We learn from the age of five to raise our hands if we have a question or have an answer to one. As we grow older we raise enthusiastic fist pumps at football games or do a stadium “wave”, or at concerts we might “put our hands in the air like we just don’t care”. One summer we were enjoying the live band in the parking lot at one of the popular saint celebrations. Many of the raised hands swaying back and forth to the music held bottles of beer and I secretly pondered this was not the lifting of spirits I was expecting. We were all loudly helping the band sing “It’s The End of the World as We Know It,” and I began to question if indeed the words we were singing might be prophetic when suddenly a full-on thunder storm came up out of nowhere! Lightening flashed behind the church silhouetting the sea of swaying arms. A message crackled over the loudspeaker for everyone to go into the church for safety. (Always a good call.) I was already more than a little nervous walking into the church with the thirsty crowd not easily parted with their unfinished drinks, so when a friend next to me in the pew held up her wine and asked if this counted as communion, I just sat back and waited to be struck by lightning.
“Most things, like a storm, will likely just blow over.” I used Mom’s wise words when my son came home from school a month into third grade complaining a little girl ran up and hugged him every day. I said she probably would just get tired of it and quit or perhaps one day, which would come way too soon for his mother, he might not mind it so badly. When I asked what his response was he said he just stood there in front of the classroom with his arms clamped to his side while she hugged him.
Moses didn’t have that option and so, as directed by God, he placed himself on a hill and held his arms up high. As long as his hands were up, his army would win the battle, but when his hands would fall down, they would lose. To solve the problem of his arms getting tired, he had a brother and a friend, one on either side, holding up his arms for him. When I read about this in Exodus 17:8-13, I thought what a true blessing it is to have siblings and friends to support us when we get tired.
The thing we hold up matters too. Moses held up the staff that represented God’s power; it had warded off plagues in Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and brought forth water from a rock in the desert. A good question to ask ourselves is “Does what we hold represent God’s power?” I know I’m guilty of holding my phone way too much. And there’s no doubt people watch what we hold. Imagine how Joshua and his men felt when they looked up from battle and saw Moses holding up God’s staff. I’ll bet they fought with more confidence and fervor knowing God was present. My prayer is that what we hold will also inspire others to look towards God in a similar way and encourage them to keep fighting the good fight.
Most people are not comfortable raising their hands and that’s okay. It is a position of vulnerability and surrender or even worship. In Exodus 35:22 it mentions a “wave offering” in which the priests held up the sacrifice and waved it in the air. Sometimes what’s in our hands can be our sacrifice. Sometimes raising our hands in surrender and worship is one and the same thing—a reaction to God’s amazing love. After all, it’s hard to respond to a hug with your arms to your sides.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel