In Ian Falconer’s illustrated book, Olivia Saves the Circus, Olivia stands in front of her class to tell about her spring vacation. Always one for flair, Olivia describes how she, her mother, and her little brother went to the circus only to find all the circus performers were out sick with ear infections. She immediately fills in: she’s the lion-tamer, the tight-rope walker, dog trainer, and Olivia, Queen of the Trampoline!
Sometimes we think of Moses’ story as resembling Olivia’s, as if his story were really a one-man show. Today’s reading details how Moses was an ordinary man and relied on God and others in his assigned responsibilities from God.
This story is primarily a demonstration of the absolute necessity of God’s powerful intervention in whatever crises we face. Imagine the state of mind of the Israelites at this point on their journey out of Egypt. They had met significant hardship at every place they had camped. They had encountered impossible obstacles, fierce enemies, and lack of provisions. God had miraculously and faithfully provided for them in each of these instances—and they needed Him here again desperately.
Moses explained the strategy, and it’s not the either/or proposition we’re tempted to follow: either pray and rely on God or act. Moses’ solution was a both/and approach. Joshua, a much younger man than Moses, would command the troops on the ground. They would take up their swords and fight. And in the background we find Moses, with arms outstretched toward the God in heaven.
The battle wasn’t won in a mere matter of hours. This particular battle scene features a coordinated effort on the ground by God’s men to plead for His power but also to fight with His strength. God could have prevented the Amalekite attack, but instead, He took an opportunity to teach the leaders of Israel that they must rely on each other.