The Old Testament meaning of “banner” helps us understand our relationship to Jesus today.
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
Jesus Our Banner
After experiencing the Lord’s deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, the Israelites found themselves suffering from agonizing thirst at Rephidim. Finding no water, they wondered if the Lord was really among them. Soon after God brought water from a rock for them, they encountered an enemy worse than thirst – Amalek, who fought against them at Rephidim, preventing them from advancing on their way.
Israel was an ill-equipped undisciplined mob while the Amalekites were well-equipped and well-trained. Yet Israel displayed a calm courage based on the faithfulness of their God, the courage and strong leadership of Moses’ right-hand man – Joshua, and the actions of Moses.
Moses positioned himself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in his hand. When he held his hand up, Israel prevailed. When he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. Aaron and Hur supported his hands as Moses sat on a rock. After Amalek was defeated, Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner.
In those days a banner was not a flag, but a pole with a bright shiny ornament. The word “banner” means “to glisten.” In warfare, the banner was the standard that went in front of an army to indicate whom it represents (the one the army was fighting for). For the Israelites, their banner was also a signal to God’s people to rally to Him. It stood for His cause and His battle since the battle belongs to the Lord. It was a sign of deliverance and salvation.
The word for banner also means “to lift up” as the serpent on the pole in the wilderness was lifted up. The same word was used by the psalmist as “lift up” in the expression, “Lord, lift thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us” (Ps. 4:6).
So, picture the scene. The rod of Elohim (Moses’ staff) in Moses’ upraised hands is their banner over them. Instead of it going ahead of their army, it is above them, high on a hill. As in the Psalm just mentioned, the banner represents the light of God’s countenance upon them. As long as Moses (with a little help from his friends) lifted the staff high, the light of God’s countenance brought them victory. The army was to look to God for His victory.
AS I SEE IT
Israel’s experience at Rephidim represents our own spiritual warfare. Amalek represents the world forces that stand opposed to Jehovah through the ages—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Amalek was a grandson of Esau, who despised spiritual things, preferring a bowl of soup to a spiritual birthright. Amalek also represents all the kingdoms of this world that oppose the people of God.
The contrast between Israel’s experience at the Red Sea and at Rephidim offers a great picture of how we are saved and how we are to deal with the warfare we will subsequently face. At the Red Sea, they were terrified at the sight of Pharaoh’s advancing army. With no way of escape, they were commanded to do nothing but stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah (Ex. 14:13). What a picture of God being the sole agent in the work of our salvation. They were being redeemed by God’s grace, by faith alone, not by works. They could do nothing to secure their salvation from Egyptian bondage. The same is true for us and our salvation.
Once they had been delivered into their new life, there was warfare to be waged. They must fight the good fight to truly claim the victory given to them, but never in their own strength. The rod held up by Moses was the symbol and pledge of God’s presence and power. If it were not raised up, they would be powerless. When it was lifted up, God brought victory to His people. Likewise, we must raise His banner over us.
Of course, Jehovah Himself was the real banner, not the rod, which was only a symbol. His banner must be over us, too—a rod predicted by Isaiah—a rod to come forth from the stem of Jesse—Christ who is to be a banner of the people and the banner of our warfare.
Jesus Christ, therefore is our banner, the banner of our redemption.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (Jn. 3:14).
When we encounter spiritual warfare, we should not be surprised, shocked, or disillusioned that our plans are being shattered. We must take our eyes off our situation, lift up Jesus as our banner, and look to Him for our deliverance. How about making this our first response instead of our last resort?
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
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