(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
In the last Gem we set the context of when “…Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner [Jehovah Nissi]…” (Exodus 17:15). And the context is important, because it concerned the Israelites’ battle against the Amalekites! We examined…
- …who was Amalek!
- …what kind of a man he was (bequeathed from his grandfather Esau and to his succeeding gererations)!
- …why the Amalekites attacked Israel!
Here again is the featured Scripture, Exodus 17:14 through 16:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utter- ly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, The–LORD–Is–My–Banner: for he said, “Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
What did Moses mean by naming the altar The–LORD–Is–My–Banner? Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:22, “For Jews require a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom.” The Israelites were big into signs and memorials, to help them remember their history, and to believe the prophets about their future. Moses built an altar, and named it Jehovah Nissi! The altar had both functions, as applied to the Israelites:
- To remember how God supernaturally aided Israel’s soldiers as they fought the Amalekites!
✡ Moses, with two other men, Aaron and Hur, stood on a hill overlooking the battle. ✡ He had the powerful rod of God with him (sometimes refer- red to Aaron’s rod). ➔ This was his walking staff that turned into a snake! (see Exodus 7:9-12). ➔ Moses used this rod as he performed God’s miracles before the Egyptians! (see Exodus 7:19; 8:5; 8:16; 9:23; 10:13). ➔ He held it out over the Red Sea, and the waters di- vided! (see Exodus 14:16). ➔ He smote the rock as God directed, and water poured forth! (see Exodus 17:5, 6). ✡ When Moses held the rod high, Israel prevailed in the bat- tle! When his arms got tired and the rod lowered, Amalek prevailed! ✡ So Aaron and Hur sat Moses on a large rock, and standing on either side of him, they held up his arms until sunset! And Israel won the battle! (see Exodus 17:12, 13).
- To believe what God…
✡ ...said concerning the Amalekites in Exodus 17:16, “... the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” ✡ ...did for the Israelites – giving them supernatural vic- tory when they fought a powerful enemy! ✡ ...would contine to do in the future for His people!
What is the function of a banner or flag in military conflict? In modern warfare, often fought against an enemy hard to identify, sometimes conducted at a distance (such as in missile or drone strikes), the importance of a battle flag or banner is not as great as it once was. But if we go back in time, say to the American Civil War (from April 1861 to May 1865), we can better understand the meaning of banners and flags in battle. From the website www.thoughtco.com/ flags-importance-in-the-civil-war-1773716:
- “The placement of regimental flags served as visual communication during Civil War battles. Vocal commands and bugle calls could not be heard on the noisy battlefields, so soldiers were trained to follow the flag.”
- “…Union and Confederate…Civil War armies…tended to be organized as regiments from particular states. And soldiers tended to feel their first loyalty toward their regiment.”
- “The regimental battle flags were always treated with great reverence. At times ceremonies would be held in which the flags were paraded in front of the men.”
- “The regimental flags…marked the position of the regiment on the battlefield, which could often be a very confused place. In the noise and smoke of battle, regiments could become scattered.”
- “…designated teams of soldiers, known as the color guard, carried them. A typical regimental color guard would consist of two color bearers, one carrying the national flag (the U.S. flag or a Confederate flag) and one carrying the regimental flag. Often two other soldiers were assigned to guard the color bearers.”
- “…color bearers [often unarmed] had to face the enemy and never break and run in retreat, or the entire regiment might follow.”
- “As the regimental flags were so conspicuous in battle, they were often used as a target for rifle and artillery fire. Of course, the mortality rate of color bearers was high.”
- “With the regimental flags generally in the middle of the fighting, there was always the possibility that a flag could be captured. To a Civil War soldier, the loss of a regimental flag was a colossal disgrace. The entire regiment would feel shamed….Conversely, to capture the battle flag of an opponent was considered a great triumph, and captured flags were cherished as trophies.”
- “As the Civil War continued, regimental flags often became something of a scrapbook, as the names of battles fought by the regiment would be stitched onto the flags. And as flags became tattered in battle they took on deeper significance.”
Now, what does it mean for us today – Jehovah Nissi (The–LORD–Is–My–Banner)?
- We can take courage and comfort by what His Word tells us concerning our enemy: “…the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Romans 16:20).
- God helps us remember the victories He has already given us! As it says in I Corinthians 15:57, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- And the LORD will help us believe His promises as we face today, as well as for tomorrow – promises such as Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
But let’s be more specific. Let’s take each one of the nine things that a regiment flag or banner meant to Civil war soldiers, and apply them to us:
- In the busyness of life, we can sometimes lose our direction. Jehovah Nissi will communicate with us so we can stay on track! “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ ” (Isaiah 30:21).
- We can get our loyalties wrong. But The–LORD–Is–My–Banner can remind us what Jesus said in Mark 12:29 through 31:
“The first of all the commandments is...‘...you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
- Do we treat our Jehovah Nissi with the reverence and respect He is due?
...God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and...every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11).
- Life can be confusing. Sometimes we don’t know where we are or where we should be! But Jehovah Nissi has given us this promise in Proverbs 3:5 and 6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
- Are we color guards for The–LORD–Is–My–Banner? In 1858 George Duffield wrote the words to the hymn, Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus. The second line of the first verse admonishes us to “Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.”
✡ If, indeed, The– LORD–Is–My–Banner, are we lifting Him high so others can rally to Him? ✡ Are we careful not to let our banner be ‘shot down’? Paul admonished Timothy in I Timothy 6:20 (Internation- al Standard Version), “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.” Let us do the same!
- Unlike some of the color guards in the Civil War, we have been issued our weapons! In Ephesians 6:10 through 18 is listed the believer’s armor of God. Many commentators only recognize one offensive weapon, but I see two:
✡ “...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God...” (Ephesians 6:17). ✡ “...praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit...” (Ephesians 6:18). But like the color guards of old, we must be brave and courageous! For the passage concerning the armor of God contains this admonition in verses 10 and 13: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might....that you may be able to withstand in that evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
- We are not to let our Banner, our Jehovah Nissi be captured by the world! The world wants to water down the gospel to unoffensive babble! John wrote in I John 5:4 and 5:
...whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
- Jesus warned His followers in John 15:18 and 19:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
And Paul added this warning in II Timothy 3:12: “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Be a brave and courageous guard of The– LORD…My–Banner! You may be a target of the enemy, but Jesus was there first!
- In II Timothy 3:5 and 6, Paul warns Timothy concerning those who have “…a form of godliness but denying the power its power….who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts.” Unless we are keen to keep our lives Christlike, we can all be led away! And if we are led away by sin, we are giving the enemy our Banner, our Lord – not just ourselves!
- Jehovah Nissi (The– LORD–Is–My–Banner) “…bore our sins in His own body on the tree…” (I Peter 2:24). But He also bears our victories! And as we look to Him, we can read, as it were, our victories written in His scars!
always be lifted high!