Jehovah Nissi – The Lord is my Banner

Rev. Marcus Birkholz
Sunday, September 5, 2010


Exodus 17:15 NIV Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.

KJV - 15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi:


Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
            When you walked into church today you would have seen our baptismal banner.   When you hear the name, Jehovah Nissi, the Lord’s my Banner, that is what you might think but wonder how does that apply to my life. Nissi is not simply a banner like that but one from war. In America I recall the famous picture of six men raising the flag of the United State of America at Iwo Jima.   What a rallying point our flag can be. It was a testimony to the enemies the Americans had captured the hill. The American troops would find honor and glory seeing our flag flying there.   When the Roman army went forward into battle, they had their banners, or standards, ensigns which would guide the troops. An Eagle on top of a pole was rallying point. The troops would look up and be guided by that standard. That became symbol of the power and honor of Rome.     Our text today takes us back into the early history of God’s people. They too had something that would be a symbol of the strength and hope of their God. It was the rod Moses used as he guided the people out of Egypt. Following a powerful battle, Moses built an altar and left it as a reminder that The Lord is my Banner.   As we keep this text before us and bring to a conclusion this summer the Names of God, may we find hope and comfort in name Moses revealed to us, Jehovah Nissi – The Lord is my Banner.
I. The Staff - Banner
            When God called Moses at the burning bush Moses was reluctant to take the lead.   He thought everything depended on him. We hear his excuse: (Exo 4:13 NIV)  But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." God however gave special meaning and promises with the staff: (Exo 4:17 NIV)  But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it." As I studied this background I had missed in my personal study how the Bible described that staff. At times we hear it called the Aaron’s staff. We also read: (Exo 4:20 NIV) So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand. This staff was like the Roman eagle for the Roman army.   With this staff we find the power of the Lord displayed. With it Moses struck the Nile and it turned to blood.   Remember when Moses came to the Red Sea, he raised up that staff of God and waters of the Red Sea divided.   As this chapter began with that staff of God he struck a rock and water came out. In our text it is called not the staff of Moses, but the staff of God. What a symbol of the Lord’s power and presence.  
            As God’s people traveled to the Promised Land they faced opposition.   (Exo 17:8-11 NIV) 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,
            The troubles came when ever Moses let that staff down: but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 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.  
            It wasn’t a magical piece of wood, a superstitious stick, but a reflection of the words and promises of God.   Moses then would make an altar not to the staff, but to the God who had made the promises, Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is my Banner. I couldn’t help but think of the power of baptism, it is not the water, or communion, the bread or wine, or the clergy. It is the power of the Words and Promises of God.            
II. The Cross
            After the ministry of Moses there came a special promise through the prophet Isaiah: (Isa 11:10 NIV) In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. (Isa 11:12 NIV) He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth
            In the New Testament we have a new banner, a new symbol of the presence and workings of our God.   The Cross of Jesus Christ now has special meaning for God’s people.   The Apostle Paul states: (Gal 6:14 NIV)  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. The story of the cross was to be proclaimed to the world. (1 Cor 1:18 NIV) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
            The cross was an instrument of death. It was a means of cruel and in humane torture meant to kill a person. Many people have died on crosses, but it is Jesus who changed the meaning of the cross. Since that first Good Friday and now to Eternity the cross of Jesus Christ is the banner, the standard of the Christian faith.   It stands as a reminder the real consequences of our sin, death and a tremendous reminder of the sacrificial love of our Savior. I love the Lenten hymn verse from: Jesus, Refuge of the Weary:
Dare we pass that cross unheeding, Breathing no repentant vow,
As we see you wounded, bleeding, See your thorn-encircled brow?
Since your sinless death has brought us Life eternal, peace, and rest,
Only what your grace has taught us Calms the sinner's deep distress.
Jesus, may our hearts be burning With more fervent love for you!
May our eyes be ever turning To behold your cross anew,
Till in glory, parted never From the blessed Savior's side,
Graven in our hearts forever, Dwell the cross, the Crucified!
III.           Lift High the Cross
Our text was set in the heat of battle with Amalekites.  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. God’s servant Moses got tired and weary. The work was long and difficult. There were many involved, Moses, Aaron, Hur, Joshua and the whole army of Israel.  
When we turn to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he was compelled to name those who were there holding up his hands. Our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church she has been a great help to many people, including me. Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me.Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
We are still in the heat of battle, the battle for our very souls and the souls of others.   The Apostle calls upon us to “fight the good fight of faith.”   In our own personal struggle we need people to hold us up and strengthen us when we are weary and tired. At the same time there are those who are held captive by the enemy and need to be rescued.   The Atheists will not, but will God’s people? Has the army of the Lord experienced traitors, deserters, people AWOL? This is Labor Day weekend, we reflect about work, but strange many take three days off. There are no days off for those fighting the battle of faith. This is a full time job, twenty-four seven. 
When I worked on this sermon in particular about Aaron and Hur, then Paul’s words to the Romans, I started to think, could we take for granted all the support you God’s people have given this ministry. God’s leaders need help to carry on the work. From my perspective I give thanks for the called workers carrying on different phases of ministry, the paid support staff covering all kinds of areas to make the ministry work, at the same time I do not underestimate the volunteer army of Salem. We have the prayer warriors who keep all aspects of the ministry before the throne of God.   We have the many different gifted by the Spirit people of God, men and women of faith, young with energy. I appreciate the support of time, energy and also the financial support to keep ministry going on here and around the world.  
On this Labor Day weekend we can also be reminded of the Lord’s work that we are to carry out. We all need a reminder in whose army we are serving, our Lord whom we serve and for whom we work, and whose work it is, that our responsibility is to lift high the banner, lift high the cross. The Lord knows what we are doing and what we have done.   There are No unknown soldiers in the army of the Lord. Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is our Banner. Amen.