Summary: Certainly the Amalekites thought this would be an easy victory. They were battle tested, seasoned by experience. The Children of Israel were hardly worthy opponents. These recent slaves who wandered in the desert without adequate supplies were nothing but
If you ever have a chance to watch a re-enactment of a Civil War Battle, take the time to go. It is magnificent to watch the rows of charging foot soldiers, the feel the ground vibrate with the gallop of the cavalry and hear the thunder of the cannons as they bellow on the field. I have never seen one in person, but I have had the opportunity to view several on TV or video. I have always been struck by the confusion of the battle field. The clouds of smoke rolling from the guns, the crash of arms and cries of battle. It seems like it would be easy to get disoriented. But one thing always rises above the smoke and confusions, the flags of the different armies and companies. You can see the pennants and flags flying in the breeze even when you can’t see the man standing next to you.
The standard bearer was an important part of the battle before the invention of radios and satellites. He was the one who led the charge. Amazingly, he went into battle unarmed. If the standard bearer was wounded, the nearest man would drop what he was doing to pick up the flag, partly out of respect, but more importantly because it was the focal point of the troops. Without the banner to lead the way, the battle often fell into disarray.
This presents a striking picture for us today, as we look at a battle in Israelite history, and a time when the God received the name Jehovah Nissi, the Lord your banner. For His people, God is the banner to be followed. He leads the way into battle. This morning we look at Jehovah Nissi, and see why He called Himself by this name.
Only a few weeks had elapsed since Marah. There God had revealed Himself as Jehovah Rophe - the Lord who heals. In changing the bitter waters to sweet, God had shown Himself to be the only one who comforts in sorrow, the balm for our sufferings. He alone provides the remedy for the sins of mankind and sweetened the bitter waters of human misery and death through Christ.
Israel hd gone from Marah to Elim, a place of rest and refreshment. From there they journeyed into the wilderness of Sin where they began to doubt and complain again. First, there was no food, and they longed for the fleshpots of Egypt. But Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides met the need, and provided manna, that heavenly bread.
Then they came to Rephidim, and there was no water. Once again, Israel doubted God and complained against His treatment and wondered if He had abandoned them completely. Here God caused water to gush from the rock, enough to satisfy the multitude. That is when the Amalekites appeared.
Strangely, there was no complaint, no murmering against God. Maybe the children of Israel were still in awe over the water from the rock. Maybe they were not as frightened to face flesh and blood as they had been to confront hunger and thirst. Moses calmly orders Joshua to organize the men and go to fight the enemy.
I am sure the Amalekites thought this would be an easy victory. They were battle tested, seasoned by experience. The Children of Israel were hardly worthy opponents. These recent slaves who wandered in the desert without adequate supplies were nothing but an ill-equipped, ill-trained mob. But little did Amalek know the secret of Israel of Israel’s calm and confidence. They were the children of God. He was their banner in war.
I. Who is Jehovah Nissi
A. He is the Lord your Banner
1. We think of a banner as a flag
a. Baseball teams hang the pennants they win in their parks
b. Basketball teams hang championship banners from the rafters
2. The word means to glisten
a. Historically, a banner was a pole with a shiny ornament that glittered in the sun
(1) looked like the flag poles without flags
(2) or the baton of the band director in the marching band
b. The physical banner here was the Rod of God
(1) an historic shepherds staff
(a) turned into a serpent
(b) initiated plagues in Egypt
(c) divided the red sea
(d) provided water in the wilderness
(2) a symbolic stick
(a) a simple piece of wood
i) nothing special
ii) just a tool
(b) a visible symbol of God’s presence and intervention
i) did not make the wood powerful
ii) it was a tangible reminder that He was at work
a) much like the Arc of the Covenant would be
b) both were later stored in the Holy of holies - the place where God visited man
c. The real banner was Jehovah Himself