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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Raised Hands

And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

(Exodus 17:11 NKJV)

War represents the field in which supporters of different interests face each other and in the biblical text it becomes synonymous with the difficulties that we are periodically called to face. The people of Israel in Rephidim, is on his way to the promised land, has crossed the sea and the desert, and is now camped in an area where there is no water and is therefore protesting again. God makes water gush out of the rock when the fight against Amalek is told. In addition to the lack of food and water, the Israelites in the desert had to deal with the opposition of the desert tribes. Among these tribes were the Amalekites, descendants of Amalek, chief of a tribe of Edomites, whose ancestor was Edom (Esau) brother of Jacob, and therefore were related to the Israelites. In the Bible they are considered the traditional enemies of Israel and the battle with them takes on an emblematic value.

Moses orders Joshua to lead the Israelites into battle, while he will stand on the top of the hill, where it was possible to follow the unfolding of the hostilities live, holding the staff of God. The Bible narrates that when Moses raised his hands, Israel prevailed; but when he lowered them, the enemies prevailed. Then, since Moses struggled to keep his hands raised, Aaron and Hur made him sit on a stone while they, one on one side and the other on the other, supported them. In this way they guarantee the success of the Israelites. The story ends with Joshua defeating the Amalekites, then passing them to the sword, without knowing what had happened on the hill. Probably at the origin of the story there must have been a rock in the shape of a seat, designated as the throne of Moses. While the raised arms are seen as a symbol of prayer, despite the lack of any allusion to a dialogue between Moses and YHWH.

Raising our hands is an act that often accompanies our adoration, and I believe it is a remarkable and absolutely effective attitude, of which no one should be ashamed or find it difficult. Perhaps someone has experienced how, when the anointing descends and the song and music lift our hearts, the hands come together and stretch upwards. David is aware of where God's help comes from: "Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary" (Psalms 28:2). First of all, it is an act of surrender to the love of him and not to the fear of him. When I raise my hands I realize that they are empty, that I have nothing to offer, indeed I need to receive from his infinite grace. But they can also be empty because I have emptied them of my convictions, of my useless works, of the resentments and bitterness suffered. Just as Paul wrote to Timothy: "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Timothy 2:8).

As a child rushes towards the parent with his arms raised, wanting a hug, to be cuddled, so we raise our arms to God in adoration with a desire to touch Him and feel Him close to us, to find an answer to the deepest need: “I spread out my hands to You; my soul longs for You like a thirsty land" (Psalm 143:6). At the same time, our arms are raised to symbolically raise Jesus. Not that we have this power, but to express that He is worthy of glory. When we raise Him, we lower ourselves in the presence of His lordship. When the hands reach out to God I believe it is impossible to cling to others or anything else. Our total trust is turning to Him to be filled with His blessings and even answered in our prayers. Thus we join the psalmist: "Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." (Psalm 141:2). Returning to the episode of Moses, raising your hands is also a sign of the presence of YHWH who takes a stand in favor of the Israelites and guides them to victory. Raise your hands, because God is on your side!


Weekly Bible Reading

Plan #09 February 21, Numbers 1-2; Mark 3:1-19 February 22, Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:20-35 February 23, Numbers 5-6; Mark 4:1-20 February 24, Numbers 7-8; Mark 4:21-41 February 25, Numbers 9-11; Mark 5:1-20 February 26, Numbers 12-14; Mark 5:21-43 February 27, Numbers 15-16; Mark 6:1-29

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