Right after the defeat of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, the Israelites were compelled by God to travel through the desert. After three days without water, the people began to complain. God provided water miraculously. Then they complained about their food and God gave them manna. Then they complained about not having meat so God gave them quail. While they complained to Moses, in reality, God knew they were complaining about Him. The Israelites lived on manna for 40 years. Once again the people complained about not having water and were threatening to kill Moses so God provided water from a rock. Rabbis held that this rock followed the Israelites for the rest of their journey. Rock would eventually become a divine term. St. Paul would eventually define the Rock as Christ. Today’s reading picks up after all this. These unfaithful complainers now come under attack by the Amalekites and God tells Moses to send out Joshua to defeat them.
Amalek was the grandson of Esau who sold his birthright to Jacob. Esau and Jacob were twins and they fought even in the womb of their mother, Rebekah, the wife of Isaac. When they were born, Jacob was grasping the heel of Esau as he came out first. The first born had the coveted birthright. It was disgraceful to sell one’s birthright simply for a meal.
What is important about this reading is the fact that it was necessary for Moses to pray so that a victory could be obtained. Moses had to pray a lot and he was helped by Aaron and Hur. The persistence in prayer was necessary even though the outcome of the battle was known. It could also be said that prayer is more effective when a few people pray together. Notice also that Moses is praying not for himself, but for the people. It is not a selfish prayer. Moses acts as an intercessor and points the way to Jesus’ intercession for us to the Father. Moses stands before God and His rebellious people, just as Jesus stands before God in behalf of us sinners.
The Gospel encourages persistent prayer especially for faith. While the judge could care less about the poor widow, God always has a special concern for justice for the poor.