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Amalekites: Testing Covenant Love

July, 2000

Recently, as the Lord was preparing me to go to Scandinavia and calling me into Madagascar, He impressed upon me that the spirit we would be up against had to do with the Amalekites. Somehow it all related to the Viking spirit, pirates, and even South Florida.

The Holy Spirit was revealing to me that the body is a temple, not a tomb; that in the third day the temple of the Holy Spirit will be built, the third temple. He is building this temple in the sons of glory. They are the third temple.

I started researching the Amalekites, and Marcy Murray helped in this research. I discovered from the scriptures that they were nomadic, raiders, had no fear of God, attacked the rear guard, cut off those who became physically weak, the old, children, and had an unrelenting and destructive spirit. "Amal" means "labor, sorrow." These people were God-defying, and God told them to treat them differently. Deuteronomy 20.10-12 tells us that no offer of peace was to be given to them first.

In Genesis 36.12, 16 we learn that Amalek was the son of Eliphaz and the grandson of Esau. Some do not consider the Amalekites to be the descendants of Amalek because they existed in the days of Abraham (Genesis 14.7), but most consider that they were, and that the reference in Genesis is to describe them to the people at the time Genesis was written. At any rate, there are considered to be a tribe that dwelt in Arabia Petraea, between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. They may have migrated from the shores of the Persian Gulf and settled in Arabia. Numbers 13.29 and 1 Samuel 15.7 tell us that they dwelt in the land of the southÖfrom Havilah until you come to Shur. They were pastoral and nomadic, and their kings bore the hereditary name of Agag (Numbers 24.7; 1 Samuel 15.8).

The Amalekites were fierce warriors. They attempted to stop the Israelites when they marched through their territory (Deuteronomy 25.18), attacking them at Rephidim (Exodus 17.8-13; cf. Deuteronomy 25.17 and 1 Samuel 15.2). Later they attacked at Hormah (Numbers 14.45). Because the Israelites did not wipe them out, we find them in league with the Moabites in Judges 3.13 and with the Midianites in Judges 6.3. Saul desolated their territory and weakened them (1 Samuel 14.48; 15.3), and David recovered booty from them (1 Samuel 30.18-20). Babylonian inscriptions reference them as Sute, in those of Egypt Sittiu, and the Amarna tablets include them under the general name of Khabbati, or "plunderers."

This powerful and influential nation (Numbers 24.7) governed by kings (1 Samuel 15.20, 32), and possessing cities (1 Samuel 15.5), is judged in scripture as wicked (1 Samuel 15.18), oppressive (Judges 10.12), warlike and cruel (1 Samuel 15.33). They were the first to oppose Israel (Exodus 17.8), and so were doomed to utter destruction for doing so. (Exodus 17.14, 16; Deuteronomy 25.19). Numbers 14.20 foretold their utter destruction.

Over the course of time and history, Moses and Joshua came up against them, Ephraim, Gideon, Saul, Samuel, David, and Hezekiah. Finally, during the reign of Hezekiah, the Simeonites arose to exterminate the Amalekites (1 Chronicles 4.43).

Now you might be wondering what all this has to do with testing covenant love. Well, what I found interesting was that the battle with the Amalekites occurred right after a lot of murmuring and complaining from the Hebrews in the wilderness. The people murmured about no water, and God provided, making bitter waters sweet and revealing that He is Jehovah Raphe, the Covenant Lord who Heals (Exodus 15). Then in the wilderness of Sin between Elim and Sinai, there was more murmuring against Moses and Aaron over their hunger. God provided manna and quail, and gave specific instructions, which the people refused to keep. (Exodus 16)

Then the children of Israel came to Rephidim, and there was no water to drink. They chided Moses and murmured. Read Exodus 17.3-7.

They tempted the Lord, saying "Is the LORD among us, or not?" This is the testing of covenant love. God had redeemed this people out of Egypt. They had seen His power and His provision. They had found Him faithful to His promises, the promises He had made to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was bringing them out of bondage, but they were having trouble receiving His grace and His gracious provision.

So, "Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim." Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, describes the Amalekites as the most warlike of the nations that lived thereabout, that their kings exhorted one another, and their neighbors, to go to this war against the Hebrews. Moses hadnít anticipated such warlike preparations. His people were slaves, families. Yes, they had seen God supply in the case of famine and thirst. They had seen God part the sea. All these difficulties had been conquered by Godís gracious kindness. But they had challenged God rather than praise Him. They said, "Is the LORD among us, or not?"

This is no mere first battle for the Hebrews. Their very first battle is against Amalek. Joshua led the men in battle while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of this hill. When Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed. When he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. They had to hold his hands up to win this one. And then the LORD said unto Moses, "Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-Nissi: for he said, Because the LORD has sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." (Exodus 17.14-16)

This altar became a memorial, a testimony in stone, to bear witness to all that God is Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord our Banner, the Lord the Conqueror.

Shortly after, the Hebrews came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped before the mount. God said, "You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eaglesí wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." (Exodus 19.4-6)

Whatís going on here? What is God trying to say? What does He desire of these people, and us?

Look, youíve seen God supply in your life. Youíve seen how gracious He is, how He provides, how powerful He is. After all Heís done in the past, as you have trusted His grace in the past, trust Him for future grace. Trust Him today. He doesnít change. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He wants you to trust Him, who He is. He is the I AM THAT I AM. He is Jehovah Raphe, the One who makes bitter waters sweet. He is Jehovah-Jireh, the One who provides Himself the sacrifice. But if you challenge Him, and want to know if He is among you or not, then prepare yourself for the Amalekites. Then you will know God as Jehovah-Nissi. You will experience Him in the power and hold of His covenant love.

Israel didnít get it the first time around. In Numbers 14 we read that in spite of these people seeing Godís glory and His miracles, they tempted God ten times and didnít hearken to His voice. They provoked God. You see, what happened was that the spies had been sent out to explore Canaan. Verse 29 says that the Amalekites dwelt in the land of the south along with some other fierce peoples. Caleb said, "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." But the others said no, the enemy was too strong, and they brought up an evil report of the land. There were giants there.

So they murmured against Moses and against Aaron. God was not a happy camper, and God judged the people as an evil congregation, murmuring against Him. Only Joshua and Caleb would enter the promised land. That generation would perish in the wilderness for despising their inheritance from the Lord. Their children would wander in the wilderness 40 years and bear their whoredoms and iniquities. Letís read what happened in Numbers 14.39-45.

Gideon came up against the Amalekites, too. The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. When Israel had sown, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east came up against them. They surrounded them and destroyed the increase of the earth and left no sustenance for Israel. They came up with their cattle and their tents as grasshoppers for multitude and entered into the land to destroy it. Israel was greatly impoverished, the Bible says, and then they cried out unto the Lord.

Godís answer came through His prophet. (Judges 6.8-10) God raised up Gideon. Gideonís approach to God also questions, but not with the same heart of complaint and murmuring and doubt and challenge. Listen. (Judges 6.13, 14) Right after Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal. Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east gathered together in the valley of Jezreel. Gideon had been chosen by God to be a mighty warrior by declaration of Godís mouth. Gideon was smarter in his appeal to God. He came to "prove" God by putting out the fleece. He approached God in humility as he came with his concerns. He did not challenge God in his questions. He did not strut before the throne of God. He came as Godís servant desiring to clarify instructions and the purpose and plan of God. (Judges 6)

God downsized the army to 300 and then the battle against this multitude of marauders began. Gideon proceeded in confidant expectation of victory. The trumpet was blown and they said, "The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon." You see, Gideon had received a revelation of the LORD as Jehovah-Shalom. The LORD had said unto him, "Peace be unto you; fear not. You shall not die." That was during an encounter with the angel of the Lord. With that revelation and as the Lord was with Gideon, he had victory.

Saul was commissioned to destroy the Amalekites, but did not utterly destroy them. He left king Agag, who was later slain by Samuel (1 Samuel 15). Saul saved some sheep and cattle for a sacrifice, but Saul had not followed Godís orders and was therefore rejected by God, for "Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice." (1 Samuel 15.22) After Samuel killed king Agag, Saul and Samuel never saw each other again.

The Amalekites stand for pirates, plunder, and poverty. They are marauders, and can cause great fear. But if you challenge Godís covenant love, God will put faith to the test. If you doubt He is with you, He may very well withdraw His presence. God IS with youÖby Covenant. Go to Him with your questions, even with unbelief, but not to challenge. Go seeking, trusting as you go.

God desires obedience. It is the natural outcome of faith. The one who believes obeys. The one who obeys believes. If obedience is a problem, then God may raise up a circumstance in which you can only trust Him. Trusting is harder than obedience. With obedience, God gives us something to do. With trust, we must wait on Him. We must watch Him. We must worship Him. With trust, we let God arise and see our enemies be scattered. With trust, we see God as our Jehovah-Jireh, as our Jehovah-Raphe, our Jehovah-Nissi, as our Jehovah-Shalom. With trust, God gets all the glory, because surely the Amalekites are too strong for us. We must stand on Godís covenant promises. When we do, He prevails.

Today the Amalekites are all around. They are pirates, plunderers, destroyers with no fear of God. They believe in fate or chance. They consider themselves masters of their own destiny. Haman the Agagite plotted to destroy all the Jews during the time of Esther. Amalekites donít want to be reminded the there is a King of kings and Lord of lords who reigns over history and who is in control of all that happens. The lesson of Esther is one of trust in the Lord. Hitler didnít like the story of Esther and all copies of it destroyed. The Feast of Purim (lots) celebrates God as the Lord of history. Haman had cast the lot to consume the Jews and to destroy them, but God does not work by chance, but by decree, and what He decrees surely comes to pass.

All around, people deny God and applaud fate, or chance. They read their horoscopes and have tarot readings. They do their little rituals and dance around maypoles wearing flowers in their hair and worshiping the goddess. And He who sits in the heavens laughs at their vain plots. To all the Amalekites we say, as we pray to our Covenant-keeping God, ÖPsalm 83.

Our God is Jehovah Elyon. Our God reigns.

Mary Craig

© 2000 Mary Craig Ministries, Inc.

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