Summary: Jehovah Nissi … God is Our Banner. I can assure you that God will give you the victory if you will look to Him and wave the white flag of total surrender to Him.
In a book entitled “The Story of the Iron Gate,” writer and pastor Clarence J. Forsbery retells a story about something that happened in a little fishing village on the New England coast. One winter’s day a storm came up suddenly while the boats were out at sea. The men rowed desperately to reach the safety of the harbor. Everyone made it except for one old man named John. He had almost reached the mouth of the harbor when a great wave came along and dashed his small fishing boat against a rock. John managed to pull himself up on to a tiny ledge and hang on for dear life.
His friends saw what happened. Sadly, there wasn’t anything that they could do about it. It was growing dark and the seas were high so it wasn’t safe to put out another boat to go rescue John. All they could do was wait. They built a bonfire on the shore and kept it burning all night. Every once in a while, someone would throw his hat up into the air hoping that the old man would see it.
At last dawn began to break and the winds began to die down. They put out their boats and were able to get close enough to rescue John and bring him safely back to shore.
When the old man had been warmed by the fire and had been given something to eat, they asked him what it was like out there. “Well,” he said, “it was the longest night of my life. I made out pretty well at first … but then a big wave came along and flattened me out and I felt myself slipping. I was worn out … ready to give up. My old father went down at sea and I had decided that my time had come too. But, just as I was ready to let go, I looked through the darkness and saw somebody’s cap going up in the air. I said to myself, ‘If there’s somebody who cares enough about Old John to stay out on a night like this, I guess I’m not going to quit yet.’ Just then the wind seemed to ease up, and I got a fresh hold, and … well … here I am.”
Someone’s cap being tossed in the air … the glimpse of a flag in the heat of a battle … symbols of hope … symbols of perserverance. On September 13, 1864, a young United States attorney general secured permission to board a British warship in an attempt to arrange the release of an American prisoner being detained onboard. He was forced to stay overnight on the ship because of a battle that was being waged in the harbor. From his vantage point on the deck of the British warship, the lawyer witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, which guarded the entrance to Baltimore.
As the battle raged on into the night, he strained to see if he could catch a glimpse of the American flag. The red glow of exploding ammunition would illuminate Old Glory for a second or two. When the grey dawn finally broke, the morning seemed to wash away the smoke from Ft. McHenry and the silver stars and red stripes stood proudly as a symbol of hope and courage and determination.
The young lawyer … Francis Scott Key … was so moved that he pulled out an old letter from his pocket and wrote these stirring words on the back of the letter:
O say, can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming;
Whose broad strips and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?
O’er the land of the free,
And the home of the brave.
As Americans, we are proud of our banner … Old Glory. But as Christians, we have a much greater banner … “Jehovah Nissi” … that is revealed to us here in our text this morning. As Francis Scott Key’s song … The Star-Spangled Banner … so strongly suggests, flags and banners play an important role during times of war and national crisis. The same was true for the Israelites during the time of the Exodus. Exodus 17 describes the very first battle that the Israelites had to fight since they left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea.
In Exodus 14, Moses raised his staff and the newly liberated Hebrew slaves passed through the Red Sea dry as a bone. When Moses lowered his staff, the water came crashing back and drowned Pharaoh’s army.