And Moses built an altar and named it The LORD Is My Banner.
1. Her militant condition. "The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."
2. The side on which she fights - "My banner."
3. The name round which she rallies - "Jehovah." "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 6:5).
4. The confidence by which she is inspired. The inscription on a banner frequently sets forth the ground of confidence. "God and my right."
5. The certainty she has of victory. - J.O.
Jehovah-nissi, the Lord my banner.I. THE ALTAR A MEMORIAL OF AN HISTORIC FACT. Great battle of Rephidim. One of the most remarkable. The enemy — crafty, cruel, cowardly — attacked the rear where the young, aged, women, etc. (Deuteronomy 25:17, 18). Israelites unarmed, unused to warfare. Taken by surprise in the rear. They could succeed only by the help of God.
II. THE ALTAR A RECORD OF RELIGIOUS DUTY.
1. The duty of diligently using the means at hand in doing our proper and appointed work. Moses chose the general. Joshua chose the fittest men. The men chose their weapons.
2. The duty of encouraging those who may be in peculiar danger. Moses to Joshua (ver. 9).
3. The duty of rendering willing sympathy and aid. Israel hastening to the rescue of the feeble, etc., who were attacked.
III. THIS ALTAR AN EXPRESSION OF PIOUS SENTIMENTS.
1. Of faith. Flushed with success, remembering much individual prowess, they acknowledge that their victory was from another source.
2. Of gratitude. The altar left behind would teach all desert travellers to trust in the Lord.
3. Resolution for the future. They would only fight for the right, and under this banner. We too have a banner (Isaiah 11:10). Must be united (Isaiah 11:12, 13), and rally round it (Psalm 60:4; Song of Solomon 2:4).
(J. C. Gray.)
I. By the name Jehovah, therefore, GOD IS DECLARED AS THE SUPREME REALITY. So the Greeks render it, "He who is"; and John, in the Apocalypse, "Grace and peace to you from Him which is, and which was, and which cometh." No grace or peace, verily, from things that are not! "Say unto the children of Israel" — so He authenticated Moses — "I AM hath sent me unto you." The finite demands the Infinite; the chain of causes and effects hangs upon the Uncaused; all creatures unite to point to their Creator, and by their very being proclaim His, in whom they live, and move, and are." But I hear some one saying, "This is metaphysics; this is very obscure and transcendental doctrine, this talk about the Absolute and Uncaused. How could ideas of this sort ever have existed or been entertained in these early and barbarous times? But everything depends on the way in which you take notions of this kind. To ancient Israel — the true Israel of spiritual faith — this was no philosophical abstraction, arrived at by a process of difficult reasoning: it was the revelation of an immediate and self-evidencing fact. Behind all sensible objects, the forms of nature, the movements of human affairs — there He is! They discerned, they felt the presence of Another — the real, the abiding, the living God, breathing on their spirits by His breath, searching their hearts with holy eyes, as of flame; He who said to their souls, "I AM," and concerning whom they could say, as neither of their mortal selves nor of the fleeting world, "Yea, and of a truth, He is." Hence this name was a standing protest and denouncement against all idolatry. "The name of Jehovah," so their proverb ran, "is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe." "I am Jehovah," says the Lord in Isaiah, "that is My name; and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images." You see the argument. If He is, then they are not. His very name annihilates them. It was this sublime and solid faith in the unity and sovereignty and spiritual reality of God, that lifted the Jewish people above superstition and the fear of worldly power. See the whole history of Israel gathered into a single incident. "Thou comest unto me," said David to Goliath, "with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of Jehovah of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied!" Here is the one immortal certainty, the Rock of Ages.
II. THIS GLORIOUS NAME PROCLAIMS THE ETERNITY OF GOD. His reality is our strength; His eternity our consolation. If you turn to the French Bible you will find Jehovah translated, in place of our English "Lord," by l'Eternel, "The Eternal." This rendering is often singularly apt and true, as for instance in Psalm 102., where the Psalmist in melancholy mood is sighing, "My days are as a shadow that declineth, and I am withered like grass." But he remembers the name of his God, and he continues: "But Thou, O Eternal, sittest King for ever; and Thy memorial is unto all generations." And from that point in his song he mounts up as on the wings of eagles. God's name is the He Is — a timeless present, a perpetual now. John expands it backwards and forwards into the everlasting past and future: "Grace and peace to you from Him which is, and which was, and which cometh." Men live and die; empires rise and fall; worlds and systems of worlds run through their courses, and dissolve and vanish like a puff of smoke; still He Is; always He Is; the unchanged, the abiding God, whose being fills and constitutes eternity. There is no thought so sublime and overwhelming to the human mind as that of the eternity of God. But there is none more restful, more soothing and satisfying. "We which have believed," it is written, "do enter into rest." Here we touch the calm of eternity, the "Sabbath of God." We have found a haven which no storm can ruffle, a rock to build upon which no earthquake will ever move. You find great religious minds, like that of St. in his Confessions, constantly returning to this thought as their solace and shelter, hovering round it as birds about their nest; here they find an ever-renewed spring of mental strength, of spiritual joy and courage. The Jews have been not unfitly called "the people of eternity." Their monumental endurance, the toughness and indestructible vitality of their national fibre, are due, to no small extent, to the force with which the doctrine of Jehovah has possessed them. It would seem that the revelation of personal immortality was not made in the early ages to the men of Israel, that their souls might be the more completely filled and absorbed with the thought of God Himself — His being, His character; that they might find in "Jehovah the portion of their inheritance and their cup."
III. JEHOVAH IS THE SPECIFIC NAME, THE PROPER AND PERSONAL NAME OF THE GOD OF REVELATION AND REDEMPTION. It is, so to speak, the Divine autograph written across the face of Scripture; it is nothing less than the signature of the Eternal attached to His covenant of grace; its very presence on the page, the sublimity of its import, and the transcendent dignity and force with which it is employed, fill the mind with awe, and compel one to say as he reads and listens, "Surely God is in this place." To the believing Israelite this name was a summary of revelation past. The call of Moses, the judgment upon Pharaoh, the passage of the Red Sea, the lawgiving on Sinai, the conquest of Canaan — all these and a thousand glorious recollections clustered round this immortal name, and served for its verifying or illustration. And it was at the same time the basis and starting-point of future revelations. Having learnt to say He Is, they could go on to say: "He is just, He is wise, He is faithful, He is merciful and gracious — Jehovah of Hosts, Jehovah our Righteousness, Jehovah our Peace, Jehovah our Banner." In Himself unchangeable, in His manifestations to mankind God is perpetually new. He is ever advancing and unfolding Himself to His creation. The "He Is" of the Bible is no frozen, silent Impersonality, like the Pure Being of Greek philosophy, or like Spinoza's Infinite Substance. This is the name of the living, self-declaring God, whose revelation is the single stream that runs through all cosmical and human history, the working of whose counsel forms the process of the ages. His name, like "His mercies," is "new every morning."
IV. Finally, this glorious name of God IS A CREED, A CONFESSION OF FAITH. God says to Moses, through Moses to Israel, through Israel to the world, "I AM": faith answers back, "He Is"; and "this is His name for ever, and His memorial unto all generations." Pronouncing it in spirit and in truth, we "set to our seal that God is true." It is the communion of heaven and earth, the dialogue between man and his Creator; it is the Church's Amen answering back to God's self-affirming Yea. And "Ye are My witnesses," saith Jehovah, "even Israel whom I have chosen." Despite its apostasies and its chastisements, nay, even by virtue of them, the Jewish nation has proved itself the people of Jehovah, the witness of the true God. Israel has made the nations hear the voice of her God; and now they are sitting at the feet of her prophets, learning of His ways. It is the flag of conflict, the symbol of a faith which has the world to overcome. So our text continues, with a prophetic symbolism that has proved itself all too true: "And Moses said, Jehovah hath sworn that He will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." "All nations compassed me about," said Israel, in worldly power the smallest and least considerable of the peoples — "Yea, they compassed me about; but in the name of Jehovah I will destroy them!" And what is more, she has done it; her faith, her Christ have done it I Those gigantic and cruel empires of the East, with their vile and sensual idolatries, have passed away for ever. Isaiah sang their doom ages before: "They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise. Therefore hast Thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish." Fact is stranger than fiction. The true God has lived down the false ones. The "He Is" must displace the "are nots." As it has been, so it will be. Moloch and Belial and Mammon — the gods of hate and lust and greed, the gods of this world that still rule in the nations and blind the souls of men — oldest of all false gods, which men formed out of their own evil passions, before they set them up in wood and stone — as the Lord liveth, they shall surely perish! If the Church is worthy of her faith, she will say like David, "In the name of Jehovah I will destroy them." And these latest idols, which our fathers knew not, of modern nature-worship and scientific materialism, will they fare any better, do you suppose? The name Jehovah, we have said, is a confession of faith. It is a personal confession, which only personal experience qualifies us properly to make. It is not enough to read it in the Bible, to understand and assent to its theological and historical import; God Himself must pronounce His own "I AM," must "speak into our soul His name." Jesus is to us the revealer of Jehovah. "I have declared unto them Thy name," He said to the Father in leaving this world, "and will declare it." The name Jehovah — the Absolute, the Eternal, the Creator, the living God — Christ has rendered into the tender yet no less awful name of Father.
(G. G. Findlay, B. A.)
I. JEHOVAH IS OUR TOKEN OF DECISION. In the opening days of the first French Revolution, it is said that a timid trimmer fixed a cockade beneath the lappel of his coat on one breast, and a tricolour in the corresponding portion on the other; and that when he met a royalist he exposed the cockade, and shouted, "Long live the king!" but when he met a republican he showed the tricolour, and cried, "Long live the Republic!" That, however, sufficed only for a short time: for as the strife increased, every man was forced to make a decision between the two. So sometimes, in times of indifference, it has been possible for men to seem to combine the services of God and mammon; but happily, as I think, for us, we have fallen on an earnest age, in which it is becoming impossible even to seem to be neutral. Everywhere the cry is raised, "Who is on the Lord's side?" and it becomes us all to hoist our flag, and display to the world in its expanding folds this old inscription, "Jehovah-nissi — the Lord is my banner." When Hedley Vicars, the Christian soldier, was converted, he knew that he should be made the butt of much ridicule, and the victim of much petty persecution by his comrades; so he resolved to be beforehand with them, and in the morning on which he made his decision he took his Bible and laid it down open on his table. Very soon a fellow-officer came in, and, looking at the book, exclaimed, "Hallo, Vicars! turned Methodist?" To which he made reply, "That is my flag; and, by the grace of God, I hope to be true to it as long as I live." That was his Rephidim, and there he, too, conquered Amalek by raising the banner of the Lord. So let it be with you.
II. JEHOVAH IS OUR MARK OF DISTINCTION. When, in travelling through England, one comes on the stately residence of some duke or earl, and sees the flag floating in quiet dignity from its turret, he knows from that indication that the proprietor is himself within the walls. Now, the distinguishing peculiarity of the Christian is that God, to whom he belongs, is, by His Spirit, dwelling within him, and that shows itself in many ways. It is apparent in the love by which he is animated for all who are in suffering, sorrow, or want. It is seen in the purity of speech and conduct which he maintains; in the earnestness of his devotion to the will of Christ; and in the eager efforts which he makes to attain to that perfection of character which he sees in his Lord.
III. JEHOVAH IS OUR JOY. When we make demonstration of our enthusiasm, we raise a whole forest of flagstaffs, and fix on each an appropriate banner. Let it be the commemoration of some victory, or the welcome to some foreign prince visiting our shores, and the whole city is gay with flags, while the emblems of many nationalities are seen fluttering in friendly fellowship from the mastheads of the ships in harbour. So we are reminded, by the inscription on this altar, that "the joy of the Lord" is "the strength" of the Christian. His life is one of constant gladness; his characteristic is what I may call a calm enthusiasm, or, to use the phrase of Jonathan Edwards, a "quiet rapture."
IV. GOD IS THE PROTECTOR OF HIS PEOPLE. There is nothing of which a nation is so jealous as the honour of its flag, and he who is in reality a citizen has a right to the protection of the government. Great Britain has few prouder chapters in her recent history than that which tells of the expedition to Abyssinia some years ago. A great force was landed on the Red Sea shore; a large, troublesome, and dangerous march of many days was made into an enemy's country; a fierce assault was successfully attempted on a hitherto impregnable fortress; many lives were lost, and fifty millions of dollars were spent — and all for what? Because a brutal tyrant was keeping in horrid imprisonment two or three men who had a right to the protection of the British flag; and you can hardly conceive what an outburst of joy broke forth from the nation when the news came that they had been set free, and that the insulting monarch had been made to bite the dust. But what is the power of the British Empire, in comparison with Omnipotence? Yet he who sincerely raises this banner has God's pledge that He will protect him (see John 10:28, 29; 16:38; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 54:17).
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
II. But now, let us take another look at this banner, and we shall see that it is not less wonderful in its MATERIAL than in its antiquity. The material of which our flags or banners are ordinarily composed is a coarse woollen substance known as bunting. True, we sometimes see banners made of more costly materials, as silk or satin. And gold and silver, and jems and jewels, are not unfrequently employed to enrich and adorn the material employed in making the banner. These things, of course, very greatly enhance the value of the banners on which they are employed. But when we speak of the Lord as our banner, and think of His revealed truth as the material of which this banner is composed, and then contrast it with the material of which our ordinary banners are made, how unspeakable the difference! Jehovah-nissi — the Lord my banner. All the names, or titles, or symbols applied to God in Scripture, are the elements of truth that make Him known. And so it is when He is spoken of as the covenant banner, unfurled over His people. The folds of this banner are woven out of the truth of His blessed word — "the truth as it is in Jesus." This constitutes the material of which this banner is composed.
III. But in the third place, it is a wonderful banner when we consider THE MOTTOES inscribed upon it. The banner of England has in French the words — "God and my duty." The idea thus embodied is, "My duty to God — and my duty to my country." This simply expresses what should be the foremost thought and desire with every Christian patriot. And the mottoes on the banners of other nations are of a similar character. They are expressive, for the most part, of some sentiment of honour, or some principle of duty to the country over which they float. But the contrast is very striking, when we compare this banner of the covenant with other banners in regard to the mottoes which they bear. Each other banner bears but a single motto — while this bears many: those mainly refer to some matter of personal obligation and duty — while these refer to matters of high and glorious privilege. Every page of the volume of revealed truth may be regarded as a distinct fold of this covenant banner; and emblazoned on each fold is one or more of these inspiring mottoes.
IV. It is a wonderful banner, in the fourth place, when considered with reference to its INFLUENCE on the hearts and lives of men. Doubtless the flag of every nation has a history, in this respect, that would be deeply interesting if the incidents connected with it could be collected and written out. But who can tell how many hearts have been stirred, and how many enterprises of great pith and moment have been started, and led on to successful issues, by the influence of this blessed banner? Every motto emblazoned on its waving folds, or, in other words, every passage of saving truth within the leaves of the Bible, has a history of its own. How wanderers have been reclaimed! — how slumbering consciences have been aroused! — how anxious inquiries have been directed! — how depraved hearts have been renewed! — how sorrowing spirits have been comforted!— how listless energies have been quickened and consecrated! — how useless lives have been ennobled land lost souls have been saved, through the influence of the mottoes on this banner — or of particular passages of God's Word — who can tell!
V. And then, lastly, this is a wonderful banner in view of its DURABILITY. This is a quality which cannot be imparted to our national banners. The materials of which they are made is frail — and subject to decay. But how different it is with the banner of the covenant of our salvation! This is something which the hand of violence cannot rend. Time, with his effacing finger, can make no impression upon it. (R. Newton, D. D.) 1. By voluntarily and inflexibly adhering to Him as our Leader and Commander. 2. By confessing Him the author of every success with which we have been crowned. 3. By our courageously trusting in Him to enable us to overcome in every future conflict. 4. By looking to Him for the remuneration of victory at last. As Jehovah's banner floated over the triumphant host, bearing the sweet and heart-sustaining inscription just explained, so should the assurance of victory be as complete as the sense of forgiveness, seeing both alike are founded upon the great fact that Jesus died and rose again. (A. Nevin, D. D.).
(R. Newton, D. D.)
1. By voluntarily and inflexibly adhering to Him as our Leader and Commander.
2. By confessing Him the author of every success with which we have been crowned.
3. By our courageously trusting in Him to enable us to overcome in every future conflict.
4. By looking to Him for the remuneration of victory at last. As Jehovah's banner floated over the triumphant host, bearing the sweet and heart-sustaining inscription just explained, so should the assurance of victory be as complete as the sense of forgiveness, seeing both alike are founded upon the great fact that Jesus died and rose again.
(A. Nevin, D. D.).