Knowing God by His Names ~ Banner 7
Knowing God by His Names -7
Jehovah – Nissi
* Exodus 17:1-16
* Key Verses: Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is My Banner. (Jehovah-Nissi v. 15)
* Today’s Focus: In studying the bible, we look at the place, culture, people and the language. Today we slow down and glean from the chapter, highlights to really get our hands around what God is up to. We have jumped two chapters ahead since our last study, Jehovah-Rapha, the LORD our Healer (Exodus 15). The Israelites have since experienced the provision of quail and manna. I too have had the taste of ‘manna’. While in bible college, in the schools cafeteria we had ‘Manna Fridays’… meaning ‘what is it’, sad to say we too had our share of murmuring (smile). Let us again set the stage for where the Israelites are in their journey with God. They have just left the Desert of Sin, and set camp at Rephidim. But there was no water, sound familiar?
I want to point out the progression of .complaint. In chapter 15, it says… ‘the people grumbled against Moses’, then in chapter 16, it says ‘the whole community grumbled against Moses’, now in chapter 17, ‘the people quarreled with Moses’ (v. 2). What a progression… if we do not address the grumbling… it will continue and ‘spread’ from a few people to the ‘whole community’ then from there to ‘arguing’. When we do not lift up the Lord, high enough for all to see and focus on, we see ‘only ourselves’… not a pretty sight. In my opinion, and looking at these references, at times to complain and quarrel is to avoid the ‘not so pretty sight in ourselves’ and bring attention elsewhere. (ah… food for thought)
Moses goes to the LORD, this time you can sense the frustration in old Moses tone, ‘What am I to do with these people?’, the Lord answers, ‘get out from among the people and lead, take some elders and take your staff’ (I paraphrase), verse 5. He, while in the Lord’s presence is to strike the rock, for water to come out… and so it was. Moses named the place Massah (testing) and Meribah (quarreling). Wouldn’t it be amazing, possibly humorous or even extremely embarrassing if we too held the tradition to ‘name a place’ according to our attitudes. Picture going on a family vacation following signs along the way ‘Street of Whining Pitty’, or ‘Slapped in the Face With Arrogance Ave.’, how about ‘Can’t Seem to get it Right Circle.’
Moses again was instructed to take his staff and use it as an instrument of the Lord. The mention of his staff first appears in Exodus chapter 4, Moses asks ‘what if they do not believe me or listen to me? the Lord said to him (v.2) ‘What is that in your hand?’ The staff or rod, is nothing of extraordinary, it had a common use, used for varies reasons, a walking stick for travelers, for a shepherd, the sheep would pass under it to be counted, used also as an instrument of punishment, or defense. Psalms 23, the rod is used figuratively of divine protection and guidance. In 1 Samuel 17:40 David has staff in hand while selecting the 5 smooth stones to defeat Goliath, Hebrews 11:21 Jacob while supported on his staff blessed the sons of Joseph. In Moses case it became a symbol of authority and of awe, Exodus 4:17 ‘take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.‘ Was it the staff itself that held power? No, the power lay in the God who instructed the use of the staff. May I offer… as God first asked of Moses, ‘what is that in your hand?’ What is common with you, that perhaps the Lord, through your obedience would use mightily?
We now move on, verse 8, ‘then the Amalekites came and fought against Israel’. Who were these Amalekites? They were descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau (Gen. 36:12). Let’s look briefly at Esau, he was one of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, his twin, Jacob. I find it fascinating that even before the twins were born, Esau – descendants the Amalekites and Jacob – descendants the Israelites were at war… Aside from the Egyptians, the Amalekites were the first and constant enemy of Israel, this is why it is important to capture their first appearance.
‘the babies jostled each other within her (Rebekah) and she said,
why is this happening to me?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD.
The LORD said to her, ‘two nations are in your womb and two peoples from within you will be separated, one people will be stronger than the other and the older will serve the younger.’ (Genesis 25:22-23)
Moses tells Joshua to select men to go out and fight. See the difference in the first two victories for Israel. In Exodus 14 while at the Red Sea, they were commanded not to do anything, (v. 13-14) ‘Moses answered the people, ‘do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today … The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still’. Verse 16 says ‘raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the waters, so Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.’ Now, in chapter 17, the staff is raised, but they are to fight. What a beautiful illustration for us of our own deliverance from bondage and slavery. Our Red Sea experience is the work of salvation ‘God alone is the agent’, so quickly after redemption, we learn we must face warfare. Moses sealed their deliverance by again stretching out his hand over the sea so the waters flew back over the Egyptians. (Ex. 14:26) We too are sealed in our salvation, Ephesians 1:13
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. (NIV)
The Amalekites in a sense can represent the ‘flesh’, one of our first and constant enemies, (see Gal. 5:17). Just as it was the Amalekites goal to destroy the people of God, at times it is our own compromise with sinful desires of the flesh that begins the process of sin… destroying us. We see the Amalekites appear again later in the history of Gods people, this time they are told to ‘now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’, 1 Samuel 15:3. This was told to Saul by Samuel as a message directly from God, he does not mix words, it is clear and forth telling, however, doesn’t there seem to always be a ‘however’. We see in the same chapter that Saul’s obedience was NOT complete, (partial obedience will always come back and ‘strike us’), verses 7-9 Saul defeated the Amalekites, but captures Agag the King ‘alive’, and spared the best of the animals, here’s the clincher… verse 9 ‘they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.’ They took it upon themselves to define what was acceptable to keep and what was worthy of destroying. Think on that, we too do the same thing in our own lives. God is clear, we are not to pick and choose what ‘we think’ or are willing or unwilling to do in His Kingdom.
We are to deal radically with sin in our life, and have a realistic understanding of it’s affect, the flesh MUST constantly be put to death, it can’t be tolerated, catered to or spared in any way. It is God’s standards we align to, not ours. Samuel addresses the obedience factor in Saul, ‘why did you not obey the voice of the LORD’. Saul’s excuse (we all have excuses or rationalizations whether that be conscience or not), ‘the animals were taken for a sacrifice to God’, (sure – throw God in there, and we are free and clear of any guilt…) Samuel’s response is classic and resonates within our own ears, verse 22 ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.’ ahhhhh!
We read in 2 Samuel 1:6-10, the one who was ultimately responsible for Saul’s’ death was an Amalekite, the same linage Saul had foolishly spared earlier, just came with a different face. If we do not destroy the first time, it will come back, it may look different – but will strike us. So you see, we want salvation, but tend to minimize or even avoid warfare to the extent that is required of us through our obedience. One resource put it this way… ‘many see grace as a spiritual band-aid on God’s forgiveness credit card’… basically – ‘grace abusers’. We forget that our sin ‘grieves’ the heart of the Holy Spirit and seeks to destroy our spiritual victory.
Moses, Aaron and Hur ascended to the hill. During the battle, as Moses lifted the staff in his hands, Israel was winning, hands down, not doing so well. The rod or staff was a symbol and pledge of God’s presence and power. When the staff was lowered and could not be seen, it was as though God was not present. As Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands, in the end…. victory! Moses prays, Joshua fights. There are vantage points in the battle, that is not seen by others, yet is needed to be shared, as it was with Joshua. Joshua was down in the ‘thick of things’, God instructs Moses to write down what had happened, as encouragement, yet also of battles to come. Joshua being Moses’ apprentice would one day take over, God wanted him to remember back on this and the victory God had given them.
Moses builds an altar and calls it The LORD is My Banner (Jehovah-Nissi). Banner, the Hebrew word ‘nec’ (nace), describing a flag, a signal, standard or pole, also a distinguishing mark. The compound word has a pronoun interjected within two words… Jehovah – my – Banner. He made it personal. Referring to a sign or symbol, a cause, a personal cause. Banners were used to rally the troops together, whether that be for receiving information or in preparation for action. In the Jewish Bible, the phrase is rendered ‘Adonai Nissi is my banner-miracle’, (remembering that in tradition the name YHWH ‘Jehovah’ was commonly replaced with Adonai, in reverence for ‘The Name’), the word banner was known also as miracle, a signal to God’s people to rally to Him, (fascinating!). It was under God’s raised banner victory was given, a statement for his generation and generations to come.
In the book of Numbers, chapter 21, the Israelites are found wandering and wandering and losing faith and grumbling AGAIN! Frankly God had had enough. He sent a plague of deadly snakes. Terrified, they begged God for forgiveness. In God’s graciousness, He told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole, and who ever looked at the snake was forgiven and healed. In the Hebrew, this word for pole is the same word used here ….”banner”. The people were to rally to God, and receive His forgiveness and healing.
As we jump to the New Testament, the book of John gives a powerful image of Jesus up on the cross, (two poles fastened together)… we too have the opportunity to look at the cross and see the price Jesus paid for us… to receive forgiveness and healing. He now becomes our “banner”. What a wonderful ‘type’… an Old Testament foreshadowing of a New Testament truth. John 3:14-15 Jesus says ‘as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.’ Not only did Jesus bring a sin offering to appease God’s wrath, He became the sin offering. We are required to respond ‘by faith’ just as was required by Israel to look upon the bronze serpent to receive their healing – ‘but as many receive Him to them He gave the right it become children of God’ (John 1:12).
In summary, don’t doubt God’s presence, and allow the progression of grumbling to overcome our attitudes, We are to be worshipping warriors. God says there will always be war, don’t be surprised by it, He is also saying He is always the winner! Raise our hands in prayer the way Moses did. Don’t give up. Ask others to hold our hands up if we get tired. As we rally to Him, we are united in cause.
1. In Exodus 17, the Israelites were confronted with two situations. What were these situations?
2. Assuming that the Amalekites are a type of the flesh, what characteristics did you glean from this study that you too can apply to your own battle?
3. What was Saul’s fatal mistake when dealing with Agag, the king of the Amalekites?
4. What war are you currently in, is it physical, spiritual or emotional?
5. Galatians 5:24 ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires’, the phrase ‘have crucified’ in the Greek is known as an ‘aorist active verb’, meaning it is the Christian’s responsibility to do the crucifying. In light of this verse, and today’s study, is there an area the Lord has called you to address?
In Him, DeDe