By Rick Elsey
Pastor, West End Baptist Church, Columbia
Focal Passage: Exodus 17:8-16
As a high school football official, I love spending Friday nights in stadiums across the state. Before the game begins I stand side by side with other officials as “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played. Sometimes it is a recording; sometimes the local band plays. No matter how it is played I always think of the same things. I am so grateful for the freedom we have and especially grateful to those who selflessly protect us by serving at home and abroad. In our lesson this week we are reminded that God is Jehovah-Nissi which means “The Lord is my banner.” In every situation we can count on God’s protection.
The need for protection (Exodus 17:8-10. On more than one occasion the United States has come under a surprise attack. The immediate response was fight back and defend the country. Not long into its journey out of Egypt, Israel comes under attack from the Amalekites. They were a nomadic people who traced their lineage back to Esau. That may explain the animosity towards Israel. Whatever the motivation, Israel must respond to the attack.
Moses’ first response was enlisting Joshua to put together a fighting force. Joshua would prove to be a Godly leader and may have already shown military talent. Moses recognized that a fighting force would not be enough to overcome the Amalekites. His second response was to take the staff of God to the hilltop. He knew they would need God’s protection during the battle.
A banner lifted high (vv. 11-13). The battle raged on. As long as Moses kept the staff of God lifted high, the Israelites prevailed. As a piece of wood, the staff itself had no special power. Yet it was a powerful symbol that reminded them they were not fighting the battle alone. When Moses grew tired and needed to put the staff down, the army faltered. Israel needed encouragement for the entire battle. They needed to trust in God’s consistent protection. With the help of Aaron and Hur, Moses was able to keep the staff in the air which ultimately resulted in victory.
Remember (vv. 14-16). Write it down. I need to tell people that all the time. If someone shares something with me before a worship service, there is a good chance I will forget it by the end of the morning. Writing it down is a safety net for my forgetfulness. After the great victory over the Amalekites, Moses instructs Joshua to write down everything that happened on that day. The account will serve to encourage generations to come of the protection and deliverance of God. In I Cor. 10:11 Paul reminds the church of all that happened in the Exodus. He told them it was written down as an example and a warning to them. God’s word still provides with encouragement as we see his protection over and over again. Moses not only had Joshua write down the accounts of the battle, he responded by building an alter and worshipping God. The place would be called “The Lord is my banner.”
In the old hymn “Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus,” we are challenged as soldiers of the cross to lift high his royal banner. Every time we see the cross we are reminded of the victory we have won in Christ. No matter what we face, we can trust in God’s protection. How will you lift up that banner? Who will be your Aaron and Hur to come alongside when your strength grows weary? As we trust in God’s protection, we can move from victory unto victory as we serve him.