“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt.” These were the instructions of Moses to the people of Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land (Deut. 25:17). Then he told them that they were to completely destroy the Amalekites, erasing their memory from under heaven (v.19).
Wow! Such harsh words! As Christians, are we to be that harsh and vengeful toward our enemies? I thought vengeance belonged to the Lord, and we are to love our enemies.
Okay, let me try to explain what is going on here. Let me try to put this into context and bring out the application for us. In the Old Testament the Amalekites were enemies of Israel. They were always enemies of Israel. And, in that time period, in order for Israel to survive and for God’s program to carry on as planned, all the evil nations in the area, esp. the Amalekites, had to be destroyed.
For us, I see the Amalekites as representing evil and sin. If we are to get any application from this passage I would say that we are, likewise, to be angry and vengeful at the devil and at our past sins, and we are to say to our self: remember, and never forget what the devil and your past sins did to you. (As to Amalek representing evil, I recommend the very thoughtful article, The Meaning of Amalek.)
Yes, be angry at the devil and at sin. And go to war against them, especially against the sins that have so often plagued you. Just as Israel was never to forget what the Amalekites did to them, when we fight our battle for purity we should never forget how sin took a hold of us and made us its slave, and how we were seduced and tricked so many times into committing acts of sin.
When we go to battle against the enemy—for our purity and for the purity of our comrades—what is our strategy? Our battle plan is laid out for us in Exodus 17. I believe with all my heart that we are to follow the example here of Moses, Aaron, and Hur. When Israel was gathered for war against the Amalekites; Moses, Aaron and Hur were on top of a mountain praying. They were the key figures in the battle. Whenever Moses’ hands were raised in prayer (and supported by Aaron and Hur) Israel had the advantage. But whenever Moses lowered his hands (because he got tired) Amalek had the advantage. So it is with us. Prayer is the key to our warfare against the enemy. When we pray we will be victorious against the enemy—against Satan and the sins of our flesh. But when we fail to pray, evil and our sins have the advantage.
The message I am giving to you is this: don’t deal with your sins and bad habits by trying to forget what has happened in the past, by trying to block out bad and hurtful memories. No! Never forget what sin and evil did to you. Keep the thought of your suffering and humiliation in your mind as a primer for your prayer against evil. Be at war now and continually against evil until it is completely destroyed in you. I am not saying that we should carry personal grudges, that we should be angry at anyone; that would be wrong. I am saying, however, that we should always be angry against sin and against evil—until it is destroyed. Eventually it will be. We know that. Just as the Amalekites were destroyed, sin and evil will be wiped out. Do you know that some people don’t believe that the Amalekites ever existed? They think they were a myth, because there is no evidence of them anywhere, except in the Bible. The fact is, God promised that they would be destroyed and they were. David and his armies completely destroyed them just as God promised would happen (Deut. 25:19; 1 Sam. 30:17).
Here are a few verses that I think would be good to memorize on hating evil:
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me.
Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Here are some example, from Moses, Phinehas, Nehemiah, and Jesus, of how they hated evil:
Moses – Ex 32:19-20
19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
Nehemiah – Neh 5:6-13
6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.
9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them — the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.”
12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”
Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!”
At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.
Phinehas – Num 25:7-13
Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; 8 and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. 9 And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.
10 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.'”
Jesus – Mark 3:4-5
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.