No nemesis here - Amalek not eradicated!

The Amalekites — Seventh in a series

Before Moses died, he recalled to the Hebrews the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments (Deut 6:1) that the Lord wanted them to perform in the promised land. It was a lengthy discourse —nearly all of Deuteronomy — and included orders regarding the Amalekites:

Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How 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; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance to possess it, [that] thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget [it]. Deu 25:17-19

Not long after Israel's first king had been anointed, the moment arrived to eradicate Amalek. It had been about four centuries since the incident at Rephidim and the Amalekites had continued attacking Israel over the years (Judg 6:3, 10:12; 1 Sam 14:48).

An expression, not biblical, now comes to mind: The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding fine. God never forgets to exercise justice, and in his providence he may begin with his own people. In this way, the refining retributions sift his own household (1Pet 4:17), even as they punish his enemies. So it was with King Saul. He had disappointed the Lord by his disobedience at Gilgal, and was sifted in the matter of annihilating the Amalekites. Again he disobeyed, and thus was rejected as king though his reign did not in fact end at the time.

At Gilgal, Saul offered the burnt offering rather than waiting for Samuel to do so. (1 Sam 13:9-14) Samuel warned him then …thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart (vs 14).

Again, when instructed to destroy the Amalekites, Saul disobeyed and disappointed. The Lord said to him through his prophet, I remember [that] which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid [wait] for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Sam 15:2, 3) But Saul spared the Amalekite king Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen and lambs. He only destroyed what he considered to be vile.

Then the Lord told Samuel he was sorry he had made Saul the king, and Samuel reprimanded Saul,

Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice, [and] to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness [is as] iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from [being] king. (1 Sam 15:22, 23)

Another expression comes to mind: The Lord is doing many things at one time. In this incident, He punished Amalek severely while proving Saul was unfit for command, and importantly, he arranged a lesson for us, To obey is better than sacrifice. This brings up a question: Am I willing to remove or destroy the object or subject in my surroundings that offends the Lord?

In the passage cited, many things are equated with disobedience: rebellion, witchcraft, stubbornness, iniquity, idolatry and rejection of God's Word. Though presumably sparing many sheep for the purpose of sacrificing them in thankfulness to God, Saul failed in his mission. He attributed the oversight to his followers (1 Sam 15:24), but is held responsible for failing to command them.

Obedience is required in all things, particularly in offering sacrifices properly. In Old Testament days, a king was never to usurp the role of the priest; likewise, for us in New Covenant days, there must be a godly presentation and handling of the doctrine of Christ's perfect sacrifice. If a pastor were to tell us he could forgive our sins or that our sins could be forgotten if we would follow a prescribed regimen of prayer, Bible reading or good works, he would be mishandling truth and promoting error.

A last expression is pertinent, this one from the Bible: To whom much is given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48) In context, this passage speaks of a servant who knew the right thing to do, but did not do it. The one who is aware of God's laws and specific commands will be held fully responsible for complete obedience. Those less knowledgeable will enjoy lenience. Leaders are doubly responsible to set an example in obedience. They have power to guide people into truth or into error.

The defeat of our enemies before we begin to fight them

The Amalekites — Sixth in a series

At the end of the last post, Israel was marching north, near the Moabites whose king had hired Balaam to curse them, but Balaam could not resist the Lord's power and blessed them instead. God had promised Abraham that Canaan would belong to his progeny and was close to fulfilling that promise.

The Moabites were not to be disturbed (Deut 2:9); they were cousins not Canaanites. But they were persistent in their desire to confound Israel. At Balaam's counsel (Num 31:16), Moab's daughters drew the Israelites into whoredom and idol worship (Num 25:1, 2), helped by their neighbors, the Midianites. (Num 25:6)

God told Moses to slay each Hebrew who had fallen to their schemes. When one man brought a Midianite woman into their midst and then into a tent, Moses' great nephew, Phinehas, followed them in and speared both in one thrust. For his zealous deed, God's anger was turned away, and Phinehas was promised God's covenant of peace, And he shall have it, and his seed after him, [even] the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. (Num 25:12, 13) Indeed,

the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of [them] whose heart [is] perfect toward him. (2 Ch 16:9)

The Lord commanded Moses, Vex the Midianites, and smite them. (vs 17) This was to be Moses' final work before he died. We recall that Moses' wife was a Midianite: the Lord is not sentimental.

For the Israelites to take the land, there was urgent necessity that they honor and obey all of God's commands and punish any among them who would not. As they did so, victories began to mount up: first, Jericho, then Ai, though there was a step backward for the disobedience of Achan who hoarded some of the spoils from Jericho.

Again and again, the Lord urged them to victory, saying, The LORD your God has delivered them into your hand (Jos 10:19) or giving similar encouragement. All the battles had been won before the fight if obedience were at hand.

Finally, the enemy nations (except for the Gibeonites of the Hivites who deceived Israel to gain their protection) were defeated — there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. (Jos 21:44)

However, small pockets of enemies were left to test the Israelites' faith and zeal for obedience, and after a time, as God's people joined with those remnants in idol worship, they had no strength to hold their land. (Judg 2:14) Even so, if they cried out for deliverance, God was faithful to restore their possessions.

When Deborah and Barak called the Israelites to battle against the Canaanites, many of the tribes, but not all, responded. The ones who did were commended in Deborah's song (Judg 5). Ephraim was praised for battling the Amalekites, who once again had joined the Canaanites to defeat Israel, (Judg 5:14) as they had done many generations prior in their second attack on Israel.

We recall that Moses had built an altar after the Amalekites' first attack, to mark God's promise to war against the Amalekites from generation to generation (Ex 17:14-16). Evil is persistent, but is never as determined, irresistible and successful as the LORD in all his plans.

As we consider these lessons from the Old Testament, we can see their application to us:

  1. God's people must be wholehearted and careful in their obedience to all of his commands.
  2. Amalek, the personification of presumption and arrogance, must be leveled in every generation. For us, this is a charge to defeat these tendencies from ruling our hearts.
  3. Those in Christ have been given a land, the kingdom of heaven, a place of our security in the Lord here on earth and for all eternity, and by our obedience, its borders and walls are retained or reestablished.
  4. To the Lord a thousand years is as a day (2 Pet 3:8), and we are never to overlook any of his commands, no matter how long the world goes on. They do not change.

As we are obedient, we will be empowered to resist the devil and to win each battle. (Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-10) We cannot be obedient without God's love and help.

The first shall be last or even worse!

The Amalekites — Fifth in a series

It was time for Canaan to make way for Israel! On the brink of the Hebrew's invasion, the Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” (Num 13:2)

After more than a year since their troubles at Rephidim where Amalek had attacked, much had been accomplished: the law – moral, ceremonial and civil – had been given; the tabernacle had been built and all its accompanying articles and vestments for worship had been created for the Levites; a census had been taken and the people had been instructed about their role in God’s covenant. As they traveled, they would camp according to tribe in a prescribed formation around the tabernacle, and there was always plenty of manna. It was a secure life, if one will reflect on it.

The familiar was evidently more appealing than the new, for when the spies returned from their exploration, all but two expressed fear and determination NOT to enter the land. Yet, the Lord makes us secure, sure of his law and presence, so that we will go forth and conquer, not to make us comfortable in our surroundings.

Because of the discouraging reports, the people once again complained and even threatened to choose a leader to take them back to Egypt. (Num 14:4) Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and pleaded with the assembly not to rebel, but the tribes wanted to stone them. That was enough! The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Num 14:12)

However, Moses interceded so that the Lord relented; nevertheless he stated that anyone over 20 years of age who had rebelled would never enter the land but instead wander in the desert for 40 years. The men who spread the bad report were struck by a plague and died.

The Israelites mourned bitterly and wanted to make amends, so the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the LORD promised. Surely we have sinned!” (Num 14:39-40) Perhaps they sought the hill country recalling how the Lord had helped them win in Rephidim with Moses on the hill.

But Moses warned them not to proceed because the Lord was not with them. “You will be defeated by your enemies.” (Num 14:42) They were.

The Amalekites along with the Canaanites attacked the Hebrews, and won! Had God’s promise to utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven failed? (Ex 17:14) Did the Lord change his mind? No, the Glory of Israel does not change his mind like a man (1 Sam 15:29), nor was his hand unable to save, nor his ear heavy (Isa 59:1, 2), but the people sealed their own fate by their sinful moaning, lack of courage and trust in God, and verbal attacks on Moses, so that once again the Amalekites were permitted their heart’s desire.

Even though God’s people repented, there are consequences to our disobedience. Otherwise, where would be the fear of God?

The name Amalek means dweller in the valley. This attack on Israel was near, possibly within, their homeland, which was to the west of Edom and south of Canaan.

Evidently, the Lord was not in a hurry to fulfill his word in respect to Amalek. Nevertheless, they were doomed to challenge and prove Israel’s faith and obedience to God for generations to come, even though they were not named among the Canaanite nations marked for Israel to defeat. How did they gain this distinctive? We find a clue to this in the story of Balak and Balaam.

After 40 years when the Israelites traveled toward their entry point to Canaan where they crossed the Jordan River on dry land (Josh 3:17), the Moabites provoked them. Balak the Moabite king called on Balaam, a false prophet, to curse Israel, but the Lord prevented him, charging him to bless her instead. (Num 22:12) Not only did he bless Israel, he confirmed God's prophecy about Amalek: And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek [was] the first of the nations; but his latter end [shall be] that he perish for ever. (Num 24:20)

Their distinctive among the nations was being first to go up against Israel. Be very careful about any movements you initiate. Initiators who oppose God’s purposes will be doubly culpable.

The Lord is the only carefree initiator. Whatever he starts he finishes and all his works are perfect.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

Hochosterwitz 01052004 04

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