This phrase is found in Exodus after God enabled His people, Israel, to defeat their enemies in their first battle after leaving Egypt. When the fight was over Moses, as an act of worship, set up an altar to commemorate this hard-won victory. He called the altar, Jehovah Nissi, ‘The LORD is My Banner.’ What insight did Moses have to this aspect of God’s character? And what does it mean for us today to pray to Jehovah Nissi?
Jehovah Nissi – The LORD is My Banner
Following the exodus from Egypt, Moses and the people of Israel were travelling to Mount Sinai to worship God. On this journey, which took about two months, they experienced God’s supernatural provision and protection. While they were camping at Rephidim they were attacked by the Amalekites. They were a tribal people, living in the Negev and the Sinai peninsula, who were descendants of Esau.
Moses appointed Joshua to lead the fight against the Amalekites. Meanwhile, Moses went to stand on the hilltop overlooking the battle with the staff of God in his hands. This was Moses’ shepherd’s staff, when he accepted his commission to lead the people of Israel this became the symbol of his God-given authority. The staff with which he, at God’s command, performed miracles.
Aaron and Hur accompanied Moses to the hilltop. When Moses lifted his hands in appeal to God, the Israelites were winning in the battle. When he became weary and lowered his hands the Amalekites started to fight back, and they were winning. Aaron and Hur provided a rock as a seat for Moses to rest on and they started to hold his hands up, one on each side of him. His hands remained up, with the staff of God raised in an appeal, until sunset.
So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.Exodus 17:13 NIVUK
Moses built an altar there to worship God who had delivered them from the enemy. The victory only came with God’s intervention and the altar was to be a lasting memorial. The name that Moses gave was a reminder to the people that God was the one who brought about their victory.
Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.Exodus 17:15
What Does a Banner Symbolise?
Historically, and even today, flags and banners make a declaration and act as a rallying point. They symbolise unity and purpose for that nation, tribe, or family. People feel strongly about the right to display their flag and for others to treat it with respect. The design of the flag or banner, and the images used, would be unique to that group and symbolise their hopes and dreams.
God gave the Israelites instructions on their journey to camp around the Tent of Meeting, three of the tribes on each one of the sides. They always camped in the same order and the same place, under their standard, holding the banners of their family. (Numbers 2:1-2) The standard and banners were a declaration of their identity.
They were important in battle as a rallying point often on a hill where they could be clearly seen. If new territory was won, or old reclaimed, then the standard, flag or banner, would be planted in the ground to mark a decisive victory.
In the Bible when God is described as Jehovah Nissi it is as Israel’s banner, in recognition of His powerful defence of His people. God is their confidence in battle, He is their rallying point and their identity is found in Him.
Jehovah Nissi My Protector
When we pray and reflect on God as Jehovah Nissi, we are lifting our hands in appeal to God who is victorious and powerful, and who is able to defeat any enemy. The God who through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ enables us to be a victor and not a victim. When we accept Jesus’ death and sacrifice on our behalf we receive forgiveness from God for all our sins. Jesus has overcome death and hell, they are defeated. He has overcome the world, and in Him we too become overcomers!
We Are in a Spiritual Battle Today
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 6:12
The Amalekites wanted to steal and destroy Israel’s destiny. Today we are in a spiritual battle, where the enemy wants to snatch and steal our God-given destiny. Joshua overcame Israel’s enemy with a sword, and we have been given a spiritual sword to defend ourselves from attack. Our sword is the word of God. Before His ministry began Jesus overcame temptation in the wilderness. He defeated satan by proclaiming and declaring the truth of God’s word into every situation. We too can use the power of God’s word to negate the lies of the enemy over our life.
We Do not Fight in our Own Strength
Moses had the staff of God, to lift in appeal, the symbol of his authority as leader of God’s chosen people. We too are chosen, under the new covenant, and can raise a standard. We plead the cross, the symbol of a curse to those who don’t believe, ‘but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ By Jesus’ death on the cross, our sins are forgiven, we are released and set free from the power and fear of death.
We too can proclaim Jehovah Nissi, The Lord is My Banner, our protector, our sure and certain victorious God. There are times when we may feel that we are under attack, that the spiritual battle is raging and very real – but we need to remember that Jesus has already won the war, the enemy is defeated!
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.Colossians 2:15
We Need Each Other
Aaron and Hur assisted Moses, they were there by his side, holding him up in those times when he was tired and weary. We also will experience those times when we need to reach out to others, to come and support us in our struggle. We all need those relationships, those friends that we can call on as prayer partners. Thank God for those true friendships – and if you haven’t found them yet, seek God to direct you. We need people to whom we can admit our weakness, that we are struggling, for there is power in our united prayer.
Jehovah Nissi Prayer – Psalm 20
This Psalm of David is a prayer for the king just before he goes out into battle against an attacking enemy army. This is a plea to Jehovah Nissi, The LORD is My Banner, the God who is all powerful and victorious. The prayer voices an assurance of God’s saving work, that He is more than able to rescue and deliver His people.
As we lift our hands, and hearts, in prayer to Jehovah Nissi, our perspective is changed. With the grace of our Lord Jesus, we move from feeling overwhelmed, to celebrating His victory – we are saved, we have the assurance of salvation. Our identity, knowing who we are and how much we are loved, is found in Christ alone. Jesus is our rallying point, in times of trouble we run to Him, with the knowledge that God’s banner over us is love!
May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.” Psalm 20:1-5Psalm 20:1-5
Related – You may also like to read, El-Roi – The God who Sees Me.