Exodus 17 tells the story of a battle between Israel and the Amalekites. God has Moses stand on a hill overlooking the battlefield, holding the staff of God above his head. “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.” Exodus 17:11. Exodus 17 goes on to tell us that Israel wins the battle with God’s help and Moses builds an altar to celebrate God’s character. He names the alter “Jehova Nissi,” the Lord is my banner.
What does it mean to say God is our banner? In our context, this idea is similar to a country’s flag or a team’s mascot. It is a representation of a group of people.
Banners in ancient times were the rallying points for armies. They were a symbol of the side they were fighting for, like the eagles of the Roman Legions, or the legion flags of Napoleon’s armies. This text is surprising because God is both Israel’s “team mascot” and the one actually helping them win the battle. He is the one who gives them their common name and identity, and the one in the battle with them.
This is such a rich attribute of God for us as people on this side of the cross. Jesus is not just a team mascot. He is our banner, the One we unite under. More than any other loyalties and identities (I’m looking at you, Cyclones and Hawkeyes), Jesus is the one who gives us true unity because He reconciled us to God through His death and brought us into one family, the church. Jesus won the battle for us. Like Israel, we were powerless to bring ourselves into the promised land, Our enemies were too strong and too numerous. Through His victory on the cross and the resurrection, Jesus conquered sin, Satan, and death. We look to Him as our Lord and He will never be overwhelmed or overcome.
Whatever enemies we face, no matter how much the battle around us rages, we look to an empty cross, an empty tomb, and a risen Savior as our banner. Our God is victorious!
I’m praying this attribute of God gives you courage in the battles you’re facing, peace knowing His victory is certain, and the strength to share the good news with people around you, waving the banner of Jesus’ victory.