James Smith, 1860
"And Moses built an altar and named it, 'Jehovah-Nissi' — the Lord Is My Banner." Exodus 17:15
Israel's history prefigures our course. In their conduct — we may see our own; and in God's dealings with them — we may see much of his dealings with us. They quarreled with the Lord at Rephidim, and the next thing that we hear is, that Amalek quarreled with them, and came out against them to battle. Yet the Lord appeared for them, and gave them the victory; and then commanded Moses to record the event, which he did, and in addition thereto, "Moses built an altar, and called the name of it, Jehovah Nissi," that is, the Lord my banner. Exod. 17:15. Let us look at:
The Conflict. Israel and Amalek. They were cousins by nature — but there was a deadly enmity between them. The one was God's choice — the other was God's foe. Every believer now is at war, he has a deadly conflict with Satan — the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. Satan's design is to keep him from Christ, if possible; or to lead him to sin against Christ, if he cannot. He must conquer Satan, or be conquered by him. Just so the world, which is in league with Satan. We must overcome the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; for if we do not overcome them — they will overcome us.
Satan is a terrible foe, the world is not less so; but we have one enemy that is more dangerous, that is inward sin — the lusts of the flesh. The dire depravity of the heart. Satan must be conquered, whether he attack us as a crafty serpent, a roaring lion, or a great red dragon! The world must be overcome whether it fawns or frowns! And the old man must be crucified, the flesh must be mortified, and grace must reign within us. The conflict is a deadly one — but it is necessary; it is very painful; it is prolonged to a great length often; and the outcome frequently appears to be very doubtful. But only the overcomer is crowned. Those alone who endure to the end are saved. Consider then:
The Conquest. Moses the mediator on the mount prayed and pleaded for Israel. Just so, Jesus is our glorious Mediator, pleading for us in heaven. The hands of Moses were heavy, and he needed help — but the hands of Jesus never weary — his intercession never fails. Cheer up, poor faint-hearted warrior, looking at your foes, so strong, united, and courageous. You may be discouraged; but look up, Jesus is watching the conflict, Jesus is sympathizing with you, Jesus is pleading for you, nor shall he plead in vain.
Joshua led the army against the foe. Jesus, the captain of our salvation leads us. He first fought the battle single handed, and gained the victory; and now he leads us into the field, and assures us of victory before we strike a blow. We have only to follow Jesus, to keep the eye on Jesus, to be faithful to Jesus, to place implicit confidence in Jesus — and we shall not only be conquerors — but more than conquerors, through him that has loved us!
Every soldier fought. So must we. We must fight — as if everything depended on our strength, courage, and skill; and yet trust in our glorious leader — as if everything depended on him. We must put on the whole armor of God, we must wrestle hand to hand, foot to foot, with the foe; we must draw the sword of the Spirit; and fight as for our lives — and then victory is sure.
The Lord gave the victory. So he does still. Moses must plead, Joshua must lead, Israel must fight — and then God gives the victory. Just so, beloved, Jesus must intercede, Jesus must lead, we must fight — and God will give the victory. Hence, said the Apostle, "Thanks be unto God, which gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Observe:
The Memorial. The proud Roman would have raised a triumphal arch; the Greek would have erected a pillar; and even the English would have raised a column. But Moses built an altar. Not an arch or a column to Joshua — but an altar to Jehovah. An altar for sacrifices, as well as a memorial; what would be expensive afterwards, as well as costly at first. We should not seek to express our gratitude in the cheapest way.
On the altar he carves an inscription, "Jehovah-nissi," the Lord my banner. The presence of God in his church, answers to all the purposes of a banner. He collects the soldiers — he goes before them — he distinguishes them — he animates them — he rallies them — if they scatter, he reminds them of their duty and prospect — and he is seen over them. With the Lord God omnipotent for our banner, shall we be timid, or fearful, or cowardly? Rather let us be bold, daring, and determined. In the name of the Lord Almighty, let us go against every foe, and determine to overcome; for to every soldier he has said, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life!"
Beloved, are we at war with Amalek? Or, rather with Satan, the world, and sin? If so let us seek strength and courage from the Lord.
Are our foes strong? Let us look at our Captain, and keep close to our banner.
Is the Most High God our banner? Let us adhere to him as our commander, and follow where, and as he leads. Let us courageously trust in him, whose promise is, "I will strengthen you, I will surely help you." Let us acknowledge him to be the author of all our success, singing with the Psalmist, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us — but to your name give glory, for your mercy and for your truth's sake." Let us look to him for the recompense of the reward, he has promised the crown of life, he will give the crown of righteousness, he will reward every overcomer.
But, if my reader should be in league with Satan, at peace with sin, and at home in the world — then you are an Amalekite, and not an Israelite at all. Then, Satan will lead you captive at his will, sin will have the dominion over you, and the world will keep you from Christ. Then you will be convicted of treason against God, the King eternal, immortal, invisible — then you will be charged with enmity against the Lord Jesus Christ — then you will be condemned to suffer that fearful doom, "But bring here these enemies of mine, who did not want me to rule over them — and slaughter them in my presence!" O may I be found a faithful soldier of the cross, and fight for the honor of my Lord, while life shall last!