2020 VISION: WE ALL HAVE A PART TO PLAY

THERE IS NOT ONE OF US THAT DOES NOT NEED TO BE EQUIPPED FOR SERVICE

KEYNOTE VERSE

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4: 11-12)

INTRODUCTION: WHAT IF I AM NOT CALLED TO BE AN “ELISHA”?

Our 2020 Vision is this:

That those who are leaders are called to equip the people to become the leaders of the future – to become everything that God has planned for them to be – leaders must do this through the “3 T’s” of giving the people their time, teaching and the tools that they need to do the job and to “take up the baton”. Our Biblical example is that of Elijah and our conclusion is that, in one way or the other, we are ALL leaders and must ALL be looking to whom we can get alongside of to prepare to be our successors.

That the people of ACC are called to take their lead from Elisha – to be willing to apprentice themselves to one who can take the time and provide the teaching and the tools to prepare themselves for “taking up the mantle” of leadership.

However…are we ALL called to be Elisha’s? maybe not. Maybe there are those amongst us who – through age or through disability or through existing spiritual service – correctly feel that we are already “in” our calling, already serving in the way that we should be serving our LORD.

Does this mean that our 2020 Vision, based around Ephesians 4, is not for us?

In this session we will see a third way of being called to fulfil our 2020 Vision: maybe you are not called to be a “master” and maybe you are not called to be an “apprentice” but you are ALL called to be equipped to play your part. Apart from the “sick” (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) we are not called to be spectators but to be participators in the great race of life.

This is so clearly seen in the incident of the battle of the Israelites against the Amalekites. Let us have a close look at the Biblical story of this event.

THE BATTLE OF THE ISRAELITES AGAINST THE AMALEKITES

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 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.’

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 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. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.’

(Exodus 17: 8-14)

THE BACKGROUND AND ITS MEANING FOR US

Moses was called to the service of God – to be God’s agent on earth to deliver the Israelites from 400 years of bondage to the Egyptians. This was no mean task. Not only did he have to stand against the opposition of mighty Pharaoh and all the Egyptians but he had maybe 2 million people to lead out of captivity (based on the figure of 600 000 men besides women and children who left Egypt in Exodus 12: 37).

The event that is recorded here in Exodus 17 took place within 2 months of the Israelites leaving Egypt. Staying awhile at Rephidim they are attacked by the Amalekites. It is believed that Rephidim was a wadi in Sinai, not far from the mount of the 10 Commandments. Usually a lush oasis with many palm trees, the Israelites found it dry and barren – hence their moaning to Moses and his obeying God’s command to strike the rock from which water then flowed to quench the thirst of the people (Exodus 17: 1-7).

The location of Rephidim might explain the attack by the Amalekites. The Amalekites – descendants of Esau (the brother of Jacob) were nomads living in Sinai. Their attack was probably motivated by a jealousy of the Israelites and a wish to stop them gaining access to the oasis.

The meaning, or relevance of all this background to us? We are God’s chosen people (spiritual Israel – spiritual children of Jacob). Although living in a “desert place” – the world, our Father God will bless us always with the Holy Spirit (symbolically water) that flows from Jesus (the Rock). The world  although of the same human family as us (both Jacob and Esau were children of Isaac) hates what we believe in and what we stand for, is jealous of us, and motivated by our enemy, the devil, will always do what they can to stop us and destroy us. Literally, Israel was in a battle then; spiritually, we (spiritual Israel) are in a battle now. The story of the battle is a picture of how God used His leaders to equip all the people to serve the LORD in that battle – and it has a message for us today…

THE PARTS THAT EACH PLAYED

Notice that apart from the sick (and there are those amongst us who are sick – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually) – who needed to be protected and rested in the rear, ALL had a part to play in the battle.

We have seen over the previous year’s teaching that we are ALL in an on-going spiritual battle against the “powers and principalities of this dark age” – against our enemy, the devil, and all his demons. This is a battle that we are ALL in; and a battle in which we ALL have a part to play.

  1. MOSES

Moses was not going to literally lead the army in the battle against the Amalekites. He was going to leave this in the hands of his apprentice Joshua. Moses’ role was to stand before God and intercede on behalf of God’s people and to pass on God’s directions to them in the battle.

It was not that Moses was not able to lead the army into battle. He was the “Prince of Egypt”.  He would have been trained from his youth in how to fight a battle and how to lead an army. He would have been experienced in actually doing so – in the many minor wars that constantly beset Egypt during this time. He had personally led the Israelites out of Egypt at the Exodus (Exodus 12: 31-36). He had been the one to stretch out his hand to drive back the waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 14: 21) and then to stretch out his arm once more so that the sea closed up on the armies of Egypt, destroying them (Exodus 14: 27-28). He was well-equipped to lead an army.

But, here he chose to not do so. Here he chose to appoint Joshua to lead the soldiers in the battle against the Amalekites. Why is this? Is that he is now too old? I think not! We are told that at the end of his life his strength had not diminished (Deuteronomy 34: 7).

No, it was not age that swayed his decision. I believe it was God’s wise counsel. I believe that Moses knew that he had to equip God’s chosen successor, Joshua, to do the job, to fight the battle. Joshua was not to be “thrown in at the deep end” after Moses had gone. Joshua was to be given the job now, to prepare him now for the conquest of Canaan that he was called to lead in the future. Moses was acting as the “master” giving his “apprentice” the on-the-job training that he needed to “equip” him for service to God.

Moses could have fought the battle as a warrior. But that was NOT what he was now called to do. He was handing the baton over to Joshua. This was succession-planning in action.

  • JOSHUA AND THE SOLDIERS

The battle against the Amalekites is the very first mention in the Bible of Joshua. His immediate appointment as army general indicates that he is already the apprentice and servant of Moses.

Moses chose this moment to give much-needed experience to his apprentice, Joshua. This battle experience would set him in good stead for the many battles that lay ahead for him when he took up Moses’ mantle as the Israelite leader in the war to conquer the Promised Land.

But, Joshua had to accept this position as army general. Joshua had to be obedient to Moses’ order –

Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites (Exodus 17: 9)

There was no dissent. There was no question. There was straight obedience.

Joshua, and the men who literally fought the battle with him, were the young men of the nation. They were the future of the nation. They were the strong and active youth of the nation – full of energy, full of passion, full of fight, full of bravery, willing to do all that was needed to win the battle.

The lesson for us today is this: Leaders are called to give the “young” (in age, experience and faith) the opportunity to flex their spiritual muscles; to go into battle against our enemy, the devil, in every way possible. The “young” (remember that by this I do not mean just in age, but also in passion and in faith) must take up the mantle of the “hands-on” work of the church – be it making the coffee, supporting in the Sunday School, cleaning the windows, preaching the Gospel, doing door-to-door work, standing strong against the collapse in our society (as we move away from Biblical values).

But – and here we see the parallel with the example of Elijah with Elisha – the “young” must not feel they are “dumped” into the work, “thrown in at the deep end”, put to work without any training. I believe that Moses had got alongside Joshua long ago and had taught him the art of the warrior. And even now Moses did not leave Joshua and the warriors alone – he stood on the only hill in the area, watching all that they were doing, supporting them, lifting up his staff on high to spur them on to victory against the enemy. And this is what we, the “old” (in faith – the leaders) are called to do for the Joshua’s amongst us.

So many lessons here….

  • AARON AND HUR

But it gets better!

You see, Moses and Joshua/warriors were not the only people in the equation here….there was Aaron and Hur as well.

Aaron, Moses’ brother and the High Priest of Israel, was an old man like Moses. Hur we know absolutely nothing about – except for this one thing – that along with Aaron he played a pivotal role in the battle. Without him the battle could not have been won. For Moses had to keep his staff held high for the Israelites to win the battle. And his arms got tired. And he could not hold the staff up any longer. And Hur, along with Aaron, stood side-by-side with Moses and held his arms aloft so that the victory was won. He might appear to have been a “nobody” but to God he was a “somebody”.

You might not be the leader who  is equipping the people for service in the church. You might not be the “young” and mighty warrior going out to do battle with the world for God. You might consider yourself to be a “nobody” – like unknown Hur – but to God you are a “somebody” who is called to do a crucial service for God – right now.

And your service might be that of Hur (and Aaron). Your service might be to stand side-by-side with those in the church who are seeking to lead the church forward, seeking to equip the “young” for service. When the leaders are tired and “low” and flagging – for the work is hard and the battle against our enemy, the devil, is fierce, let you be the one to stand alongside them, holding them up, keeping their hands of prayer and power and intercession lifted high to God. Be the one to stand and pray for the “warriors” of the church. Be the one to intercede on behalf of the church so that our enemy, the devil, is not able to prevail. Be the one to “stand in the gap” for others in the church who are struggling with life. Pray, pray and pray again. Encourage, encourage and encourage again.

The Hur, the Aaron, the Prayer Warrior, the supporter, the encourager – these are the ones who are desperately needed in the battle of life. Seek to be equipped for this great service.

My testimony is this: coming to serve God and you at ACC has been an incredible privilege and I have found you to be the most wonderful and loving of people. I have also found this to be a time of the most incredible spiritual battle against the enemy, the devil, who has sought in so many ways to bring me to despair. And yet, through all this, I have known myself to be daily held-up by the prayers and encouragement of those amongst you who have grasped the truth of Aaron and Hur. I do not need to name you – but you are doing the work of God as we seek to implement our 2020 Vision.

THE FINAL CHALLENGES

So…where do you fit into all this?

Maybe at this time you are the “sick and wounded” and need to be cared for and protected.

But, apart from these, the challenge is to rise up and be counted in service to the LORD in the battle that we face in our lives and in this world. All are needed – there are no spectators here, only participators.

Are you called to be like Moses – to give your time, your training and the tools to then release your Joshua’s into the battle while you intercede for them before God?

Are you called to be like Joshua and the warriors? Is it your time to heed the call to service in the battle of life and the world? Is it time to fight for God with all your might? Is it time to fix your eyes on God and His servant who is standing there to spur you on and guide you in the fight?

Are you called to be like Hur – a “somebody” in the eyes of the LORD – a “somebody” who will stand side-by-side with the leaders, praying for them and for the church, encouraging them and the church as we go forward with our 2020 Vision. You have to be ONE of these!

LOOKING AT THIS DEEPER – EITHER ON YOUR OWN OR IN HOUSEGROUP

  • Read Exodus 17: 8-14
  • Rephidim means “resting place” – this is where the Israelites were attacked – do you think that this is significant?
  • Who are the Amalekites and who would be the Amalekites today?
  • Moses was holding up a staff – and this needed to keep being held up. What do you think his staff symbolises?
  • Moses sat on a rock when he got tired – what is the symbolism of this?
  • Was it important that Moses was on the top of the hill? What does this hill symbolise?
  • In what ways do you think you are like Aaron and Hur?
  • Where do you fit into the picture of the battle that we are all fighting in? Are you a Moses, a Joshua or a Hur?
  • Does it matter?
  • What about the “sick” in the church – who are they and are they expected to take part in the battle that we are all involved in?

Have a look at this clip to see how this episode is often compared with the work of Jesus: