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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Names of God - Yahweh-Nissi

There are over 250 flags that represent various countries around the world.

Originally, flags were mainly used for warfare, identifying friend from foe and rallying warriors together during the chaos of a battle.

In the 1600s, sailors started flying flags to show their ship’s country of origin.

Today, a flag is a way for a country to portray itself to the rest of the world. 

The colors and symbols have deep meanings that signify the core values of a nation.

I may be a bit biased, but I think the flag of the United States of America is one of the most beautiful flags in the world.  In 1777, the continental congress established the official flag of the United States. The flag has 13 stripes, alternating red and white to represent the 13 original colonies and a white star for each state on a blue field, representing a new constellation.  When America began as an independence democratic republic, it was something brand new in the world of nations and our flag with it's stripes and a new constellation of stars represents us well. 

Even the colors of the flag are symbolic.  Red symbolizes hardiness and valor. 
White symbolizes purity and innocence.  Blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

And so the flag represents the nation we call home, The United States of America.  We are a collection of individual states located on the North American continent.  In 1776, the 13 original colonies decided to unite together and separate from the British empire as an independent nation.  Over the years, the number has grown to 50 states who are united together as the United States of America.  The name describes who we are and our flag is the banner under which we rally together.

The various names of God in the Bible tell us about God and what He is like.  As we continue our message series about the names of God, it is fitting that we talk about this particular name of God on the 4th of July.  The name for today is Yahweh-Nissi, which means “The Lord is My Banner.”

Exodus 17:8-15
While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.”

10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. 11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on.
Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset.
 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

14 After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”). 16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”

God chose the Israelites to be His people, to represent Him to the world.  They would be His people and He would be their God.  All the nations of the world would be able to look at the way the Israelites lived and know what God is like.  This was God’s plan, because He wants the world to know Him and have a relationship with Him.

And so, God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.
Along the way, while God’s people were still quite unorganized and vulnerable, the Amalekites treacherously attacked them. 

The attack was so despicable because the Israelites were not threatening Amalek.  In fact, they were moving in the opposite direction.  Yet the Amalekites wanted to to destroy God's people.  The Amalekites came to represent for Jews and Christians anyone or anything that is an enemy of God.  Ultimately, the Amalekites represent sin itself—which is the ultimate rebellion in the human heart against the Lordship of God in our lives.

God was with the Israelites.  He protected them when they were defenseless.  Joshua led a group of men out to fight the Amalekites while Moses stood atop a hill.  In his hand, Moses held his famous staff—the one God turned into a snake to show Pharaoh God’s power, the same staff Moses held high when God parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape the charging Egyptian army.  It was a staff, much like a pole used to wave a battle flag, only there wasn’t a flag on the staff—it was just the pole.

The battle between Israel and her enemies was fierce.  Yet the staff in Moses’ hand was a rallying cry to Israel’s soldiers.  Whenever they saw it raised high above Moses’ head, the Israelites fought fiercely to win the battle. But when Moses’ arms grew weary and he lowered the staff, God’s people began to lose.  So Moses’ assistants, Aaron and Hur, helped Moses keep the  staff up high for all to see and Israel won the battle to defeat God’s enemies.

There was no visible flag on Moses’ staff.  God Himself is the flag.  Yahweh-Nissi means “The Lord is my banner (or flag)”.

YHWH – Adonai - YaHoVaiH
Now some translations render this name as Jehovah-Nissi.  Jehovah is an alternate way to pronounce Yahweh.  Ancient Hebrew had no vowels.  Yahweh is spelled YHWH.  In some languages, Y has a J sound and W has a V sound.  (In Germany John is pronounced Yan and What is pronounced Vhat.)  In the 12th century, Jews, wanting to avoid saying God’s Holy Name (Yahweh) interspersing the vowels from the Hebrew word for Lord (Adonai) with the consonants for Yahweh (YHWH).  This rendered the name Ya-Ho-Wai-H or Ja-Ho-Vai-H (depending on how you pronounce the Y's and W's).

The consensus among scholars today is the original pronunciation was Yahweh.[i]   Whether we pronounce the name Jehovah-Nissi or Yahweh-Nissi, the meaning is still the same:  The Lord is My Banner or Yahweh is My Banner.  And a banner serves the same purpose as a flag.

Representing God
It’s an interesting responsibility--to represent God.  God was the Israelites’ flag and the Israelites were to be God’s people.  In other words, the Israelites were to represent God just like the American flag represents America. When people look at Israel (and we’re talking about Biblical Israel not the modern country of Israel; modern Israel is not the same as Biblical Israel adn they are not under the same covenant nor are they God's representatives in our modern world.)  Whenever people looked at ancient, Biblical Israel, they were looking at a people whose whole purpose was to represent God.  The food they ate, the clothes they wore, the religion they practiced, the songs they sang, everything was supposed to tell the whole world what God is like. 

Unfortunately, Israel failed.  Israel became more interested in their own power and prestige in the world than with what God wanted.  They just wanted to live the good life, enjoy pleasure, and live their lives the way they wanted regardless of what God wanted.  Israel became no different than any of the other nations around them.  In their hearts, they threw down their Banner (God) on the ground and trampled it under their feet.

Yet Yahweh-Nissi raised up a remnant to be faithful and represent Him.  God sent Jesus Christ to call God’s people to repent of their sin and return to God.  And all who accept the invitation become God’s holy people and have the privilege of representing God to the world.

In the New Testament in Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Now, Jesus and His true followers are the flag of God.  Our lives symbolize who God is just as the American flag symbolizes the United States.  As long as Christians lift up God as our banner, we cannot be defeated.  Even when Jesus died on the cross, He was not defeated, but He defeated sin and death and all the forces of evil.

From time to time, flags on our flag poles become worn and frayed due to the wind and weather.
We replace them when this happens.  
Sometimes the way we represent God to the world becomes worn and frayed.  Sometimes it’s due to a particular rough spiritual battle.  Other times it’s just due to the normal wear and tear of living the Christian life.  With God’s help, we can renew our witness to the Lord.  Let’s pray and ask the Lord to help us renew our witness today.


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