The Lord Is Our Banner
There’s something spectacular about the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. At least I think so. Friday night, my husband and I tuned in to the opening ceremonies of the XXIII Olympic winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Tom lasted about 5 minutes before turning his attention to his iPad to scan his favorite news sites. But even he had to admit that the Olympic rings made of 1,200 drones were pretty amazing. Or maybe he was just excited because the ceremony was drawing to a close.
My favorite part of these events is watching the teams of ecstatic athletes march into the stadium under the colorful billowing banners of their countries. Smiles beaming, arms waving, selfies snapping—this is a moment they will remember for a lifetime. And every time I see Team USA enter the arena lead by the Stars and Stripes, each of our athletes proudly adorned in red, white, and blue, I can’t help but be moved by a wave of pride as well.
A banner or flag is something that identifies and unifies a particular group of people. It’s often used in situations far more serious than a game, with much more at stake than a medal. In military settings, a banner can serve as a rallying point for troops. Soldiers embroiled in battle can reassemble around their banner to find protection, receive aid, gain strength, and obtain orders to continue striving for victory.
How fitting that one of the names of God in the Old Testament is Jehovah-Nissi, which means, The Lord Is Our Banner. It only appears once in the Bible, in Exodus 17. The event takes place not long after the Israelites are miraculously delivered from Egypt by the mighty hand of God. Journeying through the wilderness, they come under attack from the Amalekites, a brutal and warlike nomadic tribe.
After 400 years of living as slaves, fighting a war was not something in the skill set of the Israelites. Under God’s direction, Moses assigned Joshua to marshal a band of soldiers from this fearful bunch. Meanwhile, Moses stationed himself on top of a hill overlooking the armies below. In his hand, he held the staff he used to strike the Nile, and God parted the waters saving his people. It was the same staff with which he had struck the rock at Horeb, and life-giving water flowed, enough for all the people.
Clearly, this battle was an unusual one. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel would win, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek would gain the advantage. As the hours wore on, Moses’ arms grew weary. So his brother Aaron and another man named Hur stood beside him, one on either side and held his arms steady. So together, Moses was able to hold the rod of God high until the sun set. That day, the people of Israel won an overwhelming victory over Amalek and his people. Talk about an unexpected upset!
This was a moment Moses wanted the Israelites to remember for a lifetime. There was no doubt as to who the true Victor of this battle was. Exodus 17:15 reads, “And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, ‘The Lord Is My Banner.’” It was to remind them that though they were weaker than their enemies, God would forever be their refuge and strength.
The New Testament describes our lives as believers as athletes in a race or as soldiers in battle. And as Christ-followers, we have a banner that goes before us, the King of Kings. In his name, we are identified and united. In the battles and struggles of life, we look to him as a rallying point, our place of strength, safety, and direction. The banner of the Lord is not a mere symbol; it is a promise of strength, power, and salvation. And the insignia on this banner is love.
So, are you feeling a little on the weak side considering the obstacles before you? Let us run to our God, our divine rallying point; and there find all we need to be victorious in his power and might and for his glory.
Under his banner of love,
The rest of NP News for 2.15.2018 can be found on the “This Week” page at https://www.northpointcorona.org/this-week/