14 Oct Monday
Let reflect on prayer and faithfulness. In the first reading, a battle between the Hebrews and Amalekites occurs before the arrival at Mt. Sinai. The story is not abut the battle, but about how the battle was won. Moses seems almost casual about “choosing some men,” as if to say Joshua would not need many because God would create the victory. This shows a faith on the part of Moses and Joshua. Moses prays on a hilltop; Joshua fights and mows down Amalek. One NAB version has “defeated”, perhaps chosen as less gory than “mowed down.”
The battle was long enough that Moses grew weary, requiring the support of the priests Aaron and Hur. The scene reflects the ancient hand and arm posture for prayer that appears in all the iconography of the ancient world — arms outstretched, hands open in petition. Folded hands are a very recent style of prayer. The liturgical presider only has folded hands when he is not praying, the ancient gesture of prayer enduring.
In some sense here we see prayers and actions working together, necessarily accompanying one another. Both are done with faith.
The story ends (not included in the lectionary portion) with some curious things. First Moses is told to write the story down, which would have been almost 200 years before our current earliest known example of proto-Hebrew, to remember the story, and Ethen the very next verse tells that God will wipe out the memory of Amalek, yet strangely remembered in the story. Moses also builds an altar at the battle site to commemorate God’s victory.
Often prayer can be both a struggle for us and a battle with our inner demons to turn ourselves over to God in faith and trust. Prayer is also a struggle because we acknowledge our own helplessness in the face of some obstacle, and so we turn to the Lord, again out of faith. We endure in our prayer, sometimes for years.