Having friends is a very good thing. For the extrovert and introvert it is essential that we have people who know us and still love us. Some of us surround ourselves with many friends whilst others have a select few. But the truth is, humans were never meant to be and do life alone. Back in Genesis at the creation, everything was good or very good except that man was alone, that was not good.
I have a particular group of friends that always do me good when I am with them. They know me and I know them. We make sure that we stay authentic with each other and this produces an atmosphere of fruitfulness.
In Exodus we see a model of friendship in the place of battle.
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17:8-13
We need friends. Friends that raise their hands for us whilst we are battling. Friends that stand beside us, encourage and give strength when ours seems to fail. We get to borrow their strength for a season. This may come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Perhaps it is as simple as going for a coffee and having a chat or offering to pray and actually doing it. Other times it is bringing direction and challenge as well as being a shoulder to cry on. It might even take the form of a group chat on an app or messaging platform where you are actively praying, sharing and encouraging. I love that word, ‘encouraging’. I once heard someone describe the act of encouragement in Nehemiah as, with the point of a spear. Encouragement isn’t always gentle on soft, sometimes the best of friends need to encourage with the point of a spear, prodding where it hurts.
Oftentimes, it is the presence of friends that show us that GOD is reaching out from His throne. Their strength to hold us up can bring in the presence of GOD. When we get tired and weary, our friends should always be the ones that point us and direct us to GOD.
The story of Moses having his friends hold up his hands as he prayed for Joshua in battle is familiar … but I hadn’t realised this is where GOD is called a Banner. The banner was the thing that showed a people were unified. It was also a rallying point for troops in battle. The place where Moses had his hands lifted and supported by faithful friends became the place called ‘The Lord is my Banner’. Moses knew that it wasn’t his friends that were victorious in the battle, that was GOD, but Moses stood with Hur and Aaron as they lent their strength to him. An altar is raised because hands were lifted up to the throne of GOD.
Perhaps we should be more proactive in our friendships. Are you feeling strong? Can you lend your strength to another? It is a challenge to do so but you could be factor that changes the outcome in a friend’s battle. Or maybe you are the one sagging under the weight, have you been vulnerable and called on your friends to support you and encourage you? We are very easily fooled into believing that we have to do this alone. The truth is, it isn’t good to be alone.
We can take a few hints from David in Psalm 20 about how to be people who lift others up. His prayer, for this person, is one that raises their needs to be before the throne of GOD.
1 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
6 Now this I know:
the Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
9 Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!
I love that this Psalm directs the person to GOD with their requests and then reminds of GOD’s faithfulness and character. In verse 5, it says that we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our GOD. The victory is theirs but because we played a part in it we can shout for joy too. It is such a privilege to play a part in another’s victory.