Steady until sunset
Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they took a rock and put it under him and he sat on it. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady until sunset.
The day before Lent began this year, my wife and I were lucky enough to go out to dinner with two of my dearest friends and their wives. These are two men that I have known since I was six years old. For over 35 years, we have been an inseparable trio. We have been each other’s best men at our weddings, and godfathers to each other’s children. The three of us hadn’t all been together in a few months, and for several days afterward I couldn’t help reflecting on the gift of true friendship.
I don’t doubt that it was because of this dinner, with two old friends, that I was finally able to see something in the story of Moses, Aaron, and Hur that had until now escaped my notice.
The literal meaning of the story is clear enough: Moses grows tired and needs the help of two people to support his hands to secure the Israelites victory in battle. There is, I believe, a further tropological meaning to this story.
This is a story that tells of the importance of friendship.
Consider how remarkable this story is: God worked a miracle through the hands of Moses. “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight.” Then, why didn’t God also miraculously keep Moses’ hands in the air without him being tired? Because God wanted us to know that we are not meant to be merely spectators in the Divine plan—we are rather meant to be the essential means by which it is carried out. This particular story is telling us that one of the fundamental ways that we carry out our mission is by helping our friends to carry out theirs.
We are called to help our friends conform themselves to Christ. When they are tired. When they are without hope. When they can no longer lift their hands in prayer.
Moses’ victory was only assured when he assumed a certain posture: that of his arms being outstretched. With arms outstretched is also the way Christ won His victory. And it is in conforming ourselves to Christ, with our arms outstretched, that we can win our victory.
When we are with Christ, with our hands outstretched, we are like Moses and “have the better of the fight,” but we can all too easily become tired, and let our hands drop, and, when we do, the world “has the better of the fight.”
Our true friends are those who see us beginning to lose the battle with the world, and say, “Here. We will take your hands and hold them up for you.” And this is indeed a two-fold blessing: first, that we have such friends, and second, that God desired that this is the manner by which we are conformed to Him. Consider that it is not with nails that we are conformed to the cross of Christ. No, rather, our hands are held outstretched by other hands, by those who know and love us.
Friendship is meant to be a heroic calling. Heroic because our friends must battle the world until they are finally called home, and nothing less than eternity itself depends upon the battle’s outcome. Fighting against the odds in defense of a man’s life is always heroic. How much more heroic is it then to fight against the whole world in defense of a man’s soul?
That is what true friends are called to. For, one day, when the battle is over, they will say to each other, “Dear friend, rest now, for your ‘hands remained steady until sunset.’”