It’s Good to Have a Side Kick
In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster premiered Superman to the world, Superman lives on to this day, as perhaps, the most quintessential superhero. Superman was one of the first of a thriving genre of literature- the comic book. Comics have had their ups and down in the past 80 years, but they are on an upswing at the moment. There is something irresistible about a secret identity, powers that are strange and perhaps limitless, and (of course) the unmistakable costumes. Our culture loves a good superhero. The thrill and adventure draws us in, but it is the story that lives between the lines and frames that holds the true value. The legends and stories of superheroes have taught us ethics, right and w
rong, the limits and potential of human kind, they have taught us about destiny or relying on something bigger than us, they have taught us about struggle and having faith.
Novelist and theologian G. K. Chesterton once said,“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Superheroes are simply an upgraded version of knights brandishing swords and charging into the castle to slay the dragon. Their valiant nature draws in our attention, but it is their human tenacity and moral centers that truly fascinate us. Superheroes are us – just beefed-up, dramatized, and powerful – doing what is right in the face of violence or oppression. Every superh
ero ever created was made as a mirror, reflecting back our strengths and weakness. They teach and enlighten. Among those prevailing lessons is this: It’s good to have a sidekick. Now Superman is notorious for being on his own, but even he had help now and again from Jimmy Olsen. Figures such as Batman had Robin, Aquaman had Aqualad, Iron Man had Jim Rhodes, The Hulk had Rick Jones, Captain American had Bucky… and so on… It’s good to have a sidekick. There are times when we need help from those that we can count on. And to be truly Super, we have to have a healthy does of humility, or perspective, now and again to remind us that there are times when help is necessary.
In our Scripture reading today, we find the battle of the Israelites verses the Amalikites. And it is here that we see Moses needing help from his trusty sidekicks.
The scene opens with the Amalekites readying themselves for battle. Now this battle is different than any other battle in the Old Testament, because it is the first battle where Israel has to pick up the sword. God has delivered His people from Egypt. God has done the fighting up until this point. He’s taking them to the Promised Land. But in between they are going through a wilderness experience where they will learn to depend on God, to worship God and to obey God. They’ve had to trust God for their daily needs of food and water. Now they will have to trust God in battle against an enemy. This is the first battle Israel was ca
lled upon to fight as a nation. They never had to fight the Egyptians. God fought that battle for them. Israel never lifted a sword in that battle. But this battle will be different. This is their fight.
To give you a little perspective on who the enemy is in this story. Amalek, the namesake of the Amalekites, was the grandson of Esau. If you can remember back to Genesis to a very important man named Abraham, he had a son name Isaac. Then Isaac had two sons Esau and Jacob, twin boys. Esau was the first born of the two brothers, but it was Jacob that received the blessing and inheritance of their father. Because, as the story goes, Esau got hungry one day and impulsively sold his birthright to his brother in exchange for a bowl of stew
… Once Esau had gotten his fill I imagine that he felt like quite the idiot… But this reverse of family roles, created a very heated rivalry between the descendents of both Jacob and Esau.
So, when the Israelites go into battle against the Amalekites, they aren’t just fighting a certain group of people that they happen across. They are fighting what they represent. The Amalekites, from the Israelite perspective, embody vengeance, hatred, harshness, rashness, impulsiveness, greed, foolishness, they represent the exact opposite nature of what God is calling the Israel to be. So, marching into battle against the Amalekites, represents the battle against all of those flawed and broken virtues. This is no ordinary battle, but it is one of putting to death all that they stood for. It is with great purpose that this battle is the first battle for the Hebrew people.
So, when Moses sees this enemy coming over the hill towards his people, and he immediately goes into commander mode. He gathers together Joshua (his young assistant), Aaron (his elder brother), and Hur (his brother in law). Moses gathers those people that he is closest with and gives them orders. He tells Joshua, the young man, to gather as many soldiers together as he can and to lead them into battle.
Now, Moses at this time is about 80 years old. Aaron is his older brother. And Hur is likely to be about the same age as well. Moses knows that as old men, they won’t be much use on the battlefield. But that didn’t stop Moses from taking part in the battle in another way. He is going to pray.
Bill Hybel, the pastor of the big mega church Willow Creek, once gave a really compelling analogy about Moses in this scene of the Bible. He said that Moses responded just like a two-year-old would. Imagine this, you are walking with a small little two-year old child at your side. And something jumps out and scares them! What do they do in response? They raise up their hands and cry out. They raise up their hands and want to be picked up and held in your arms. And they will keep crying out until they feel safe again. That is what Moses is doing here. When the Israelites saw the Amalekites coming over the ridge: Moses sends Joshua, his young and capable assistant into battle, and he takes his buddies with him on top of the mountain overlooking the battle field to raise his arms and cry out to God! Moses took it upon himself to fight this battle with prayer. To have arms raised, like a two-year old, before God.
So as the battle commences, Joshua is in the field leading the troops, and Moses takes his place on the ridge. Raising his arms in prayer. And something remarkable happens… The state of the battle directly coordinates to the position of Moses’ hands. When his hands are raised high in the air, the Israelites take the lead, but as his arms weaken and lower, then the Amalekites take the lead in the battle.
And here in lays the lesson of this story: the state of our life’s battle depends on the location of our hands.
We all have battles in our life. Whether they are financial, or health related, we may have battles with sin. We may struggle with patience or pride. The fight with these things depends on the location of our hands. …. Prayer is how we fight our battles!
When a war rages inside of us, do we keep our hands tucked carefully in our pockets pretending that nothing is happening? Or, do we, raise them up to God like a frightened child in need of care, comfort, provision, and love? Where are our hands?
I image if we were to look back on our spiritual life, we would see seasons in which our arms were stretched high in prayer and we would also see seasons in which our prayer life was a desert. Where just thinking about perhaps possibly maybe praying took every ounce of faith and spiritual energy that you had. So what do we do in those times? What do we do when we are too weak to hold our arms out? When we are too unfocused, or distracted, too burdened to pray? Or when we have been praying for days, months, decades… and you have grown weary… What is there to do? That is the next lesson that Moses tells us about!
Even the strongest person wouldn’t be able to hold this position (arms high) for very long. And Moses is, to put it in a more polite way, advanced in years. His arms grew tired. But, as we know, it’s good to have a sidekick. Or two as this scene holds. With Aaron and Hur at his side, they share the burden. They rolled a stone toward Moses for him to sit on, and they held his arms up high, one on each side, keeping the staff of God raised towards the heavens as the battle rages on. In this scene, prayer takes a lot of teamwork.
Sometimes when we are weak. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. Times when our faith feels very small. In those moments, we may need to call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to draw on their strength. To draw on their faith. And that is Christian love at its best.
Here is what we should be mulling over in light of this truth…
Do you have an Aaron and a Hur, a prayer sidekick? Someone that you can call on when your faith feels small, or you are too weak? Someone to help carry the heavy burdens?
And in turn, are you a prayer sidekick to someone else? Are you willing to hold up the arms of your friends? That is our charge as people of prayer! To lift up those that need God’s comfort and provision, and in turn to be lifted up by those that love us.
Think back to that analogy that Bill Hybel gave us, the scared child that throws up their arms. And know this. God takes delight in caring for you, just as we are delighted to pick up a child that has their arms raised to us! Raising our arms to God is a way of saying, “Lord, I surrender to you! Let your will be done! I trust you God!”
Ephesians 3:16-19 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Christ’s love for us is a love that surpasses knowledge. Our Savior longs to see our arms raised high in prayer. Longs to provide for us and answer our prayers! And often does so in creative and unexpected ways.
None of us know why battles and struggle come our way… but we as Christians must know that our God’s love is steady and true. That it surpasses all knowledge! That in times of need we have someone Great and Able to unload our burden on.
Henry Nouwen says this about prayer:“In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands where we are not ashamed of our weakness but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands.” (With Open hands)
On his way into retirement, Pastor Karl issued us a challenge as a church. And that is to become a house of prayer! A body that knows the power and necessity of prayer in the life on this family and its ministry. I re-issue that challenge today in light of Moses’ hands. Let us be in prayer. Let us rejoice in Christ who loves us! Let us have open hands! Let us lift up this body of Christians, lift up our community, lift up our family, lift up all the hurts and brokenness that we encounter in this world. May we be a house of prayer.
Imagine being a soldier on the battlefield that day fighting the Amalekites and looking up to see three old guys standing on the ridge together holding up Moses’ hands! They would have been wowed! They would have been taught that there is power in that! There is power in prayer! And don’t we want that for this church family? To raise our arms to God, and wow the world. To inspire new faith. To teach that God is to be trusted. Of course we do. Pray with me. Pray at home. Pray on the ridge of a mountain! Just… pray…
Oh how good it is to have a Savior that loves us beyond all measure. Amen.