Sunday, August 21, 2022

Names of God: Jehovah-nissi, God our Banner on the Battlefields of Life

Israel had escaped slavery in Egypt. An entire nation now traveling through the wilderness to their new home. They were led by God himself, working through Moses. It was a difficult journey. And God was observing their every move to see how they would respond to the tests and challenges he gave to them.

God was building them in the wilderness, teaching them to go from being slaves to being the chosen people of God. He was preparing them for the promised land.

Yet we saw how the Israelites cried out against Moses when they found an oasis but the waters of the oasis were bitter. Yet God turned the bitter waters pure, and God became the healer of the people, Jehovah rophe.

The journey continued after the oasis of marah, and the people were hungry, so God provided bread from heaven for them to eat. And then it happened again, the came to a place and there was no water there. There weren’t even bitter waters.

It was just a desert.

But how often does this happen in our own lives? God tests us. We fail the test. But we learn after what we should’ve done. Can you think of a time in your life when God was testing you and you failed to trust Him? You tossed and turned in unbelief. I’ve been there too.

And often times, what happens, as we continue beyond that failure, the test comes up again. Anyone notice repeating patterns in your life? Maybe you keep dating guys who are bad for you. Maybe you keep struggling with overeating and gaining weight and losing gaining and losing. Maybe you keep getting jobs then losing them. Maybe you keep trying to quit drinking or quit smoking, and you keep slipping back.

There are numerous other examples it doesn’t have to be as stereotypical as drugs or drink or relationships or jobs, it can something smaller in your life. Or something larger. Or it can be waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

In all these situations we have to do what, make a change in our lives, and maybe we don’t. We keep doing the same thing expecting different results. This can be a form of faithlessness, where we’re rebelling against god and refusing to make the changes he keeps urging us to make.

But in this case it’s more like the waiting scenario we talked about. As you wait on the Lord, one of the chief things we do as Christians, we wait, every single faithful believer from Abraham to the Apostle Paul had to wait. And its our burden as well. When we wait, we wait in faith, one week, one month, several months, and more, and during these months and years, as we wait, we experience times when we are tempted to doubt if God is really there, or if he’s really going to answer. We’re also tempted to question his character and even get angry and rebel against God.

This is huge. What we do in those quiet moments will define our journey as Christians just as much as how we love people and help people. For me it’s weekends, or Friday nights, or Monday mornings, or maybe after work, I’m home by myself and the mind starts going.

In those moments, hear me church, in those moments, decide to stay in faith. Decide to fight those thoughts. It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to grieve. But keep trusting God. Keep praising Him.

Something Chelsey told me which I think is very wise, in those moments when we’re entering that temptation to question God, turn on praise music and just sing, listen and sing along enter worship, and there’s nothing the enemy can do then.

This probably isn’t going to happen when you’re at church it happens when you’re alone and thinking.

How will you respond? Let’s see how Israel responded.

From Exodus 17:1-7 “The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

God was testing them, but they ended up testing God’s patience. They complained and grew angry and even questioned, “Is God really even with us at all?”

We are shocked at how they respond but how often do we respond to our situation that won’t change by saying to ourselves or thinking to ourselves, “Is the Lord really with me or not?”

I wonder sometimes when I see my book in heaven that recorded everything I did in my life, will it say, there on page 3,562, there Justin tested the Lord by not believing the promises God had made to Him.

Ouch. What about your book? What is it going to say on judgment day? Will it say there they departed the body of believers and never returned. There they disbelieved God and rejected Him. There they doubted God and rebelled against Him. Or will it say there they believed God and loved Jesus. There they persevered in the battle. Despite all the troubles they kept believing God. I want mine to say that.

So despite the Israelites failing their re-test of the waters of marah, God continues to help them and feed them.

But an even greater test was upon the Israelites soon after. It says in Exodus 17:8-9: The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against[c] the throne of the Lord,[d] the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

After this great victory, Moses constructed an altar, and he called the altar, “The Lord is my Banner” the name of God, Jehovah-nissi.

What does that mean, that God was his banner? And how is God our banner today? Well, what is a banner? A banner is something like a flag, or a standard. Around our community you would see American flags, it’s a declaration of values, a celebration of beliefs. We have a salvation army banner, the salvation army flag, which references blood and fire, blood of Jesus, fire of the Holy Spirit, it has meaning. The American flag references the 50 stars of the fifty states of the country and the 13 red and white stripes to signify the blood and sacrifice of the original 13 colonies that broke away from great Britain.

For us, the Lord is our banner. The same was true for Moses. What was happening on the battlefield? Joshua led the battle against the Amalekites. But who was granting them the victory? It was God, symbolized by Moses lifting the staff over the battlefield.

We should always remember that in any situation we’re in, whether at this church, building this church, inviting new people, working our jobs, fighting political and social battles, that we should recognize our victory does not come from our own efforts, it comes from God who is the banner which unites our forces in spiritual combat.

But, Joshua and the Israelites had to do the footwork, they had to go out and engage in the battle. It’s true sometimes God will say stand still and watch me work, don’t even do anything. But other times God will say get to work, and I will be with you, and grant you the strength you need, and the victory in the end.

Jehovah nissi, God is my banner. He is the banner over my battlefield. He is the one who grants the victory. I can’t do it alone. He is the one who unites all of us as well, as we fight to win the world for Jesus. He is our banner. During this test, the Israelites succeeded, and defeated the Amalekites, not because they were stronger, they weren’t, they were former slaves turned soldiers, brand new at this, never the less God’s standard was over their army, and they won the day. Remember that in your own life, God’s banner, his flag waves over you, over us, as we fight for Him. God bless you today.