Egypt to Canaan: Endurance

Amalek—The Lifelong Fight with the Flesh

The Exodus story is one of wonder. In the early chapters, God worked in raising a deliverer, demonstrating His power in the plagues, passing over the sheltered firstborn, bringing the children of Israel out of bondage in the first steps toward Canaan, and dealing with the foes at the Red Sea. No wonder they sang the song of Moses (ch15). What deliverance was theirs!

We, too, were filled with wonder as we pondered our deliverance from bondage through the Lamb of God and His sacrifice at Calvary. We reveled in the joy of redemption, our eternal song (Rev 5). We may have thought that was an end to our problems, but we still had some big lessons to learn!

For Israel, one of those lessons was a realization that deliverance didn’t make them immune from attack. Their journey was not only one in which they would eat manna from heaven and drink water from the rock, but one that would require endurance in the face of difficulties. The first of those difficulties was an attack by Amalek.

The Source of the Attack

The history goes back, 250 years prior, to Esau’s grandson, Amalek, born of Timna, a concubine. His name means “dweller in the valley,” and he became a mighty duke. Later, Balaam described the Amalekites as “the first [i.e., chief] of the nations” (Num 24:20).[1] Thus Amalek speaks to us not just of the flesh but of degenerate flesh.

We were born of the flesh before being born of the Spirit. The flesh did not cease at salvation but will be with us as long as we are in the body. It has never been removed or reformed and has all the old desires and ambitions. Paul reminds us of the outworking of the true character of the flesh: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness (sensuality), idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance (strife), emulations (jealousies), wrath (angers), strife, seditions (disputes), heresies (factions), envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like (Gal 5:19-21). The root of all such sins lies deep within each of us and has the potential to reveal itself if given the opportunity.

The Subject of the Attack

Though they complained about lack of bread and water, the Israelites still moved in the path in which Moses led them, “according to the commandment of the Lord.” Even so, they were not immune from Amalek’s attack. Walking in obedience and fellowship with God in the pathway He has marked out for us does not make us immune from attacks from the flesh. Sometimes in our most spiritual moments our enjoyment is interrupted by fleshly thoughts that distract us and leave us feeling grieved and ashamed.

The Swiftness of the Attack

The Israelites were not long on the road, possibly just 30 to 40 days’ travel from Egypt. They had scarcely finished the song of redemption and received the manna and water when the enemy attacked them. Sadly, we, too, learned just after commencing our enjoyment of salvation and God’s rich provision for our journey that the flesh was already active. We found ourselves questioning why, if we were saved, such thoughts and desires arose in our minds. We realized that there was no “honeymoon period,” so to speak; the battle with the flesh was quickly encountered and would be a lifelong struggle.

The Scene of the Attack

After Egypt and the Red Sea, they eventually entered the wilderness of Shur, reaching Rephidim (which means “resting places”). They might have expected a time of rest and calm after the recent events; having escaped from Pharaoh, they were likely not expecting any trouble, particularly another attack. We delight in the rest spoken of in Matthew 11:28, but we should still expect the attack of the flesh, no matter how calm and tranquil our situation may be.

The Strategy of the Attack

Amalek’s attack was a cruel strategy. Moses, forty years later, reminded Israel of what Amalek had done when they came out of Egypt: “He met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary” (Deu 25:17-18). So, too, is the flesh, striking from an unseen direction where we are most vulnerable and weak.

The Subduing of the Attack

Amalek had to be fought and conquered; not to do so would mean failure and loss. For us, the flesh will have to be fought, but it is encouraging to see that Israel did not battle alone. There were resources that were available to them:

The Man on the Top of the Hill – Moses

It is precious to see that the man on the top of the hill, overseeing them in the valley, went through the wilderness before them. He also had brought them out of bondage through the Red Sea, given them a song, and provided for their journey. On the top of the hill he bore the rod of God. If they were going to prevail, they needed the man on the hill with the power of God. We look to a much higher hill, heaven itself, and see One who is our Great High Priest, “now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb 9:24).

The Man in the Valley – Joshua

Joshua was sent by Moses to lead the battle and break the power of Amalek. The Lord spoke of the Holy Spirit, “whom I will send unto you from the Father” (Joh 15:26). Both Moses and Joshua were needed for the victory over Amalek – Moses with the rod and Joshua with the sword. So, too, we need the risen Lord in glory and the Holy Spirit dwelling within as the resources that will enable us to endure the conflict and have victory over the flesh. Moses’ hands were steady until the going down of the sun. Until the sun goes down and we enter into glory, there will always be the Man with upraised hands on the Hill for us.

The Sequels to the Attack

Moses said, “The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exo 17:16), and afterwards God warned them not to forget what Amalek had done (Deu 25:17). Later, King Saul failed to defeat Amalek (Agag), and it ended his kingdom; his life was claimed by an Amalekite (2Sa 1:8-10). Years later, in the book of Esther, the old foe was still present in Haman the Agagite.

Our life should be one of endurance, not of continual defeat by the flesh. May we look up and see our Great High Priest and Advocate, remembering that within us is the Holy Spirit, the resident power to overcome the flesh.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.