THE LORD OUR BANNER
“Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly block out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, The Lord is My Banner, for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” Exodus 17:8-16
Every four years at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games all the competing teams from around the world parade around the arena. Each country’s representatives march behind their nations flag or banner as a mark of loyalty and pride in the nation they are competing for. Historically flags or banners have been rallying points for armies at war. As long as their banner was still being held aloft, each side had hope that they would be the victors, but as soon as it fell at was captured, it was a sign of defeat.
During World War Two the Nazis would enter a country, march through the towns, tear down that nations flags and replace them with their own. The hated swastika was seen everywhere as a symbol of fear and domination to Germany’s enemies, but as a sign of triumph to the Nazis.
We can see from this how important flags are to us, and always have been as an expression of loyalty to a particular country or cause, with people prepared to defend them to their last breath because of what they represent.
It is interesting to note that another word for banner is standard, a word that is used to relate to morals. As believers God expects us to live to His standard, with His word ad our guide as to what that standard is. He doesn’t want us to lower that standard, because the lower the standard, the lower the living. We can see how in the world this is so true, as morals decline and anything goes.
Let’s look at this strange account in more detail.
Firstly we shall look at the origin of the Amalekites and why God said He would utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven, and also why He said that He would have war with Amalek from generation to generation.
Who was Amalek?
Gen 36 v 12 tells us that he was a grandson of Esau by Eliphaz, Esau’s son, and his concubine Timna. Amalek became the leader of the people who were born of that union who were called after him, the Amalekites. God obviously wanted them to be destroyed without trace. Why? Who were these people, what had they done to offend God so much?
Certainly they were long term enemies of Israel and a constant thorn in their flesh, inasmuch as they picked off the weakest of the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. A nasty way of reducing their numbers. Like guerrilla fighters!
They came from Esau, as we see, Jacob’s brother. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew, clearly showing how cheaply he valued his inheritance, and he worshipped idols, and had low standards in every way. He didn’t value God’s standard and lowered his own.
“I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” Malachi 1 v 2 – 4
The Edomites were also descendants of Esau and were equally depraved in their behaviour.
It’s not that God had lost His mercy or His grace, His wrath was against these people because of their refusal to uphold Him as their God, their worshiping of idols and their pride in their own worth. Amalek was a type of Satan and his demonic power. Because the hand of the Amalekites was against the God, His wrath was against them. All through the history of Israel, right up to the time of Jesus’ birth, Satan put his hand against God by trying to destroy the lineage that would give birth to the promised Messiah. The enemy did everything he could to wipe out God’s people and he used the Amalekites to try to achieve that goal. Satan knew all that had happened in the past, he was there in the Garden of Eden and heard of the promise of the coming One who would crush him. He knew what God meant when He told Abraham that all humankind would be blessed through his seed. He knew what happened at Mount Moriah as Jacob offered up his only son Isaac. He knew how Jehovah Jireh had provided a ram, representative of Jesus, the Lamb of God and His sacrifice.
That’s why Satan declared war on God. He was determined to attempt to destroy the coming Messiah or any hope of His coming.
We know that he is still trying to destroy the Jews by any means he can, to prevent Jesus’ second coming. As he sees it, get rid of the Jews, destroy Gods land and there is nowhere for Jesus to return. His hand is against the true church, trying to destroy us too if he can. But we know that he cannot, and will not destroy the Jews, or the land, or us. Gods word will be fulfilled, and whatever plans Satan has, and whoever he uses to implement them, he will not get his way.
That doesn’t mean that terribly satanic things don’t happen. As long as Satan is the prince of this world, we will see troubles and tragedies. The things that are happening around us in the world today are a constant reminder of what Satan can do. So his warfare continues against Gods throne and the war that God declared against Amalek is an ongoing conflict.
Here in Exodus 17 the enemy was readying himself to attack the people of God. If Satan could cut off the Israelites before they entered Canaan, he would. He knew the prophecies, and he wasn’t about to let them enter the land where one day Jesus would be born So although we see here a physical battle against Israel, the true significance behind it was spiritual. It was a war between Heaven and Hell.
That is why in scripture we see Israel involved in war after war against Amalek, who were a Satan controlled nation of people. Of course they could never succeed, even when Saul, 400 years later, failed to destroy them all as God had commanded him, and though Samuel had to kill the Amalek king, Agag, still a remnant remained. It is not until the reign of King Hezekiah that the Amaleks were finally destroyed. But even generations later, a descendant of King Agag, an Agagite named Haman nearly managed to destroy the Jews in the Diaspora. You will that account in the book of Esther. A wonderful account of God’s faithfulness to His people.
So back to Rephidim, which means, Resting Place. Amalek came to attack the Israelites with the sole aim of annihilating them. Moses sent out men to fight them, headed up by Joshua, whose name in Hebrew is the same as Jesus in the Greek, that is Saviour.
The army Joshua gathered, must have been a sorry sight, and makeshift at best. These men were not trained soldiers, they had few weapons and little skill in fighting. The odds were totally against Israel. Remember that this huge crowd of people were constantly moaning and complaining, miserable and murmuring, ungrateful and wavering, unbelieving and faithless; indeed a weak army to be used by God to fight the forces of evil.
Moses, Aaron, meaning Light Bearer, and Hur, meaning White Linen, went up to the top of the hill. Light Bearer represents Truth, and White Linen represents Purity.
Moses held up his rod in his hands, and as long as his hands were upraised, Israel prevailed, against all belief, but when his arms dropped in fatigue, Amalek prevailed. Moses raised hands represented prayer and intercession. Aaron and Hur saw what was happening and held up Moses arms for him, so that Israel would again prevail.
What a beautiful picture we have here. Truth and Purity holding up the arms of intercession and prayer. What a wonderful illustration of Gods holiness opposing evil.
Also these two faithful men provided a stone for Moses to rest on so that he could prevail in his prayer. The stone represents judgement, Gods judgement on the works of evil.
Jesus is the Rock, He is the Judge of the whole world. I just love the truth that lies behind this amazing happening.
It can’t have been easy watching the fighting and bloodshed, Moses heart must have been in anguish as he cried out to God. The battle was very physical, very real, and Moses would not have fully understood the significance of it all. In a sense, Moses, though he didn’t realise it, was upholding the authority of Gods word.
Joshua and his rag tag army won the day and defeated Amalek, at least for the time being, and God spoke to Moses concerning his enemy Amalek. Moses built an altar there in commemoration of the victory and called it Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is my Banner. Moses was saying in effect, “We have won the battle here today, but we cannot forget that we were victorious because we serve Jehovah Nissi, the Lord our Banner. This victory had nothing to do with our strength or ability, or any great works we promised to do for God. We did nothing to earn Gods favour today, God Himself is our Banner and our victory is totally the work of His hands.”
There is a wonderful insight in this account for us as believers. As Moses interceded for the people, so Jesus interceded for us, now upholding us before the throne of God. The evil one who would seek to accuse us before that very throne, cannot succeed, because Jesus has covered our sin by His once and for all sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus Christ is our Banner!
However that does not mean that the battle is won for us still living on planet Earth. The eternal battle is won through the cross, but Satan still seeks to destroy us, and prowls around like a lion seeking his prey. We are therefore still engaged in spiritual warfare. We have to battle daily against the principalities and powers, because the devil wars against Christ in us. That is why Paul instructs us to put on our spiritual armour in Ephesians Chapter 6.
We are to fight the good fight of faith while we still remain on this earth and not fear the works of the devil We have Jesus Christ as our Banner to rely on, to trust. he is Truth, He is Purity, He is our Intercessor and nothing can separate us from His love.
In His love,