

Now, let me talk for a moment about this rod or this staff of Moses, depending on which translation you have. There was nothing magical about Moses' rod, Moses' staff. It was just a common, ordinary, shepherd's staff until it was deployed and empowered by God.

In the earlier chapters of Exodus, there are ten or eleven, depending on exactly how you count—there are ten or eleven different instances in which Moses stretches out his staff at God's direction, and something miraculous happens.

Twice, the staff was turned into a serpent and became a symbol of God's power to Pharaoh and to the Israelites. The staff of Moses—I'd never thought about this before, but I went back and looked it up—in six out of ten of the plagues that came on the land of Egypt, Moses' staff was involved as God executed judgments on the gods of Egypt.

Moses struck the waters of the Nile with his staff, and the Nile turned to blood. He held his staff over the rivers, and frogs came out and covered the land. His staff was used to call forth plagues of gnats; thunder, hail, and fire; a swarm of locusts; and finally darkness covering the land for three days.

Then at the Red Sea, Moses' staff became a symbol of deliverance. As God said in Exodus 14 to Moses, “Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground,” (v. 16) a symbol of deliverance.

Then once again it became a symbol of judgment as God said on the other side, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians,” (v. 26). In Exodus 17, Moses' staff was a symbol of God's provision where God said, “Moses, strike the rock with your rod,” (v. 6 paraphrase) and as Moses did, water came out.

Now, Moses' rod, Moses' staff, has become a symbol of God's deliverance and protection once again, victory over their enemies. Moses had said to Joshua in the first part of this account, “I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand” (v. 9). That's the first place Moses' staff is called, “the staff of God.”

It was just Moses' staff as long as Moses was using it on his own, but when Moses used it for God's purposes, at God's direction, it became a mighty, powerful rod of God, a symbol of God's presence and protection and deliverance.

I can just imagine, as Joshua was down in that valley, and he would glance up, perhaps as the enemy started coming against them in a fierce attack. He would see Moses' uplifted hands and that staff in his hands, and what an encouragement that would be to the troops below and to Joshua as he was leading those troops as they saw Moses reaching up to heaven on their behalf. They were reminded of the source of their strength, and their faith for the battle was fueled!

It was an encouragement. Moses lifting up that rod in his hands was an appeal to God to intervene in the battle. Moses appealed with that uplifted rod on behalf of God's people who desperately needed Him. So that uplifted staff became a banner over the army and before the throne of God, a symbol of the presence and the power of God.

What a reminder it is that we cannot overcome in our flesh; we cannot win spiritual battles by our own efforts! It's symbolic of the spiritual battle in which Moses was engaged as he interceded on behalf of God's people. So Joshua quickly learned in this first battle, first of many, in a vivid and an unusual way, he learned what would be the source of victory in the battles that he would face years later as a commander-in-chief of the Israelite army.

Now, Moses didn't always stand there, and Moses wasn't there in later years to lift up his hand and to hold up that rod, but I believe that rod of God was always lifted up in Joshua's heart as he fought those battles, and he said, “Oh God, we appeal to You for victory. You are our strength. You are our Captain.

“I'm not the captain. You are, God. Our strength is in You. The battle is the Lord's. O God, come from Your throne and intervene on our behalf.”

Joshua learned that the victory would not be gained through his own wisdom, his own power, his own strength, but by the power of God. For as long as he lived, he could never take any credit for overcoming the Amalekites because it was clear that every time Moses' hand was lifted, the Israelites prevailed, and every time his strength flagged, and his hands were lowered, the Amalekites prevailed.

As we move further into this passage over the next couple of days, we'll see the role that we have sometimes in the battle of standing on the mount, as Moses did in this battle, interceding for those who are actually on the front lines, but we'll also see that Christ is our Moses, that He ever lives to make intercession for us before the throne of God. Christ is my banner.

Christ is my Moses, and so, when the battle gets fierce, when the Amalekites come strong and fierce in opposing the work of God in your life or your children's lives or the lives of those you love, look to Christ. Lift your eyes up from the valley.

"Lift your eyes up to the hills from whence cometh your strength. My strength comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth" (Ps. 121:1–2). Be encouraged and know that His hand will not fail. Through Him, through His interceding power, you will prevail.

Leslie: When you're at the edge of an impossible situation, you can move too fast without waiting for God to act, or you can shrink back in fear. Neither is ideal, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us avoid those extremes. She'll be right back to pray.

That message is part of the series, "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 1): Learning to Be Victorious." If you missed any of it, you can hear it at ReviveOurHearts.com

Today’s program has shown us how important it is to stay connected with the Lord day by day.  To keep from running ahead of Him, or to keep from dragging behind, you need to know God Himself. 

Nancy helps you develop practical habits of studying the Bible and prayer in her book, A Place of Quiet Rest. She’ll help your passion for spending time with the Lord to grow. And she’ll show you how to make that time meaningful. 

We’d like to send you A Place of Quiet Rest when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts between now and Monday the 11th. Your gift means so much. We can only bring you Bible teaching each weekday as long as the Lord puts it on hearts to give. 

Would you ask what he’d want to give? When you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ll send A Place of Quiet Rest—one copy per household, or call 1–800–569–5959.  

When one leader transitions to another, it can be awkward. Find out what it looked like for Moses and Joshua. Nancy will talk about it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. 

Now she’s back to wrap up our time.

Nancy: You may be discouraged in some battle right now that you're facing. Can I just encourage you to lift your eyes up and to see Christ, our Moses, standing and interceding on your behalf, pleading before the throne of God, and let your heart take courage? Be strengthened in the battle. May that keep you from throwing in the towel.

Would you just say, “Lord, I trust You. I know the battle is Yours”? Then, when you get through the battle, and with Christ you will prevail, then ask God to help you never forget how the battle was won.

We love You, Lord Jesus, and we bless You for the strength and the intercession that You provide for us as we face the battle of life. Thank You in Jesus' name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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