Bible Reading – Exodus 17:8-16
Exodus 17:15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi:
After God’s miracle of the Rock at Horeb, the Israelites found themselves in battle with Amalek. Having been in slavery for hundreds of years, Israel was ill-prepared to win a battle. After hundreds of years of slavery, they probably had no organized military. If they had weapons, they weren’t trained to use them effectively. They were in unfamiliar territory, and the list of disadvantages grows longer. It is in this passage where we find Moses standing on top of the hill with arms raised, affecting the battle’s outcome. Every time he raised his hands, Israel would prevail. Every time he lowered his arms, Amalek would surge. I’m sure it would have been a sight to behold as it was perhaps seemingly the most unique secret weapon in the history of battle, the arms of an elderly man. As Aaron and Hur recognized what was occurring, they went to assist Moses. After the battle was won, the altar built was called Jehovah-nissi, a name of God meaning God our Banner.
Of course it was not Moses’ arms that were the key to victory, but it was the God of Israel that won the battle that day. Jehovah-nissi, God our Banner, shows us a little about Who God is and how Moses perceived Him at this point in their journey. A banner is used to magnify. When Moses raised his arms and the rod of God, he was uplifting the tool that God had used to part the Red Sea, bring water from the rock at Horeb, and had been used to perform other miracles as well. It was not the staff, but the God behind the staff that was magnified. Moses wasn’t trusting in military strength to win the battle. He was trusting God. He was magnifying God before the people. The lifting of the staff was a reminder to the people that God could exceed their expectations and could deliver them from any enemy at any time and place.
Banners are also used as motivation. Perhaps the most famous image of WWII is the picture of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Though the battle was far from over, the sight of the American flag being raised inspired many both in the battle and around the world for generations. During the battle against Amalek, I can imagine that as Moses lifted his arms and the Israelites saw that the rod of God was in his hands, they must have expected God to do something miraculous. Perhaps they entered the battle thinking of all their disadvantages, but when they saw the staff raised, they realized that God was going to fight for them. If He could defeat the entire Egyptian army with the Red Sea, He could certainly defeat Amalek! When God our banner was magnified the people were motivated!
A banner magnifies, a banner motivates, and a banner shows belonging. In 2008 I had the opportunity to take a missions trip to Nicaragua. When we returned to the United States, the first thing I saw when I got off the plane was an American flag hanging on the wall. After spending a week in a place where I didn’t know the language and wasn’t familiar with the food, there was an incredible sense of joy seeing that flag. While I was still hundreds of miles from my house, I felt at home. I have always enjoyed watching the olympics and seeing an American flag shown next to the gold medal. That’s my country! And when Israel saw Moses that day, I have to believe that God was uplifted in their minds, motivating them in the battle. And they knew that it was God to Whom they belonged. Each of us has various ways we would identify ourselves based on our families, our jobs, our favorite teams, where our children attend school, where we go to church, etc., but our greatest identity is found in Christ! We are Christians! God is our banner, our motivation, and Christ is to be magnified by our lives!
– Eli Faulds