“Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’ So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17: 9-13
This is the first mention of Joshua in the Scriptures; the man of God who served so faithfully as Moses’ assistant, and then later led the Israelites with great effectiveness into the Promised Land. I think it’s significant that the first thing communicated about Joshua is his obedience. He fought the Amalekites “as Moses had ordered.” It must have been a daunting task; his first battle, his first test as a leader of men. Yet he obeyed without question, and in consequence found himself fighting a hard battle all day long until sunset.
When it was all over, this was God’s immediate response and instruction:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered, and make sure that Joshua hears it.” Exodus 17:14
Or as the King James Version puts it,
“…rehearse it in the ears of Joshua.”
John Wesley’s commentary says that this is the very first time that writing is mentioned in the Bible! As a writer myself, that feels exciting and significant to me. Especially since writing is not introduced in the context of scribing laws or instructions, or in the communicating of any kind of new information. The first time writing is mentioned it is in the context of, and for the sole purpose of, remembering.
As I said earlier, this was Joshua’s first battle. He was to lead many, many battles throughout the course of his lifetime; but it was apparently important to God that the description and circumstances of this very first battle be “rehearsed in his ears.” Why?
Joshua was not seeing what was happening on top of the hill as the battle raged below. I think God wanted to emphasize to him the divine nature of their deliverance; that even as Joshua and his troops were fighting with all their efforts and skill, it was the hand of God, through Moses, directing the course of events. Perhaps He also wanted Joshua, the future leader of Israel, to understand the necessity of teamwork. Moses did not physically fight in the battle; but without his prayerful watching, holding up the staff of God, there would have been no victory. Aaron and Hur did not physically fight in the battle, either. But without their efforts to stand beside Moses and hold up his arms when he became weary, there would have been no victory.
It was critical for him to always remember:
--Deliverance comes through dependence on God alone
--Teamwork is essential in fulfilling God’s calling
And because God knows how quickly we humans forget, His first instruction was to write it down. His second instruction was to rehearse it. Tell it out loud, and then re-tell it again and again!
When our kids were little and times were very hard for us, we started a “blessing book” during a season of unemployment. We kept it in the kitchen beside the table where we ate, and I started writing down—and rehearsing aloud—all the ways that God was helping us and providing for us. It helped us remember that our deliverance came through God alone. It helped us focus on the fact that we were a team, getting through this together. Most importantly, it helped us hang on to faith during dark times; just as I’m sure the written history of that first battle encouraged Joshua over and over again throughout the years that followed.
It’s never too late to start. I encourage you to find your own way of remembering and rehearsing, and let the stories of God’s divine deliverance resonate through the generations!
“When the God of the universe tells you something, you should write it down.”