Text: Exodus 17:8-16
The Hebrews have been traveling for three months in the desert. God is still providing for His people. But this time, instead of keeping them from the battle, God is going to teach His people by leading them into the battle.
God is with His People in Battle
The Amalekites, a ruthless group of nomads, saw an easy target in the Hebrews, to attack a group of former slaves wandering in the desert. But what they didn’t realize was that the people they attacking were God’s covenant people.
Joshua prepares their army, gathering up every man who could fight and every weapon they could find, Moses tells him, “Tomorrow, when the battle ensues, I’ll be standing up on a hill overlooking the battlefield, with my arms raised holding the staff of God in my hand.” This was a clear message to Joshua, and it would be a clear visual for all of Israel, that God was with them.
This was a new level of faith, a new depth of dependency on God that the Hebrews were learning. It was the first of many battles they would fight on their way to the Promised Land. They were learning that if God leads you into the battle, God will also give you the strength to overcome.
God Works In and Through His People in Battle
Moses grows weak and starts to lower his arms. And at that moment, Israel starts to lose the battle and the Amalekites begin to overtake them.
So Moses gets help from his brother Aaron, and his brother-in-law Hur. They roll a boulder over so Moses can sit down. Then Aaron and Hur each take an arm, and hold up Moses’ arms while he holds up the staff of God. And Israel won the battle.
Sometimes God does something for us, protecting us from that trial or that situation. Other times God does something in and through us, giving us the power and strength and faith and courage we need so that we can act, so that we can fight, so that we can do what is difficult, to do what is hard, to do what is right.
God is pleased to use us as vessels, not to put on a shelf for decoration, but as an instrument in His hands, to be used for His glory and the good of others. Our weakness is an opportunity to depend on Jesus, and to experience His grace as His people serve one another.
God Gives the Victory & Gets the Glory
In that location, Moses built an altar, something that was used not only as a place of worship and thanksgiving, but also as a memorial to remember what took place there, to remember what God did for His people. Moses named the altar “Jehovah Nissi”, God my Banner. God is my battle flag. In ancient warfare, an army’s banner served several important purposes:
For identity. The banner that held the king’s insignia or coat of arms would remind the soldiers who they are fighting for.
For instruction. Depending on what flag is raised, it would signal when the archers assembled, or when the cavalry or the infantry needed to join the battle.
For celebration. And when the battle was won, the winning army’s flag would be planted high on a hill for all to see, as a celebration and as a declaration of victory.
Jesus is the Sovereign Lord and King who we belong to, who flies His banner over us, reminding us we belong to Him, we are part of His kingdom, and the spiritual battles that we fight in this life, we fight with His strength, with His power, and with His authority.
Jesus is our Banner in giving us instruction for the battle. His word gives us the battle plan. As followers of Christ, the Bible tells us what to put on and what to put off, what to accept and what to reject, what to fight against, and what to embrace. It is God’s Word that reminds us where our strength comes from.
And Jesus is our Victor, the one who defeated our sin, the one we celebrate. And He reminds us that through every difficulty, through every trial, He promises to keep us, to teach us, and to cause all things to work together for the good. We don’t have to wait for the trial to end. We can go ahead and given Him the glory now.