Seven Redemptive names: 7. Yahweh Nissi (יהוה נּסּי) The LORD Our Banner
In battles of old, the leader’s flag would be carried onto the battlefield and planted in a visible spot. This helped give the troops their identity, for they were on the side of that banner. It also signified that the leader was there (‘the LORD is there’ as we read earlier) with them and, in the days before military radio communications, it showed the troops where the rallying place was. Whenever they had to regroup (before relaunching an attack, consolidating their defence, seeking instructions, wanting to join the leader for victory celebrations) they could look for the banner and rally there.
The LORD is our leader. We seek Him for protection and we can rally around where HE is; at His feet. Yahweh Nissi means ‘the LORD our Banner’ and we find it first in Exodus, after God has defeated the Amalekites. This was the occasion when Moses raised his hands, holding the staff as the Lord had commanded him. Moses raised his hands, and the Israelite army was winning; his hands dropped, and they fell back. Aaron and Hur, who were with him on top of a hill, in view of the troops, sat him on a rock and held his arms up for him, and the Israelites won. Moses then built an altar to the Lord.
Moses built an altar and called it Yahweh Nissi. (Exodus 17:15)
This gives us strength in our faith; it renews our belief. It reminds us of God’s power – He does not hide away, worried what people might think of Him, concerned lest He is not sufficient. He is the Lord, and not only are we on His side but looked at from the other side of that statement: He is our leader; we are looked after and protected by the Almighty One. God has won the victory, and He has included us on His side, in His family. No matter the adversity or the adversary, for:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
But we must always remember that God is love, not swords; this is not a pitched battle but is spiritual warfare. God fights in love and with love, as we rally to Him. That love is our banner; the Lord is our banner:
Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
and let his banner over me be love. (Song of Songs 2:4)
We can look to God, and we can see where He is for He is always with us, looking out for us and looking after us. This references a shepherd looking after his flock. The shepherd does not lose touch with his flock. The shepherd is always ready to intervene to help his flock – he uses his rod and staff to protect the sheep from attack by predators and to recover the sheep from ditches and holes into which they have fallen. So, the sheep do not see the rod and staff as a disciplining weapon, ready to be used against them, but as a beacon of security. From a distance, they can see the staff / rod / shepherd’s crook planted high, even above undulating ground and long grass, and they are reassured that the shepherd is there. If the sheep do feel surrounded and threatened, they can see the rod and staff as a banner, rally where the shepherd is and know that the shepherd continues to look after them.
And it is this reassurance of seeing where the banner is, where the rallying point is, that inspires Psalm 23:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4) Yahweh Nissi
[from Timothy Pitt]