In the First Reading, from the Book of Exodus, Moses is leading the Israelites through the desert toward the Promised Land. They must go through various enemy territories which often resulted in tribal wars. Moses sends Joshua and his men down to the valley to engage Amalek and his army, while he, Aaron and Hur remain on the hill and enter into intercessory prayers for the men in the valley. While Moses’ arms remained firm, the battle went in the Hebrew’s favor; but when they let up, Amalek and his men start to regain strength. Moises is able to keep his hands steady until sunset. God is the one who is victorious over the Amalekites.
The First Reading is taken from the Second Book of Kings. The scene in today’s reading reveals not only Naaman’s cleansing from leprosy, but also his transformation from arrogant resistance to humble acceptance, and his new faith in the God of Israel. As a man of means, Naaman desires to offer gifts to Elisha. But Elisha refuses because he wants to make it clear to Naaman that it is God, not he, who is the source of his healing. This story is intended to show God’s concern for non-Jewish persons, which is also a central theme in today’s Gospel.
The First Reading is from the Book of the Prophet Habakkuk. This prophet accuses God of not listening to his cry for help and not intervening in the face of violence. Habakkuk’s cry for help should not be interpreted as a sign of despair but as the lament of one who has known the love of God and yearns to heighten the experience of that love in the midst of desperate circumstances. Because of Habakkuk's sincerity, God answers his prayer, not with immediate relief, but with encouragement to wait and be patient as the end is not far off.