Moses had a trusty staff that he’d used since his days as a shepherd in the land of Midian, the staff that God used to perform miracles before Pharaoh, the staff that had split open the Red Sea, and the staff that struck the rock so that a river of water could gush out to provide for the Israelites in the desert.
But there was a time when Israel, the wandering former slaves, were attacked by an army of trained men of war, the Amalekites. Moses had the wisdom to see that only God could give them victory. He also had the wisdom to know that he couldn’t rely on his staff as a magic charm, or on his expertise as a great leader. It was God or nothing. The one thing he had depended on was going to be lifted up before God all day to symbolize that his trust was in nothing else but God alone. So he asked for the help of Aaron and Hur to support his arms as he stretched out that staff to heaven for hours and hours as the battle raged on. As long as the staff remained raised before God, Israel gained ground. Whenever the staff was lowered, the Amalekites began to win. Moses was untiring, and finally as the sun went down the people of God won the battle and God promised to wipe out the evil Amalekites from the face of the earth.
Moses’ action surrendered up to God that one thing that had been his security until then. He had held it up as a sign that he could do nothing on his own, only God could fight for them. Moses could easily see himself as an important leader with God’s stamp of approval, and that if he waved his staff around God would have to do some sort of miraculous rescue since so many miracles had already happened so far. But Moses, as the Bible says, was the most humble man on the face of the earth. He didn’t rest on his past success, because he was smart enough to know that nothing was “his success.” It was all God, and if he allowed pride and complacency to creep in, not only he, but the entire nation of Israel could be destroyed. Rather than taking credit for anything that had happened through him up until then, Moses gave God all the glory and honor, determining that His loving protection would continue on.
God still asks us to offer Him the little we have so He can transform it into something huge. There are things that we use and depend on regularly, and without realizing it, we can look to them as our guarantee to a good life. It could be a job, talents, a computer or home, it could be your skills as a parent or your appearance of respectability in front of others. We all have our security blankets, but God wants us to hand them over to Him and recognize that there is nothing we have, or can ever have, that isn’t a gift from Him. When we know that nothing we can do is enough to bring about the freedom from an oppressive enemy, we need to remember Moses’ example and lift up to God whatever it is we’ve depended on. Our victory has nothing to do with our smarts, our skills or our possessions, even though God may use them. He alone is our banner who waves over us, who covers us with protection, who defies our enemies. He alone provides.
And Moses built an altar and named it, “The Lord Is My Banner.” (Exodus 17:15 HCSB)