“Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim…” (Exodus 17:8-16)
In the shadow of the Great Rock, joy came to Israel. The gush of miracle water enveloped them in a sense of comfort and safety. With their needs met they settled down to everyday life.
However, an enemy lurked in the shadows. Sneaky, vicious, battle-trained Amalekites began by attacking Israel’s rear flank, picking them off one by one.
Heartbroken families begged Moses to do something. But, could Israel fight back when they had lived in slavery all their lives? What chance did slaves have against a brutal enemy?
Still, at Moses’ command, Joshua prepared an army. Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed a hill overlooking the battlefield. When Moses lifted his hands and staff, fighting would commence.
As morning light peeked over the mount, Moses appeared. With robes gleaming in the sunlight, he lifted the rod of God high toward heaven. Somehow, this signal infused Israel with strength, for God was with them.
The battle was fierce. Moses was human.
His arms got tired and he lowered his staff. Without this symbol of God’s presence, Israel feared and faltered in battle. Amalek dominated.
Seeing Israel so quickly overcome, Moses prayed, lifting high this rod used by Almighty God to perform great miracles, so all could see. Regaining strength, Israel once more overpowered the enemy.
But a man can only sustain outstretched arms for a short period.
Each time Moses lowered his arms, Amalek prevailed. However when the rod of God was raised, Israel prevailed. Moses needed help. Seeing this, Aaron and Hur sat him on a boulder and held up his arms.
As the sun slipped below the horizon, Israel triumphed over Amalek. Nevertheless, their death toll and wounds were considerable. An exuberant, but grieving Joshua greeted Moses descending the mountain. God knew Joshua’s pain. In His mercy, He gave Moses a word of hope for Joshua stating, “I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”
What good news. The Lord would destroy this horrific enemy, but when. Moses said it would take generations, as he built an altar to glorify God. Naming the altar Jehovah-nissi, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner, Moses and Joshua worshiped.
The Hebrew word nissi, translated banner, is not what we know to be a banner or flag, although it is the same concept. Nissi means pole, rod, or standard.
The sight of Moses on the mount, interceding with holy hands and rod toward heaven, encouraged and united Israel.
The lifted rod became Israel’s rallying point and spiritually represented the cross of Christ. In John 12:32 Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”
Believing and receiving Christ’s death as our own unites us. We become one in Him.
As such, Jehovah-nissi continues to fight this enemy in and through us in each generation, whether a literal Amalek or a spiritual one. United by our Banner, Jesus Christ, God leads us in triumph and diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (II Cor. 2:14)