‘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 and one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army.’
We are thinking today about a story that features three men, Moses, Aaron and Hur. I think most of us here are pretty familiar with Moses and Aaron but it is quite possible that Hur is unfamiliar to a lot of us. Until I started to reflect on this passage the name Hur was completely unknown to me.
Moses we know all about, the baby in the bulrushes, brought up by the Pharaoh’s daughter, spoken to by God from the burning bush. The deliverer of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the recipient of the commandments, the one who spoke with God and established the covenant which set the Jews apart as God’s chosen people. When Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration Moses and Elijah were the two heroes who were with him. Moses is probably the best known character in the Old Testament.
Aaron too is well known. He is Moses brother and confidant. He speaks to the Pharaoh on Moses behalf, he was with Moses during the plagues, he helped Moses to lead the Israelites during their wanderings, he is Moses second in command and he became the first chief priest of the tabernacle.
And then there is Hur, very little is known about him. He is mentioned at Exodus 24, when Moses goes up onto Mount Sinai to get the 10 commandments, Aaron and Hur are left to settle disputes in Moses’ absence. From this we can assume that he was a prominent elder amongst the Israelites as they travelled from Egypt to Canaan. He is thought to have been a member of the Tribe of Judah and he is also mentioned as the grandfather of Bezaleel, and he was designated by God to be the principal creator of the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, however it is not entirely certain that this Hur is the same individual, but he has been treated as such in Jewish tradition. And that is it about Hur.
The story we are thinking about today takes place when the Israelites are travelling through the desert and begin complaining that they are thirsty and hungry. For their hunger God supplied them with Quails and manna and we are told that they ate manna for the entire forty years of their wanderings. Water too was a problem and when the people arrived at Rephidim they are moaning about a lack of water. Here Moses was told by God to strike the rock of Horeb with his staff and water flowed out for the people to drink.
When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and commanded him to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt his shepherds crook or staff became the embodiment of the power given to him by God.
So the children of Israel were at Rephidim and it was here that the Amalekite army came and attacked the Israelites. And it was at the battle at Rephidim that another well-known heroic figure Joshua, who eventually took over the leadership from Moses, appears to lead the people in fighting the Amalekites.
But Joshua and the Israelites cannot be victorious on their own; this message comes through time after time, unless God is on their side they cannot prevail. We have the wonderful picture of Moses standing on top of the hill with his staff of power in his hand holding his arms up. And as long as Moses holds his arms up that the Israelites are successful in their battle against the Amalekites. But Moses is a man and his arms become tired and as his arms drop so Joshua and the Israelite army begin to lose power and the Amalekites become more successful. Moses the great hero of the Old Testament, Moses with his staff of power given to him by God himself, Moses’ arms grow tired and begin to fall. We can imagine the scene as the watching Israelites realise what is happening, Moses is steadily tiring and as he becomes weaker the Amalekite army gains ascendance. God has done what he will do, Moses is doing everything that he can do with the power God has given him and it is not enough! What can be done, how is disaster to be averted?
And it is then that two men step up. Aaron we would expect he is Moses brother and has been helping and supporting him since the burning bush, but Hur is a complete unknown yet he too steps up. Again another fantastic picture, Moses being manoeuvred onto a rock and Aaron and Hur taking their places on either side of him steadying his hands, supporting his arms, until sunset. All day long, Moses with the staff of power from God supported by his brother Aaron and by Hur, making sure that the battle went their way, making sure that Gods purpose was fulfilled.
Too often we think of the leaders in the church of people like Angus, Jean, and Elizabeth as being like Moses, selected by God, like Moses with his staff they have been given their gifts by God and we expect them to be able to do it on their own. This passage tells us loud and clear that this is not the case. The people God chooses to set on the hill top cannot do it on their own, they are human they quickly become weak and tired and discouraged. They need support all day long, all the time, without this constant support then they will fail. And it is US they need, our help and our support, God needs us to step up so that his purpose for the world can be fulfilled.
And when we ask why is God not doing more in the world, why does evil prevail, why is there poverty and injustice, why do the wicked flourish then we need to think about this passage. For in order for God’s purpose to be fulfilled it not only takes strong and gifted leaders it takes every one of the rest of us taking seriously our supporting role.
As we think about that supporting role it is quite helpful to think about Hur. Hur the unknown, Hur the ordinary, perhaps we can all identify with Hur much more than we can identify with Moses and Aaron; they are the heroes, despite their flaws. Hur is the man or woman in the pew, nothing special just ordinary, and yet able and willing to step up. Hur didn’t hang back, he didn’t wait for someone else to do it, he didn’t spend time dithering and wondering if he should do it. He didn’t wonder what people would think of him for putting himself forward, he didn’t take time to weigh up the pros and cons or count the cost. He knew he wasn’t special yet he had the confidence to step up.
Or maybe Moses or Aaron looked round for someone who had proved themselves, someone who could be relied on to do their bit. Maybe Aaron said ‘come on Hur, I’ll take one arm you take the other.’ Whatever whether he did it off his own bat or whether he was asked Hur stepped up and saved the day. Sure, if Hur hadn’t done it someone else might have but we don’t know that all we know is Hur and Aaron did what was needed and enabled a good outcome.
And Jesus, God’s own son, of course he could have done it on his own, but he chose twelve feeble and fallible disciples and sent them out to spread his Kingdom throughout the world.
And God is still choosing the feeble and fallible as his disciples, he is choosing you and me and challenging us to step up so that his will will be done and his kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.