Jehovah-nissi - The Lord Our Banner
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 17, as I remind you that we have been discussing some word studies in the New Testament, and we said that we wanted to complete that series with consideration of some word studies in the Old Testament built around the name of God.

You are familiar with the fact that the Bible has three names for God. One of them is Jehovah ; one of them is Elohim ; one of them is Adonai . Elohim is usually translated by the word God , the three letter word God . Jehovah is translated by the word LORD and Adonai is translated by the word Lord .

If you are an observant reader of your Bible, you probably have noticed at times that the word Lord appears in different forms. Sometimes it appears with every letter capitalized. Sometimes it appears with only the first letter capitalized. By means of capitalizing these letters in the words, the translators have attempted to make a distinction between the meaning of the word Jehovah and the meaning of the word Adonai . When you find every letter in the word capitalized it is a translation of the word Jehovah , and when you find only the first letter capitalized, it is a translation of the word Adonai .

In addition to these three basic names of God, there are several compound names of God. By that we mean that one of the names of God is taken and mixed with another word in order that you might have some particular characteristic of God brought to your attention. In the portion of the Word of God at which we are looking today, we find that truth emphasized.

If you have your Bibles open now to Exodus, chapter 17, you will notice in verse 8:

Exodus 17

8Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
9And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.
10So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
11And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
12But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
13And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
14And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.
15And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi:
16For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

You will notice particularly verse 15:

Exodus 17

15And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi:

Here we have another compound name of God. I am going to tell you before we begin our discussion that this name literally means “the LORD our Banner,” for that is the meaning of nissi —“banner,” “the LORD our Banner.” As we keep that in mind, I want us to examine this passage of Scripture from only one standpoint. Actually, there are many wonderful lessons in this one paragraph, as far as spiritual application of truth is concerned, and we could not begin to deal with them all today.

For example, this passage of Scripture is a marvelous illustration of the conflict that exists in the life of the Christian between the flesh and the Spirit—Amalek representing the flesh and Joshua representing the Spirit of God. As you compare this passage of Scripture, for example, to the entire book of Galatians, you find a wonderful illustration of how the battle goes on constantly between the flesh and the Spirit. There are people, of course, who feel that once they are saved, they are never going to have any more trouble with sin. Many people find that after they are saved, they have more trouble with sin than they did before they were saved because before they were saved, the flesh had its way, and nobody did anything to argue with it; nobody did anything to stop it; nobody did anything to put any restraint on it. It just did what it wanted to do, but after an individual receives the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and the Holy Spirit comes to live in the heart, whenever the flesh rears its ugly head, the Holy Spirit rears His power and the two come in conflict one with another. Many times people are more conscious of sin after they are saved than they were before they were saved.

An Illustration of Intercessory Prayer

We want to limit our discussion, as far as this paragraph is concerned, to the illustration of intercessory prayer which it presents, because in this passage of Scripture there is a tremendous illustration of the power of intercessory prayer. I believe, actually, that is the meaning of the phrase, “Moses built an altar and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi, the Lord our banner.”

I say that this is an illustration of intercessory prayer because if you were listening while we read the paragraph, you noticed that Joshua prevailed against Amalek so long as Moses' hands were upheld with the rod of God in his hand. For a while Moses went up there on the mountain and he held his hands up himself, but his hands became tired; and when his hands became tired and dropped to his side, a change in the battle came into being. As soon as he raised his hands again, another change. As long as his hands were held up toward Heaven, Joshua won the battle. As soon as his hands dropped, Amalek the enemy began to win. So Aaron and Hur, the brother and brother-in-law of Moses, who had gone up to the mountain with him, set a stone down so Moses could sit upon the stone, and then each one of them got on each side and held his arms up until the victory was won.

Uplifted Hands, a Symbol of Prayer

The Bible is very plain that the lifting up of hands toward Heaven is not only a type of prayer but a very common practice in relation to prayer for some specific reasons that I think will become evident if we examine the Word in relation to them. I am going to suggest that you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Psalms, and notice with me Psalm 28. In this Psalm, we are going to have an illustration of this thing that I am talking about today. The Psalmist says:

Psalm 28

1Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.
2Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.
3Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.

Notice the second verse: “God, when I lift up my hands toward the holy oracles, Lord, when I cry with my hands lifted up, then Lord, hear me.”

We will see before we are through why the Spirit of God suggests that we lift up our hands toward Heaven when we pray and why Moses here on the mount lifted his hands up when he prayed. But the basic fact I would like to establish in our thinking is that uplifted hands are a symbol of prayer.

Related to the Atoning Sacrifice

Turn, please, to Psalm 141. We read from verse 1:

Psalm 141

1Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.
2Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
3Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
4Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.

Notice particularly the second verse:

Psalm 141

2Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Here you will notice the phrase, “the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” “The lifting up of my hands,” is a phrase that we have already noticed. We are talking about prayer, but here the lifting up of hands is connected with the evening sacrifice. Many were the sacrifices which the Israelites offered, as you well know, but the evening sacrifice was the sacrifice that was made for sin. It was the atoning sacrifice. Here the lifting up of hands is related to the atoning sacrifice to remind us that there is no entrance to the throne of grace to which we come to find grace and mercy to help in our time of need, save on the blood of Jesus Christ.

Prevailing Prayer

Have you ever noticed how often we forget that? I never like to criticize the way people pray, and I certainly would not want to be considered guilty of that because, thank God, He looks on our hearts. We don't always say things the way we mean them in our hearts, but have you ever noticed how many of us come to the Lord in prayer and try to get His favor by telling Him how good we are? Have you ever noticed how when we pray we say, “Lord, you know I have done this and done this, and you know, Lord, I didn't mean to do this. I'm doing the best that I can,” and on and on and on. Why do we do that? Because unconsciously we feel like we have to gain merit with the Lord. Really, if we were listening and the Lord spoke to us, He would say, “Look, I'm not interested in how good you are. I'm not interested in the fact that you meant well, but you didn't do so well. I don't hear you on that basis. The only reason in the world that I hear you at all is because my Son died and shed His blood to open the way to My presence for you. You don't have to waste all of that time telling me how good you are and how well-meaning you are. I'm hearing you purely because Jesus Christ opened the way.”

If we could remember, when we pray and expect our prayers to be prevailing, that our prayers are heard purely on the merit of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, our whole approach to the throne would be different.

Don't jump to conclusions. We can't deal with the whole subject of prayer in this little time that we have together. I'm not ruling out the fact that if we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us. I'm not ruling out the fact that the Lord's hand is not strong that He cannot save nor is His ear deaf that He cannot hear, but our iniquity separates us and God. I'm not ruling those things out, but I'm merely trying to emphasize today that the access before the throne of grace is based not upon our goodness, but upon the evening sacrifice.

And so when Moses came to the Lord in behalf of Joshua as he fought against Amalek, he lifted up his hands. As long as his hands were lifted up, Joshua prevailed. It wasn't a mere physical gesture that he made. He lifted up his hands at the time of the evening sacrifice, emphasizing what we all know, that the only way to the throne is the blood.

Lifting Up Hearts to God

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Lamentations, chapter 3. That is the lamentations of Jeremiah, and it follows that book. You will notice in chapter 3 of the book of Lamentations the same figure of speech that we are talking about here in relation to the lifting up of hands. You'll notice in verse 37:

Lamentations 3

37Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?
38Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
39Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
40Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
41Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
42We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.
43Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.
44Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.
45Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people.
46All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
47Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction.
48Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
49Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission.
50Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven.
51Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.
52Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.
53They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
54Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off.
55I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon.
56Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.

This is a sample of real intercession. Jeremiah couldn't pray. He couldn't intercede for his people and for his beloved city in a matter-of-fact, formal way, and that's why in verse 41, he said:

Lamentations 3

41Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.

There is an awful lot of lifting up of our hands. That's a mere formality. Anybody can do that—just lift up our hands, but Jeremiah said, “Oh no, it's not enough just to be lifting up our hands; it's necessary to life up the heart too.”

I don't suppose any of us have failed to be in a service sometime or other when we realized, figuratively speaking, that all people were doing were lifting up their hands. They were saying the words, but their heart was not in it. It was evident; nobody needed to tell it. It was just a mere lifting up of the hands. But in addition to the lifting up of the hands, there must be the lifting up of the heart. When there is the lifting up of the heart, there is a real burden, and you find yourself saying the words that Jeremiah said in verse 48, when he said:

Lamentations 3

48Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
49Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission.

Time and time again people have apologized to me for their tears. You never should apologize for your tears. God made your tears. He thinks that they are precious. He thinks that they are so precious, as a matter of fact, that He catches them in a bottle and preserves them for the Judgment Seat of Christ, and I think that at the Judgment Seat of Christ some of the judgments that are going to be made in relation to Christians are going to be based upon the tears that we shed. I don't mean just crocodile tears—tears that are shed just for the sake of shedding them. I mean when the burden is so great that the tears cannot be restrained. Jeremiah said, “I cry all of the time about these things as I pray. I lift up not only my hands, which anybody can do, but I lift up my heart as well.”

Lifting Up Clean Hands

Turn, please, to the first epistle of Timothy, because you are going to find the figure of speech that we have been noticing together carried through not only in the Old Testament but also the New, and in Paul's first letter to Timothy, chapter 2, verse 1:

I Timothy 2

1I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
7Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
8I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
9In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

We will stop our reading there because those verses of Scripture are sufficient. We are primarily interested in verse 8, where he said:

I Timothy 2

8I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

You see our phrase again, “lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” We noted that lifting up hands is related to prayer. We notice that the lifting up of the hands should be related to the evening sacrifice or to the atoning blood of Christ in figure. We notice the lifting up of hands must be related not only to a physical gesture but related to the heart as well, because mere formality will not accomplish it; and now in this verse of Scripture, we find that the lifting up of hands is related to three things. The word holy here is a reference to clean hands. When we come to the Lord, we have got to come with clean hands. Actually the early church practiced this, praying with hands lifted up, palms outward. It was significant, the fact that there wasn't anything in their hands; their hands were clean. They were saying to the Lord, “We're not out of fellowship. Here we are, Lord; our hands are clean.” It would be well for us to remember that if we are going to carry on the right kind of intercession and effective intercession, we must have clean hands before the Lord for reasons that I have already suggested, and we do not have time to go back over them now.

Notice the second thing in this passage of Scripture in relation to intercession—without wrath . The word wrath is a word that really means “without disagreement with one another.” Of course, you can't come to the Lord mad at somebody. He's not going to listen to anything you say if you do. You can't come to the Lord with some bitterness in your heart against someone else. If that is the kind of intercession that you are going to carry on, then certainly Amalek will prevail and Joshua will fail. There is no other way out. There cannot be any bickering and disagreement. I wonder sometime if we could see as God can see, how many of our prayers would we realize were not being heard at the throne of Grace because of disagreement in our hearts with one another?

Notice that these hands are to be lifted up without wrath, without doubting. That is without any questioning God. They are not to be lifted up with a lack of faith. For example, Moses could not have done a thing as he sat upon the mountain had he sat there with his hands lifted up saying to Aaron and to Hur, one on each side of him, “I don't know whether this will do any good or not, but I'm supposed to do it.” If that was the way that he had sat there, Amalek most certainly would have won the battle, but he lifted up his hands with full realization that it would be effective.

God Answers Prayer

Turn back to chapter 17 of the book of Exodus and notice the real name that we started out to look at in verse 15:

Exodus 17

15And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi:

Jehovah our Banner —what does that mean? It meant that he had set up a banner before the Lord, an everlasting memorial, because the battle with Amalek was going to continue forever. He set up a banner as an everlasting memorial to the fact that God could hear and answer prayer.

Turn, please, to Psalm 20 and notice how David followed the example of Moses and did exactly that very same thing:

Psalm 20

1The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
2Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;
3Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.
4Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.

Notice this verse:

Psalm 20

5We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.

This is our banner: “The LORD fulfill all thy petitions.” Moses set up a banner that day on the mountain, and the banner had the inscription, “the LORD fulfilled all of our petitions.”

Have you had such victory in intercessory prayer, that you can set up a banner like that? “The LORD fulfilled all our petitions.” I wish there were time to talk about how we have been able to set up a banner like that here, there and yonder. The Lord has answered prayer here, and we put up a banner. The Lord has answered prayer there, and we have put up a banner—the LORD our Banner .

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