Genesis 31-32 / Matthew 9:18-38
“Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’” Exodus 17:9
I wonder how Joshua would have felt if the instructions in the above verse were the only instructions Moses gave to him before fighting the Amalekites. Joshua had already experienced God fighting for Israel in Egypt, and he had seen the miraculous signs that happened whenever the staff of God was involved, but I expect he was still uncertain of how standing on a hilltop and holding a staff would influence the tide of battle.
It was not long before he found out. The Bible tells us, “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Exodus 17:11). The Israelites had success as long as Moses kept the staff raised in the air, but the Amalekites would fight back fiercely whenever the staff was lowered. The battle went on all night and eventually, Moses’ brother, Aaron, and Hur had to prop Moses’ arms up with a stone to ensure the Israelites were victorious.
To celebrate the victory, Moses built an altar to God and called it “Jehovah-Nissi,” meaning “The LORD is my Banner.” The closest equivalent we have to this kind of banner is a national flag, but the banners of ancient peoples were typically large wooden structures an army could recognize from a distance. Raising a banner was a rallying point for an army, telling them where to gather in the heat of battle or proclaiming victory over their enemies. This is why Moses holding up the staff of God during the battle is significant. The staff, which had become a symbol of God’s miraculous power and intervention, was a banner prophetically announcing God’s victory over His enemies.
The fact that it was God’s victory, not Israel’s, was something God wanted His people to remember. He tells Moses to write this event down on a scroll “and make sure that Joshua hears it” (Exodus 17:14). Joshua would become the next leader of Israel, but God wanted him to know beforehand that He alone was the source of Israel’s strength and victory. Joshua and the Israelite army would still have to fight physically, but it was not their capability that would give them victory. Victory was ensured on the hill where the staff of God was raised.
We also face battles in our lives and the same holds true for us. We must still act against the enemies that oppress us, but when the Lord is our banner, we can go forth with confidence, knowing God is fighting for us. Victory is never achieved, but received from God when we act in obedience, trusting Him to be the source of our strength and our victory.
PRAYER: Almighty God, I cannot face the battles in my life on my own. I look to You as my source of victory, putting my complete trust in You as my strength. Thank You, God.