From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of Israelites journeying by stages stopped to set up camp at Rephidim. Manna continued to fall wherever they were, but at Rephidim there was no water to drink. God decided to leave something out to see how they would react, or rather to give them another reminder that He was with them. That God repeatedly made Himself so obvious was unique and would have amazed any one of the zillions of people who have passed through this planet, but people are funny. Even miracles can become mundane to them. Even more sad and more common is how they cling to a separatist mentality when all along God wants to interact with them and be their God.
Israel complained to Moses saying, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” What a slap to God’s face. Once again and for the zillionth time, He swallowed His pride and refused to react, but instead carried on with His mission to reform His people. The slow, methodical centuries-long plan to populate a new world with trusting chosen ones turned immortal. With His focus on that goal, God could dismiss the callous stupidity of these poor freed slaves.
Moses, who was less patient, and ignorant of the end game, cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” But to the people Moses said, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”
The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”
Moses didn’t hesitate, and he didn’t question that water could be extracted from a rock which pleased God. That day God used the driest, most lifeless thing in the world, a dense hard rock, to send forth the essence of life, water. All that Israel wanted was a drink of water, but what all the zillions of people who hear and read of this event through the centuries receive is something much more vital and lasting, that is water for a rocky soul to germinate the seeds of faith. Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing.
Moses did what the Lord instructed. The people watched as he gathered the elders who followed him to a small nearby boulder. When Moses struck the rock a stream of water came pouring out and the relieved thirsty people drank to their hearts’ content, and filled their jugs for the journey. Moses called that place, Test and Quarrel.
God decided that it was time to test them again with something more threatening than thirst. For the first time since they left their safe and secure Egyptian workhouses, the Lord introduced an enemy. It was time for God to deflect the people’s rancor from Moses and Himself and give them a real foe to direct their hostilities upon.
A band of locals, named for their leader Amalek, appeared and fought with the intruders, Israel. Moses recognized the scoundrels from his days in Midian for they were known for being the serpents of the wilderness. In fact Moses was surprised they hadn’t encountered Amalek sooner.
“Good move Lord,” said Gracefeld to God. “These people deserve a good fight for being so faithless. Why do they get so angry at Moses? Why don’t they simply pray for their needs? Ask and they shall receive!”
God smiled and replied, “I like that phrase. I may use it someday. You must remember Gracefeld that these people are used to being told what to do every minute of every day. They have hated the task masters for centuries and it will take time and experiences to change the mindset that resents and complains against the leader. Let them get beat up a bit; it will be good for them.” Gracefeld nodded and Perambula looked with fascination for the upcoming battle.
Meanwhile when Moses saw the ruffians approach the camp, he sought out Joshua, a strong young Israelite whom he had come to admire for his unusual optimism and enthusiasm. “Ah, there you are Josh! Choose some men for us and go out and fight Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
Joshua replied enthusiastically, “At your service!” God looked on approvingly, proud of the bravery of Joshua.
The next morning Moses, Aaron and, Hur hiked up a nearby hill with the staff. From that vantage point they could witness the collision between Amalek with his ruffians and the innocent, inexperienced Israelites who clearly needed help from above.
Much to their distress, because they were not warrior angels like Michael, Gracefeld and Perambula were instructed to carefully participate in the battle. Whenever Moses held up his hand which Gracefeld watched for, Perambula would enter the fray and cause Amalek to make a careless move so Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Perambula would allow the professional fighters of Amalek to prevail. Gracefeld thought the charade was silly, but didn’t challenge the Lord for the angel knew that His purpose was one more opportunity for Israel to be aware of the presence and magnitude of the Lord God.
Old Moses’ grew weary, so Aaron found a large enough stone for him to sit on. After a while longer, the hand-to-hand combat still transpiring, Aaron and Hur stood on Moses’ left and right and held up Moses hands for him, so his hands were high and steady until sunset when Amalek gave up, being all bloodied up from the gashes that Joshua and his men inflicted on them with their swords.
Perambula was exhausted!!
“Welcome to the real world,” said Gracefeld to Israel cynically, still irritated over their insults to God, “where your enemy is neither hunger nor thirst, nor your own bodily cravings, nor Moses or your Lord, but rather like the Lord, your enemy is those base and blind godless animal-men who want to extinguish your very existence.” Israel didn’t hear a word spoken by the angel, but Perambula cast a glance at Gracefeld and smiled in agreement.
When the fighting had ended, the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it to Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”
Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner. He said, “A hand upon the banner of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Israel slept well that night. Babies curled up in mother’s bellies and beside them. Men snored loudly, even children didn’t thrash around as they usually did. All was quiet and still in Rephidim after Amalek slithered away leaving trails of blood behind them.