Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
This is a bizarre text at first reading. God tells Moses to write something down so it won’t be forgotten, but the thing he’s writing down is about something that God Himself is going to make everyone forget about. Surely I’m not the only one that sees that as a confusing command, and, on the surface, counterproductive as well. If you want to forget something you don’t write it down, you put it out of your mind and do your best not to establish any connection with it. But this curious turn of phrase holds a siginificant idea though. The idea of hope is deeply tied to what God says here.
The Amalakites were the first people to attack the newly liberated Hebrews. Since every man was a soldier, the Amalakites attacked an army of 600,000 soldiers, which is bold. Despite the numerical challenge, the Amalakites would have won the battle if not for the favor of the Lord upon the Hebrews, a favor which is strangely connected to the position of Moses’ arms (for us “church folk” we’ve heard that story so many times that the weird has just about rubbed off…maybe we should take another look and ponder why God would hinge His favor on a man holding his arms up – i’m not suggesting an answer, just pointing out that we have a tendency to take some crazy things for granted). Joshua, who Moses had tapped as the leader of the army, was probably swinging back and forth from gateful appreciation to realistic frustration. He was certainly thankful that the battle was won, but he had to be slightly discouraged that it had nothing to do with him or his troops, it was a battle whose decision came down to the status of one old man’s arms.
So God offers, through Moses, a message to Joshua. This message is our verse.
We too find that there are many battles and wars that rage around us and, perhaps most profoundly, inside of us. We fight and struggle and work for every inch of ground when the entire time we know, in the back or front of our mind, that if God doesn’t step in and intervene in a supernatural, God-like way we are destined for a life long slug fest at best, and certain, perpetual defeat at worst. When we look honestly and openly at our condition and the weaknesses that we live with, we find that He is our only hope. In fact, if you are still convinced that you are the reason that you aren’t victorious yet then you are still in denial as to just how reliant upon God we actually are.
What God told Joshua, and what I believe He tells us, is very simple but very encouraging. He says: “what I’m going to do in your life, over the course of time, is so powerful and revolutionary that the enemies that you think are so powerful today will be difficult to even remember by the end of My work in you.” He tells Moses to write down the words, “Joshua’s worst nightmare won’t last forever”, and God tells him to write it down because Joshua needs to be able to look back at the words of God and take heart and keep enocouraged that no matter how dark the night gets, and no matter how hot the battle burns, and no matter how weak the soldiers look all of the enemies will be destroyed…not just destroyed but anihilated to the point that people have to dig deep in the record books to remember these villians.
God’s plan for us is clear, Romans 8:28-30 tells us plainly that we are being shaped and formed and molded to resemble Jesus. This takes time, and this takes purging. And with each old layer that is peeled back from our former self there are new battles to fight and new enemies to be vanquished. This can become a demanding and even depressing cycle if we don’t understand it. CS Lewis said this in his book “The Problem of Pain”, which captures the context of Joshua and Moses exactly:
The road to the promised land runs past Sinai
– CS Lewis
Sometimes we can think everything is okay until God peels back the next layer and then things that we thought were long gone raise their swords again toward our hearts. Our tendency is to think that God is shocked by these things, but He isn’t. He has known that they were there the whole time, and He has patiently pulled back layer after layer, restoring each level of our life with the new and beautiful material that Jesus was made of. Some layers we are good at cooperating with Him and some layers are more painfully removed and restored, but the one mistake we ought never make is to believe that just because we are fighting a battle against a foe that seems stronger than us, that God has grown tired of working on us and has given us up to be pummelled.
Paul powerfully and simply puts it this way:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
This is not merely speaking of the end of time, it’s referring to God’s dedication to the daily process of peeling, purging, and replacing. We can count on it. We can be sure of it. We can know, beyond any doubt, that one day we won’t even remember the enemies that we fought today; not because they were strong or the battle wasn’t intense, but because God is stronger and His grace is infinitely more intense than any dark force that would launch an attack on His child.
So friends, fight hard. Fight long. Bleed and cry and persevere in swinging the sword of the truth of God’s promises. But know that as we fight, we fight knowing that no matter what happens in today’s battle there is a porch and a great room and a kitchen awaiting us that no king has ever seen the likes of. We do not fight to reserve our place in eternity, we fight because our place is already reserved. And we fight with the assured hope that one day ALL old things will pass away and EVERYTHING will be made new. Try to remember that you will forget this battle, that’s how decisive God’s victory will be.
We must meet the uncertainties of this world with the certainties of the world to come.
– AW Tozer