God’s Work, Our Hands

Jennifer and I have been attending a Catholic church of late, and while they mostly follow the Revised Common Lectionary, there are some differences. The RCL’s reading for last Sunday, 16 October, was the Genesis 32 struggle between Jacob and the mysterious stranger, which seemed to work well with the Gospel reading about the persistent widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18.

However, the Catholics read this from Exodus instead:

8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So 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.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. (Exodus 17:8–13 ESV)

As I was reading this passage, I realized I will have more to say about Amalek later, but what struck me on Sunday when this was read in church was just how many hands were needed here to do the work.

We don’t have an explicit statement here, as we do elsewhere, that God is fighting for Israel. This is Israel merely fighting in defense. This is a miracle, but not like at the Red Sea, or Jericho, or during the long battle with Benjamin. Israel fights, and Moses watches.

And he watches. And as long as his hands are raised, Israel prevails. Which is tiring, because battles in the ancient world, especially once soldiers closed with each other and melee was joined, were long, bloody, and disorganized knife fights. Knowing Moses is tired, his assistants provide him a place to sit, and hold up his hands.

No one man is responsible for this victory. Joshua leads the army, Moses inspires that army, and when he grows weary, Aaron and Hur help him. So the victory is won. And Amalek is defeated, at least for today.

Many hands make light the work.

We all have some kind of role to play in the kingdom of God. A few are called to lead the armies, more are called to wield the sword, some are called to inspire from the sidelines, and others … others are called to move rocks so that leaders may rest and hold up their arms so the inspiration can continue. I’m certain there are others, unnamed, unremembered, whose work makes possible the work we are called to do. That too is God-inspired, Spirit-filled, faithful work, the love of God working itself out in the world.

Nothing done faithfully in and for the kingdom, even if it’s only moving furniture, even if its holding someone up, is wasted. All of it is important.

All of it.

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