Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
“Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.” – Exodus 17:8, 9.
“Then came Amalek;” that is, after the manna had fallen, after the rock had been smitten. First food, then conflict. God spared His people all battles in their early days. For a while, their adversaries were as still as a stone. But when everything was arranged, and the commissariat of the camp was provided for, “then came Amalek.” Brethren, in our march to Heaven, it may happen that one part of the way is free from conflict; but let no man wonder if things change. One of these days, we shall read this despatch from the seat of war, “Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel.” Do not court attack, nor even desire it. When you hear the older folk talk about their inward conflicts, do not lament if your chronicle of wars is a short one. There is a time when kings go forth to battle, and that time will come to you soon enough. It has often been the Lord’s way to give His people space for refreshment before trying them. The same truth holds good as to service for the Lord. In the case before us, warfare was service. Some new-born converts rush to the service of God before their knowledge or their strength has fitted them for it. I want to speak very guardedly, for I have great sympathy with their zeal; but I wish to show unto them a more excellent way. Few begin work for God too soon. Ah, me! Some professors have not begun yet, after years of profession. What shall we do with old sluggards, who have been lying in bed for thirty years? Are they worth the trouble of waking? I fear not. May the Lord be gracious to them, and save them! We cannot work for God too soon; yet it is possible to go to work before you have sharpened your tools. There is a time for every purpose; and each thing is good in its season. Learn, and then teach. I would have you serve the Lord successfully: wherefore, as God gave to Israel manna and water before He sent them to fight with Amalek, so should every believer first feed on the truth himself, and then go forth to teach others also. Feed, that you may work, and work because you have been fed.
After the manna and after the smitten rock, came the fight: “Then came Amalek.” He was a descendant of Esau, full of his father’s hate. This tribe fell upon Israel without proclamation of war, in a cowardly manner, and slew the hindmost of them, – when they were not expecting an attack. They were the first of the nations that dared enter the lists against Jehovah. The others had been cowed by the wonders of the Red Sea; but Amalek was daring and presumptuous. According to the Hebrew, Amalek laid his hand upon the throne of God, and dared to molest His people. Note well that, in this battle of the Lord, there were two kinds of fighting. The first was the Joshua-service; and that was done in the plain by the fighting men. The second was the Moses-service; and this was done upon the side of the hill, by the men of God, who communed with Heaven. We need both modes of warfare.
I. To Begin With, We Want Much Of The Joshua-Service.
This is the service of many. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek.” We have a battle against sin, error, pride, self, and everything that is contrary to God and to His Christ; and in the Joshua-service many can be employed. As the Holy Spirit has given diversities of gifts, so are there varieties of agencies for battling for the truth. Every believer should be a soldier in Christ’s own army of salvation. We must not join a church with the main design of our own edification: our chief point in life is far higher than the most spiritual form of self-interest. We must live to battle for Christ Jesus our Lord in all manner of ways. To feed on the manna of Heaven, and then to wrestle with the evils of earth, is a healthy combination. We need, all of us, to stand up for Jesus in these evil days: the enemies are many and powerful, and no man redeemed by Christ must keep back from the conflict. Friend, what part will you take?
In this Joshua-service, all the combatants were under due command. “Joshua did as Moses had said to him,” and the people did as Joshua commanded them. In all holy service, willingness to be led is a great point. Certain workers may be very good personally; but they will never combine with others to make a conquering band. They work very well alone, or as fore-horses in the team; but they cannot trot in double harness. We most of all need men and women who can keep rank, who can do their work quietly and perseveringly, and are ready to follow the direction of those whom God may call to be leaders. A general can do nothing without such soldiers; and they feel that they can do little without him. Soldiers without discipline become a mob, and not an army. May the Lord send us troops of disciplined warriors prepared to chase the Amalekites! All at it, and always at it, and all for the love of Jesus: this makes a fine motto. Friend, will you be one of the steady workers?
In Joshua-work, courage was required. “Go out, fight with Amalek.” The Amalekites were fierce, cruel, strong. They are said to have been the chief among the nations; by which I understand first among the plunderers of the desert. The soldiers under Joshua had courage, and faced their wolfish foes. Saints need courage for Jesus in these days. May God, in His mercy, make His people bold against scepticism, superstition, and open wickedness! In these days, boldness is a jewel, for men are not sure about anything, or they speak as if they were not; and when men are not sure themselves, they can never convince others. A modern-thought gentleman said in a paper, the other day, “We are not all so cocksure as Mr. Spurgeon.” No; and the more’s the pity. If ministers are not absolutely certain of what they preach, they are not likely to convince others. If you doubt a thing, let it alone till your doubt is solved one way or the other. He that doubts creates doubters. Only he that believes will make believers. In this age of unbelief, if you are to win victories, you must have convictions, and you must have the courage of those convictions, and refuse to bow down before the infidelity of the age. We are called, not to flirt with error, but to fight with it; therefore, let us be brave, and push on the conflict.
Those fighting under Joshua did not grow weary. Moses had the more spiritual work, and his hands grew heavy: we sooner tire in private devotion than in public service. Joshua and his men were not weary: never let us be weary in well doing. Do you ever grow weary in one peculiar way of serving God? It may be useful to try something else. “You mean, drop what I am doing?” No; I do not. I mean, do something extra. It often happens that a man cannot do one thing, but he can do two things. Do you think the observation strange? It is true. Variety of labour serves for recreation. In the service of God, it is a relief to turn from one consecrated effort to another; and so rest one set of faculties by exercising others. Throw your whole soul into the heavenly crusade, and weary not through your fight with Amalek from dawn to set of sun.
Friend, will you be unwearied in the heavenly war? In the Joshua-service, they were successful, for “they discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” Beloved workers for the Lord, may He grant you like success against evil! The devil goes to be beaten, and he shall be beaten. If we have but courage and faith in God, and can use the edge of the sword, we shall yet defeat the powers of darkness. Many evils are deeply entrenched in modern society: the drunkenness, the scepticism, the superstition, and the vice around us are a tremendous force; but the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is equal to the emergency. If all professedly Christian men were actuated by the spirit of the Gospel, many evils would be greatly diminished. If we also believed in the power of the Gospel, so as to tell it out to our fellows with joyful confidence, in the power of the Spirit of God, we should soon see the wickedness and worldliness of the age put to the rout. Alas, brethren! the fault of many workers is that they do not use the edge of the sword. One does not like to think of the edge of a sword; but nothing else will serve in battle. One gentleman has preached a magnificent sermon, everybody admired it. Yes, that was the richly-adorned hilt of the sword; but nobody was wounded. Another man, in rough tones, boldly stated a naked truth, and pressed it home on the conscience, and that truth has pricked his hearer in the heart.
The edge of the sword means business, and people know it. They are not amused; but are made to mourn and repent. What cares the evil heart of man for the scabbard of our sword? It needs the edge, and must have it. In talking to people, are we not often afraid of using the edge of the sword? “Well,” says one, “I try to bring in the Gospel gradually.” Quite right; but the best way to bring in the edge of the sword gradually is to cut with it at once. We are such a long while parading and parleying, that we do not come to the point, and tell men that they are lost in sin, and must immediately fly to Christ for refuge, or they will perish. We must bring forth the truth clearly and boldly, if any good is to be done. “Joshua discomfited Amalek with the edge of the sword.” We must use the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, and force it home upon the attention and the conscience of all we can reach. Give the people plenty of instruction as to the central truth of salvation through the blood of Jesus. We may do as we like about flags and drums,- I mean, preaching about this or that minor point,- but we must come to the edge of the sword,- the wrath to come for the ungodly, and salvation in Christ for believers. Give men plenty of that sacred command, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Strike home in the Name of the Lord, and command all men everywhere to repent. Quote Scripture; quote it continually. Bring out the doctrines of grace, which are the burden of the inspired Book. It is the Word of God that saves souls, not our comment upon it. Smite them with the edge of the sword.
Thus I have spoken about the Joshua-work, wishing with my whole soul that every member of the visible church would enter the ranks, and use the sword with his whole heart. Oh, that those who are marching to the promised rest may serve the Lord valiantly while they are on the road thither! If you are saved yourselves, may the Lord employ you in His army, and glorify Himself in you!
II. The Second Part Of The Subject Is Full Of Interest. It Is The Moses-Service, – the service of Moses and his comrades. These did not go down to the battle-field themselves, but they climbed the mountain-side, where they could see the warriors in the conflict; and there Moses lifted up the rod of God. Note, that the Moses-service was essential to the battle; for when Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. The scales of the conflict were in the hand of Moses, and they turned as his prayer and testimony failed or continued. It was quite as necessary that Moses should be on the hill as that Joshua should be in the plain. This part of church-work is often overlooked; but it is quite as necessary as the activity of the many. We need the secret prevalence of chosen servants of the Lord, whose business is not so much with men for God as with God for men. This holy work was of a very special character. Only three were able to enter into it. I believe that, in every church, the deeply-spiritual, who prevalently commune with God, and bring down the blessing upon the work of the rest, are comparatively few; I might almost say, are absolutely few. God lays His own hand upon one here, and another there, and causes them to approach unto Him. “Would God that all the Lord’s servants were prophets!” But it is not so. The Lord uses many in His working-service, who, nevertheless, are not among His intimates. They do not hold high rank among the intercessors who have power with God. This service is peculiar; but the more widely it is exercised, the better for the cause of God. We want many who can draw down power from God, as well as many who can use that power against the enemy.
This Moses-service lay in very close communion with God. Moses, and Aaron, and Hur were called to rise above the people, and to get alone, apart from the company. They climbed the hill as a symbol, and in retirement they silently communed with God. That rod of God in Moses’ hand meant this,- God is here with these pleading ones on the mount; and by His powerful presence He is smiting the enemy. How blessed it is for a people to be led by those whom the Lord has honoured in former times, and with whom He still holds fellowship!
In this sacred engagement, there was a terrible strain upon the one man who led the others in it. In the process of bringing down the Divine power upon the people, the vehicle of communication was sorely tried. “Moses’ hands were heavy.” Beloved, if God gives you spiritual power to lead in Christian work, you will soon find out that the condition of such leadership is a costly one. Your case requires a deeper humility, a steadier watchfulness, a higher consecration, and a closer communion with God than that of others; and these things will try you, and, in many ways, put a heavy strain upon you. You will be like Elias, who, at one time, could run like a giant, and at another could faint and fly. The burden of the Lord is no feather-weight.
In this hallowed service, help is very precious. When Moses’ hands began to drop down, and he himself was faint, Aaron and Hur gave him substantial aid. They fetched a stone, and put it under him, and they made him sit thereon, with his hands still lifted high, and his eyes towards Heaven. When he was all in a sweat, because of his anxious prayer, and the muscles of his arms grew weary, his brethren stood by him, each one holding up an arm lest the rod should drop; for if it did, the cause of Israel dropped also. Are you a worker? Have you a leader fit to lead you? Bring a stone, and put it under him, cheer his heart with some gracious promise from the Lord’s Word, or with some happy sign from the work itself. Cheer the good man as much as possible. Do not throw a stone at him, as I have known some workers do; but put a stone under him, that he may sit down, and not be overcome. Copy Aaron and Hur, by staying up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side, so that his hands may be steady until the going down of the sun. Happy men, thus to sustain their leader! The sacred power with God, which brings down victory for others, is given to some, and they use it; but flesh is weak, and they faint. Let others of like grace gather to their help, and hold up their hands, one in one way, and one in another way, as Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses. Let spiritual men earnestly help those whom God calls into spiritual communion with Himself, that so the Name of the Lord may be glorified, and victory may follow the banners of His people.
This is the pith of my address. The prayer-meeting is, after all, that spiritual power on the mountain-side which makes the workers strong. Do not let the praying work flag; and even if it seems to do so, let Aaron and Hur come to the rescue. Come, and help, with all your might, to keep the rod of the Lord still steady, that the battle of the Lord may be fought out victoriously. Go on, Joshua, and use the edge of the sword: the Amalekites need it. But take heed, you who are on the mountain-side, that your service does not cease. Humble men and women, unknown to fame, you may be called by God, like Moses, to hold up His rod, and bring down the blessing. If any of you grow faint, I pray that others may come forward, and keep the rod of God in its place. The prayer-meeting must be maintained at all cost. The communion of the church with God must never be broken. If you visit a factory, you may see thousands of wheels revolving, and a host of hands employed. It is a wonderful sight. Where is the power that keeps all this running? Look at that slated shed! Come into this grimy place, smelling of oil. What is it? It is the engine-house. You do not think much of it, but that is the centre of power. If you stop that engine, every wheel will stand still. Some good people say, “I am not going out to-night. It is only a prayer-meeting.” Just so. It is only the engine, but that is everything. Go on board a great ocean steamer, bound for New York. You say, “I have been in the saloon. I have seen the wonderful luxuries provided for the passengers. It is a marvellous vessel.” Did you look at her engines? “What! go down that ladder? I saw some black fellows below, stoking great fires; but I did not care for that.” Talk not so. If it were not for those sooty stokers, the grand saloon and the fine decks would be of no use. Prayer is the engine of the Church; it supplies the force. I like to see the engines going,- praying, praying, praying, praying! Then the hidden screw, down under water, drives the huge ship, and causes it to speed towards the appointed haven. Keep the Moses part of the work going; and let not the Joshua-work be slack.
Beloved in the Lord, let us hearten one another in our warfare. Let us each stand in his office, and do the part to which the Lord has called us. Let us take courage. We are sure of victory. In the margin of our Bibles we read, “Because Amalek had laid his hand upon the throne of Jehovah, the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” Sin lays its traitorous hand upon the very throne of God. Will He allow it? The unbelief of the age has laid its hand upon the holy sacrifice of Christ. Will the Lord be quiet concerning this? Scepticism has dared to assail the inspired Word. Will the Lord endure it? Is not the time of His coming hastening on when men grow bolder in sin? May we not, from the very infamy of the age, gather that it is coming to its climax? The iniquity of the Amalekites is filling tip. The Lord will surely smite the evil of the age with the edge of the sword. Let us not be afraid. My firm conviction is, that the Gospel is as powerful as ever. If we could but get it out of the sheath of so-called culture, and education, and progress, and questioning, and could use the bare, two-edged sword of the old-fashioned Gospel upon the hearts of men, we should again hear shouts of victory. We have heard with our ears, O God, and our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, and in the old time before them; and if we can get back the courage of the old times, and the Gospel of the old times, and the spirit of the old times, we shall see a renewal of those wondrous deeds. We must exert ourselves; for Joshua did so. We must lean upon the strength of God; for Moses did so. The two together – active warfare and prayerful dependence – will bring the blessing. We are more than ever forced into this fight to-day.
Thirty years ago, things were very different from what they are now. It was easy to gather a congregation then, compared with what it is now; the spirit of hearing is departing from our cities. Cavillers and questioners are to-day far more numerous than they were thirty years ago. One finds among Christian professors shoals of infidels. Ministers are, in large numbers, sowers of doubt. One who is reputed to preach evangelically told his young men the other day, that a page of Huxley was worth all that Moses had written in Genesis. Many ministers are more at home in undermining the Gospel, than in the conversion of souls. Let us, therefore, look well to our weapons, and be in earnest to defend the truth of God. I charge you, each one, to do his part, and play the man in this evil day.
Though myself only fit to be numbered with the least of my Master’s servants, yet I am called to lead a great work, and therefore I beg my comrades to help me. My brethren, hold up my hands! Send up your continual prayer on my behalf. If the standard-bearer falls, what will the weaklings do? I am feeble in body, and sorely pressed with anxious care ; spare me what care you can by your brotherly aid, and specially by your loving words of comfort, and your pleadings in prayer. To the best of my ability, I have held the fort, and kept the faith. Though, as yet, my protest seems unavailing, and Amalek prevails by reason of scientific unbelief, yet the Lord on high is greater than the noise of many waters. Truth must yet prevail, and error must be routed. In the Name of the Lord, let us set up our banners once again. Renewing the pledges of our brotherly covenant, let nothing but death divide us. Let us be one in this great conflict for the Lord and for His throne. Amen.