In Exodus 17, we see Israel at war with the Amalekites. Moses, standing high on a mountaintop, would raise his rod to heaven, and as long as the rod was in the air, the children of Israel would be victorious. It wasn't long, however, before Moses' arms grew tired and he became weak. At that time, Aaron and Hur set Moses upon a rock, and standing on either side of him, held his hands in the air. In the end, Israel won the battle.
It was after this great victory that Moses built an altar in honor of the Lord and called the name of it Jehovah Nissi, which means "the Lord our Banner". A banner, or a flag as we commonly call it, plays several important roles in the lives of those who wield it.
1. A banner goes before an army or procession. When the armies of Camelot marched through the kingdom, the Pendragon banner was at the forefront of the procession. When the Olympic contestants file into a stadium, they are preceded by their country's flag. As our banner, the Lord goes before us. The Bible tells us as much in Deuteronomy 31:8 – And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. By being before us, we can rest assured that any enemy must first go through Him before it can reach us.
2. A banner also acts as a means of identification. The American flag serves to represent the United States as a nation of 50 states with 13 original colonies. In medieval times, soldiers in the watchtowers could identify oncoming forces by the banner being displayed. When we allow the Lord to live through us, He acts as our means of identification. People can know we are Christians without our having to tell them so. Our banner is evidence enough of our identity.
3. A banner serves as a rallying point for the troops. The second verse of The Star-Spangled Banner says, "On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep, Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream: 'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!" In the midst of battle, why was Francis Scott Key so fascinated with the flag? Could it be that he realized that the flag embodied everything the troops were fighting for and thus served as a beacon of hope and a remembrance of the freedom for which they fought?
4. Finally, the banner represents victory. It is customary for the conquering victor to place his banner on the conquered territory. Such a banner denotes not only strength, but also possession. As our banner, the Lord reminds us that we have victory in Jesus and that we belong to Him. When Satan comes to conquer our souls, he is met with the Lord our Banner who informs Satan, "This child is mine."
It is mind-boggling to discover that this one little phrase, "the Lord our Banner", has so much meaning and significance in our everyday lives. Yet, nothing about the Lord should surprise us because, as we've already seen, He is so much more than we will ever know. He will go before us. He will give us a strong identity. He will serve as our strength and reminder of the freedom we're fighting for. And He will give us the victory. In fact, He already has, for victory was won at Calvary. The Lord is our Banner. And if I'm not mistaken, it is customary for a banner to be lifted high, right? So, what are we waiting for? Let's lift up our Banner!