Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Nissi

Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Nissi

Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Nissi.

“Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’ And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, Yahweh-Nissi, the LORD-is-my-banner.” (Exodus 17:14-15).

Yahweh-Nissi, a compound name meaning LORD-my-banner. A banner is a rallying signal during battle, a battle-pole, a symbol held up high so it can be seen from afar. A banner is a conspicuous object that can remind the troops who and what they are fighting for in the heat of battle. A raised battle flag or emblem rouses the troops, encourages them to keep fighting. The Name of Yahweh is itself the battle-cry in this story of Moses.

After wandering some more in the wilderness, there came another time when the people were desperately thirsty. There was simply no water to be had anywhere in their journey. And once again, the people complained to Moses instead of pray to God. Moses again entreated the LORD, and God gave Moses particularly surprising instructions. Pick up your staff, God tells Moses, the same staff you used in confronting the Pharaoh, the same staff you used in parting the Red Sea. Yes, use that staff to strike this rock right here, and everything will be fine. So Moses obediently struck that rock, and sure enough, water gushed out, enough water for all the people to drink their full. By now, of course, the people have been eye witnesses to the miraculous powers God seemed to give Moses’ staff. That staff is once more put into miraculous use in the very next story in Exodus 17.

The Hebrews were unexpectedly attacked by the Amalekites, a fierce nomadic tribe living in the desert regions of Canaan. They were a vicious group of raiders and killers who were feared for always attacking the stragglers in a group first, the old, the sick, the lame, the children. They always attacked the vulnerable first, which made them a much-hated tribe. Naturally, the Hebrews just escaped a life of slavery and were no match for these professional soldiers with no scruples. The irony here is that the Amalekites were descended from Esau and the Edomites, which means they have some Hebrew blood in their genealogy. Moses quickly assigns his best soldier Joshua to scrape up any fighters he can find to fight off the approaching Amalekites. Moses took his brother Aaron and a man named Hur to the top of nearby hill to view the fighting. While on the hill, the fighters below could clearly see Moses. When Moses held his staff high in plain view, the Hebrew fighters took the advantage. When Moses’ arms grew weary and he let the staff down, the Amalekites immediately started to win. When the fighting Hebrews saw the staff, they were reminded of Yahweh and how He powerfully led them to victory over the Egyptians. And they remembered when He parted the Red Sea. And  that staff also reminded them of the recent miracle involving water gushing out of a rock. That staff carried a lot of spiritual weight. The Hebrews rallied when the Name of Yahweh was raised, when the symbol of the LORD’s power was lifted high for all to see. Moses continued to grow weary, though, so Aaron and Hur found a small boulder Moses could sit on, and they went on each side of Moses to help him lift that staff in the air. This battle turned out to be an all-day affair, so no doubt Aaron and Hur grew tired as well as Moses, holding his arms continuously in the air. Finally at sunset, the Hebrews routed their enemy. It was a miracle victory. And because of the Amalekites preference for attacking the stragglers first, the Amalekites became a permanent enemy of Yahweh for generations. Another example of the LORD defending the weak and helpless.

As was often the case, Moses decided to celebrate this dramatic victory by building an altar at that spot. He named it Yahweh-Nissi, LORD-my-banner. Moses’ staff was the battle-pole that represented Yahweh. And when the Name of Yahweh is raised like a battle-flag, no matter the battle, the route is on.

Many believe that Moses was raising his arms in prayer and worship. As long as he was interceding for the Hebrews and praising Yahweh, God was enabling the Hebrews to be victorious. Moses here is a clear picture of a prayer warrior, a leader engaging in intercessory prayer and adoration. This is a striking example of the prayers of a righteous person availing much. It’s also a fact that Moses depended on the support of Aaron and Hur to keep the staff, the battle-pole, raised high. Christian leaders need the support of other believers to lead and pray. Support people are needed for strength and encouragement. Without Aaron and Hur, what would have happened during that battle? The Hebrews would have lost. We are stronger together than alone, and we need each other to survive.

The word Nissi is used throughout the Hebrew Bible. Psalm 60:4 states, “You have raised a banner (nissi) for those who fear you.” Isaiah 62:10 shows a desire to “raise a flag (nissi) for all the nations to see.” Especially important is the messianic word in Isaiah 11:9-12, “In that day, the Root of Jesse will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to Him. He will remain a flag (nissi) among the nations.” That’s right, the battle-pole has indeed been raised on a hill, and it is the Cross. Jesus was lifted high on this bloody banner, and it was for our salvation as the Word says. “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself.” (John 12:32). Lift high, the Cross. The Cross is the pole of remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus, the symbol to rally all who believe in Him, the “banner of salvation.”

Numbers 21 shows us another time of bitter complaint in the wilderness. Well, evidently God wanted to show them who’s boss, and He sent poisonous snakes, “fiery serpents,” to reveal God’s displeasure with their attitude. Many Israelites died from snake bites, and finally their hearts were struck, and the people repented.

So during Moses’ intercession, asking God to forgive them, the Lord told Moses to fashion a bronze serpent and put it on a pole, high up in the air where all could see it. Whoever is snake-bit, all they have to do is look. That’s it, just look at the bronze serpent, and they will be healed.

Gospel Fulfillment. Another dramatic image in the wilderness of a pole that was lifted up and led to victory and healing. So dramatic that Jesus Himself took this episode and, in his night-time talk with Nicodemus, made the bronze serpent a type, a picture of Jesus and His ministry. He told Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” The mercy of God for Israelite malcontents, a picture of God’s mercy for us through Jesus. Sure enough, this wasn’t the last time Jesus hinted at the bronze serpent. “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.’  (John 12:31-33). The bronze serpent on Moses’ pole and the victorious scene of victory on the battlefield are a pictures of Jesus on the cross. Jesus, represented by a battler pole and a snake! What a picture of Him lifted up, carrying the curse of sin for us, fighting His battle on the Cross against all the spiritual powers. Jesus, lifted up, brings victory, healing and life to all who believe in Him. And all we have to do is look and believe.

A Prayer for Yahweh-Nissi (ya’way niss’-eye)

We shout for joy before you, Yahweh-Nissi, LORD-my-banner. For you are in our midst during our spiritual battles, and you lift high the signal to rally your people to victory. Your Name is the battle flag raised up for our deliverance and salvation, revealing to us your presence and your power. We know the battle is the LORD’s, and you will lead us to a decisive victory. You are our sure defense, and a very present help in trouble. And so, we also gladly lift up the banner-pole of your Son’s Cross as we fight the good fight of faith, for you have overcome the enemy. As you have desired, LORD, we raise up the Cross to remind us of your victory over sin, death, and Satan, and we lift it up for all the nations to see and be healed. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. We bow before you, Yahweh-Nissi, and celebrate your holy Name. Amen.