The Lord Is My Banner
The Olympic Games always open with an awe inspiring procession of athletes from all the participating countries of the world marching around the field under their country’s banner or flag. The flag is their identification with the sponsoring country and a rallying point for the athletes and fans. Great cheers go up from the citizens of each country as their team goes by with the flag waving back and forth.
We rally ’round the flag each Fourth of July in the United States to celebrate our freedom. We wave flags, bake flag cakes, display flags and sing a song about our flag – the Star Spangled Banner, at the opening of every baseball game.
The most important thing flags or banners do, however, is mark victory. It is well understood that the conquering army in any battle has the right to remove the defeated country’s flag and replace it with their own, usually in the highest spot possible for all to see. The country with the conquering flag has won and now they are in control.
THE LORD IS MY BANNER
It was over a great battle in the Old Testament that God revealed himself as Jehovah Nissi, THE LORD IS MY BANNER. It happened at the time when Israel was wandering in the wilderness after miraculously crossing the Red Sea. Amalek was the enemy who came against Israel in Rephidim. In Exodus 17:8-16 Moses called on his young apprentice, Joshua, to lead the Israelites into battle while he stationed himself on top of a hill to pray. He had with him his brother Aaron and his assistant, Hur. As Moses lifted his hands and prayed, the Israelites prevailed in the battle but when he let his hands down, Amalek prevailed. So Aaron and Hur set Moses on a rock and held his hands up for him until the battle was totally won.
At the end of the day there was victory and God told Moses to write down what had happened and read it in Joshua’s hearing. God was thinking ahead to the time when Moses would be gone and Joshua would be called upon to take over leadership of God’s chosen people. Joshua would be the one to cross the Jordan River into Canaan (the Promised Land) and defeat Jericho. He would have plenty of battles ahead of him and God wanted him to remember back to this one and the victory God had given them.
Instead of raising a flag, Moses built an altar because in those times, an altar was often used as a place of remembering or marking an important event. This is where Moses called God Jehovah Nissi because he understood the revelation that God himself is our banner, our victory. He is the one who wins our battles. He still does that by the way. When Moses wrote that story down for Joshua, he was also writing it down for our benefit so that we will remember it as we go into battle. How do we know that?
There is an interesting thing that God says when he tells Moses to write down the story. God says that he “…will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (verse 14b) That means that this enemy would not rise again – he was defeated UTTERLY. In verse 16, however, Moses says; “…the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” How is it that God is saying the enemy was completely defeated and yet that there would be future wars with Amalek in future generations?
Amalek in this story represents our enemy, Satan, who is active against God’s people in all generations. Even though the literal “Amalek” at that time was completely defeated by Israel’s army, other Amaleks would rise up against Israel and on down to you and me in our own generation. When you gather under Jehovah Nissi as your banner, trust him that the outcome of your battle will be the same as it was for Moses and Joshua at Rephidim. God is saying there will always be war; don’t be surprised by it. He is also saying he is always the winner.
What is your battle right now?
Drugs? Pornography? Bitterness? Loneliness? Cancer? Dissention? Depression? Hopelessness? Bankruptcy? Injustice? The list goes on and on and if I haven’t named your battleground you can just fill in the blank. You know what you are at war with and you know that in the heat of battle it is hard to see the victory at the end. Remember Jehovah Nissi. Call upon Jehovah Nissi. Raise your hands in prayer the way Moses did. Don’t give up. Ask others to hold your hands up if you get tired. God is faithful to fulfill his word. When your battle is over you will have the right to replace your enemy’s flag with your own. Set it on high for all to see that Jehovah Nissi is your God who has secured your victory.