What do you think about when you think about God? Does he seem real or more like a character out of a book? Do you grasp his majesty or is he more of an afterthought in your faith?
When you start to look at the original Hebrew in the Old Testament, you realize the ways that God identifies himself AND the ways that the people of Israel specifically honored God by name because of His character.
Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about the character and being of God and I invite you to join with me as I learn more about who He is and why He deserves our utmost praise and adoration. Click here to read the first and second posts in the series.
In part three of my “Names of God” series, I wanted to study one of my personal favorites — “Jehovah Nissi” or “The Lord is My Banner.” This name occurs only once in the entire Old Testament but it has been a source of hope for me for many years.
The essence of “Jehovah Nissi” is a victory cry. In the book of Exodus, Moses ascribes God this name after a long fought battle against the Amalekites (see Exodus 17:8-16). The Israelites were by no means a mighty people with a well-trained army. At this point they were still wandering in the desert, angry, discouraged, and scrambling to pull together men to create an army. In Exodus 17 we see that the Amalekites strike first, causing Moses to appoint Joshua to lead the Israelite army into battle. Moses would take post at the top of a hill and hold the “staff of God in his hands.”
One key component in this battle was Moses raising up his staff in the air. However, Moses being well over eighty at this point could certainly not hold his arms up for the entire battle. When Moses’ arms were raised high, the Israelites were winning the battle. Whenever his arms would drop, the tide of the battle would turn in favor of the Amalekites. Moses needed help and so Aaron and Hur found a rock for Moses to sit on and helped him hold his arms high until the Israelites could walk away with the victory.
Victory for the Israelites could have been attributed to a number of different things: the skill of the army, the weakness of the amalekites, Joshua’s leadership, or Moses holding his arms up. However, Moses knew that the victory belonged to God and God alone.
After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”). He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.” - Exodus 17:14-16
In building an altar to the Lord, Moses made a public declaration for generations to come that the Lord was their banner of victory. The inscribed stone would tell passers by that the Israelite victory over their enemies could only be attributed to the one Jehovah.
So what are the takeaways from this story?
(1) We can walk through life with confidence because Jesus is our Banner of Victory.
Jesus already won the greatest victory for us when he defeated death on the cross. He has won the war and we can fight our battles from a place of victory. Moses knew that the Israelite army was weak and unskilled and that even the tactical genius of Joshua would not guarantee a victory. It was only through the Lord their Banner that a victory could come out of broken vessels. Likewise, God still uses his broken vessels for his glory and for his victory.
(2) “Jehovah Nissi” should bring about a response of gratitude.
In every moment of triumph in our life, the response should be praise to God. In my house, my mom has a jar filled with rocks that mark the victories and good gifs of God in our lives. We have a physical marker declaring that the Lord is our banner of victory as evidenced in our move to PA, opportunities for my siblings, career choices for my parents, and the faithfulness of God in grief. Moses built an altar in praise and worship to God and it served as a marker of gratitude for generations.
As we go about the coming week, consider ways the Lord has been your banner of victory. Take time to thank him for his deliverance in your life. Find a way to remind yourself of his faithfulness in your everyday life. This could be your own jar of rocks. It could be a gratitude journal at the end of each day. And finally, live in confidence knowing that you fight your battles from a place of victory because of our Savior.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. - Psalm 20:5a NLT
You’re my victory, my strength in every season