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Names of God #7

Jehovah-Nissi


NAMES OF GOD

by Nathan Stone (1944)


JEHOVAH-NISSI

     AND MOSES BUILT AN ALTAR, and called the name of it
Jehovah-nissi [Jehovah, my banner]" (Exod: 17:15). Only a few
weeks had elapsed from the time the children oś Israel left
Marah, the place of bitter waters, till they reached Rephidim,
the scene of Jehovah's revelation of Himself to them as
Jehovah-nissi, Jehovah my banner. At Marah, we will recall, in
healing the bitter waters of that place, He had revealed Himself
as Jehovah-rophe, Jehovah who heals, the one who alone has the
remedy for the sins of mankind, the balm for the sorrows and
sufferings of His people; who has sweetened the bitter waters of
human misery and death through Christ, the Tree of life and the
sweet and living waters.
     The children of Israel had gone from Marah to Elim, the
place of refreshing and rest (Exod. 15:27). From there they
journeyed to the wilderness of Sin (Exod. 16) where they murmured
against Moses because there was no food, and where they longed
for the fleshpots of Egypt. There, Jehovah appeared in the cloud
of glory and began to feed them with the wilderness manna. Then
they came to Rephidim where there was no water (Exod. 17). At
Marah the waters were bitter. Here there was no water at all.
"And the people thirsted there for water." Hunger is difficult
and discouraging enough to bear, but the sufferings and torments
of thirst are unbearable. Their murmurings and threatenings
against Moses were rather a tempting of Jehovah. They doubted
God. Forgotten, the marvelous passage of the Red Sea and the
drowning of Pharaoh and his hosts; forgotten, the miraculous
healing of Marah's waters! Ignoring the coming down of the manna
from heaven, they questioned God's goodness and even His
presence. "Is the Lord among us, or not?" they said. And there
from the rock in Horeb, that rock which Paul tells us was Christ
(I Cor. 10:4), Jehovah caused waters to spring forth to quench
the multitude's thirst.
     Then came the experience which occasioned Jehovah's
revelation of Himself to His people as Jehovahnissi. Israel
discovered that perhaps there were worse enemies than even hunger
and thirst. They now learned that their pathway was to be
contested and barred by implacable human foes. For "then came
Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim" (Exod. 17:8).

ISRAEL'S ENEMY

Who were the Amalekites?

     The Amalekites were the descendants of Amalek, a grandson of
Esau, we are told in Genesis 36:12. Thus they were direct
descendants of Isaac. Yet they became the persistent and
hereditary enemies of Israel, a thorn in the flesh, and a
constant menace to their spiritual and national life. Balaam
calls them "the first of the nations" (Num. 24:20), that is, to
oppose Israel. They were a numerous and powerful people. It might
have been expected that, as closely related to Israel as they
were, they would have afforded help instead of opposition. Yet
they opposed Israel in a most mean and cowardly way. Years later
Moses calls upon Israel to "remember what Amalek did unto thee by
the way as ye came forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the
way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were feeble behind
thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God"
(Deut. 25:17,18). God had bidden him write in a book the words:
"For I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under
heaven" and "Jehovah hath sworn that Jehovah will have war with
Amalek from generation to generation" (Exod. 17:14-16). For "the
face of Jehovah is against them that do evil, to cut off their
memory from the earth."
     Centuries later Samuel came to King Saul with a commission
from Jehovah to utterly destroy the Amalekites with all their
possessions so that not a trace of them or theirs should remain
(I Sam. 15:3). The failure of King Saul to carry out the command
to destroy Amalek (I Sam. 15:2,3) led to his own rejection and
death (I Sam. 15:26-28). When he lay mortally wounded on the
battlefield of Mount Gilboa, a young man, a stranger, came to
him. Saul urgently requested this young man to put an end to him
for he knew he could not live, and did not wish to fall into the
hands of his conquerors while yet alive (2 Sam. 1:1-16). By the
bitter irony of a just retribution this young man was an
Amalekite. The sinful thing which Saul had spared now returned to
slay him. Not until the days of King Hezekiah was the command
finally carried out, that "the rest of the Amalekites that were
escaped were smitten" (I Chron. 4:43). This is no doubt one
reason why Hezekiah was so favored by Jehovah. Yet it is highly
probable that the Haman, who a thousand years after Moses almost
accomplished the total destruction of all the Jews in Persia, as
told in the Book of Esther-Haman the Agagite, as he is called-was
a descendant of King Agag of the Amalekites, whom Saul in his
foolish disobedience sought to spare alive.
     The Amalekites were at that time living with their flocks
and herds in the vicinity of Rephidim. Moved by suspicion,
jealousy, and fear they resented the presence of such a multitude
of strange people in the wilderness and were determined to
prevent their passage through it. Thus they opposed the purpose
and plan of God. They had first carried on a sort of harassing,
guerilla campaign against Israel. Then apparently they came out
against them in open, pitched battle.

ISRAEL'S TRIUMPH

     Strange to say, there appears to have been no fear or
confusion among Israel in such a crisis. Perhaps the recent
miracle of the water from the rock had overawed them and inspired
them with confidence and trust. Perhaps it was easier to fight a
tangible foe of flesh and blood after the terrors of the
wilderness with its hunger and thirst and weariness. At any rate,
no hint is given of alarm or confusion. Moses calmly orders
Joshua to choose men and go out and fight Amalek. These enemies
of God's people, the masters of this peninsula of Sinai, thought,
no doubt, to prevail easily over this newly freed slave rabble
without supplies, without arms, without knowledge of the country.
For Israel was indeed an illequipped, ill-disciplined,
inexperienced mob going out against a well-armed and experienced
foe. But Amalek little knew the secret source of the calm and
courage of God's people. Two other factors, at least, must have
contributed to this confidence. The first is the man Joshua, whom
Moses chose to lead the expedition, a man of inflexible purpose,
of indomitable courage, an able leader and soldier. His name had
originally been Hoshea, a prince of the tribe of Ephraim (Num.
13:8). Hoshea means to give deliverance or help. But in Numbers
13:16 we read that Moses changed his name from Hoshea to Joshua,
which means Jehovah is help or salvation. Whether this change was
before or as a result of this event we do not know. But he must
have been a man to inspire confidence and courage. And we know he
was a man of faith, for he with Caleb were the only two of the
twelve spies who brought back an encouraging report of the
promised land they were sent to spy out. The second factor was,
of course, Moses himself, now vindicated and honored in the eyes
of the people after smiting the rock with his rod to bring the
waters gushing out of it. In order to encourage Joshua and his
men, Moses promises to take his position upon a hill with this
rod, the rod of God, in his hand. In the account we are told that
as long as Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and when his
hand was lowered Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were
supported. Israel was finally victorious and the defeat of Amalek
complete.
     Moses standing upon the hill with uplifted hands has
generally been thought of as interceding with God for the
vindication of God's cause in the victory of His people. This
factor of intercession suggested by the upraised hands was no
doubt present and important in Moses' attitude. But there was
something much more important than that, for in Moses' hand was
the rod of God, the God-given rod, the wonder-working rod, the
rod which brought the terrible plagues upon Egypt, which opened a
path through the Red Sea for the deliverance of Israel, and
brought the waters closing down in destruction on God's enemies.
It was the rod of God's mighty hand and outstretched arm, the rod
of the Elohim. How significant is this use of the name denoting
His creative glory, might, and sovereignty, the general name of
God, the name especially used in relationship to the nations
(represented here by Amalek) as distinguished from Jehovah in
relationship especially to Israel! Then it is the Elohim here,
with the definite article, the only Elohim, denoting that whether
Amalek acknowledged it or not, He was God.
     It is this rod, as the banner of God, which brought the
victory. What was the meaning then of Amalek's success when it
was lowered and Israel's success when it was raised? It was to
sharply emphasize and deeply impress upon Israel's warring
soldiers and her watching, anxious host that upon God alone
depended and to Him belonged the victory; that under His `raised
banner victory was always assured. No matter what the odds, then,
for in Moses' own words five should chase a hundred and a hundred
should chase ten thousand (Lev. 26:8). That rod was the symbol
and pledge of His presence and power and working.
     A banner, in ancient times, was not necessarily a flag such
as we use nowadays. Often it was a bare pole with a bright
shining ornament which glittered in the sun. The word here for
banner means to glisten, among other things. It is translated
variously pole, ensign, standard, and among the Jews it is also a
word for miracle. As an ensign or standard it was a signal to
God's people to rally to Him. It stood for His cause, His
battle. It was a sign of deliverance, of salvation, as we shall
see by the use of that word for the pole on which the brazen
serpent was raised in the wilderness. It is the word used by the
psalmist as "lift up" in the expression: "Lord, lift thou up the
light of thy countenance upon us" (Ps. 4:6). So, Joshua, that is,
Jehovah is salvation; the rod of Elohim held aloft in Moses'
upraised hand as God's banner o'er them; and the light of His
countenance upon them-these were Israel's victory.

THE WELFARE OF THE SAINTS

     Israel our Example. Israel's experience of battle is the
analogy of our own spiritual warfare. Amalek represents the
forces of this world order which stand opposed to Jehovah in all
ages, the rulers and princes of this world who have lifted up
their standard against the Lord and against His anointed. Exodus
17:16 reads: "Jehovah bath sworn that Jehovah will have war with
Amalek from generation to generation," but the original could
bear the rendering: "For there is a hand upon or against the
throne of Jehovah; Jehovah will have war against Amalek from
generation to generation." It represented the world which lieth
in the wicked one (I John 5:19). Its characteristics are the lust
of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John
2:16).
     Amalek was a grandson of Esau, who despised spiritual things
and preferred a mess of pottage to a spiritual birthright. He was
the first enemy to appear to a redeemed people. Israel had just
been redeemed, and baptized in the cloud and in the sea. They had
partaken of that spiritual meat, represented by the manna, and
drunk of that spiritual rock which was Christ, as represented by
the waters of Horeb. The newly born believer at once finds the
old man of the flesh confronting him in sharp contrast and
opposition to the new man of the Spirit within him, "for the
flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the
flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other" (Gal. 5:17).
The apostle Paul declared that in the flesh there is no good
thing (Rom. 7:18), and regarded it as a law in his members
warring against his mind, and seeking to bring him into captivity
to itself (Rom. 7:23). It is this flesh and its lusts which are
to be crucified in those who are Christ's, His redeemed (Gal.
5:24).
     The sphere of the conflict, however, as already indicated,
is wider than that of the individual. Amalek may also be said to
stand for the kingdoms of this world and their enmity to and
attacks upon the people of Godagainst Israel of old and against
the Church now. And the world is enmity to God. The kingdoms of
this world are not yet become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His
Christ (Rev. 11:15). There is a usurper upon the throne of these
kingdoms, the same one who opposes and exalts himself above all
that is called God (2 Thess. 2:4); who once tempted the rightful
King with the offer of these kingdoms if He would fall down and
worship him (Matt. 4:8,9). Amalek was, as already stated, simply
the firstfruits of the heathen, the beginning of Gentile power
and hostility to the people of God, representing the kingdom of
darkness as against the kingdom of light, of evil against good,
of a lie against the truth.
     God is represented, especially as Jehovah of hosts, as
lifting up a standard against the nations, of which Amalek is a
type. "Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain ... I have
commanded my sanctified ones, even them that rejoice in my
highness. The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a
great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations
gathered together: the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the
battle ... I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked
for their iniquity" (Isa. 13:2-4, 11; Jer. 51:12,27). But behind
every outward manifestation the conflict is essentially
spiritual. For the gates of Hell are ever assaulting the Church.
And "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the
darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high
places" (Eph. 6:12).
     Our participation in this warfare. There is a striking
contrast between the experience at the Red Sea and the 
experience at Rephidim. At the Red Sea, the children of Israel,
terrified at the sight of Pharaoh's hosts coming upon them, and
the way of escape barred on every hand, were commanded not to do
anything, but simply to "stand still, and see the salvation of
Jehovah" (Exod. 14:13). For in the work of salvation God alone is
the agent. God was here acting in redemption which is by grace,
through faith alone, and not of works. They could do nothing to
secure that salvation. But once having been delivered and
introduced into a new life there appeared a warfare to be waged.
They were to fight the good fight of faith which must ever be the
experience of every serious believer. That there are very many
who appear to think that nothing more is needed after the initial
experience of redemption is all too obvious. The  j experience of
Israel is to warn us against such a deadly fallacy. It is not
now, stand still and see the salvation   of God. That salvation
has been accomplished. Moses says to Joshua in clear, crisp
commands: "Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek."
Moses meant business. Too many people do not. We are not saved by
works, but we are saved to works (Eph. 2:10) and to a serious
warfare. At Rephidim a redeemed people must fight the good fight
of faith (2 Tim. 4:7). We are also told to "earnestly contend for
the faith" (Jude 3), although many have confused contend with
contention. We are to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, willing
to endure hardness, well pleasing to our Commander (2 Tim. 2:3,
4). We are to put on the armor of God, the whole armor provided
for us, to be ready for attack or defense (Eph. 6:11-17). And the
Christian, as John Bunyan has pointed out in his Pilgrim's
Progress, has no armor for his back.
     Failure in our own strength alone. Another lesson taught us
by the name Jehovah-nissi is that we cannot wage this warfare in
our own strength alone. When Moses' arms grew weary the rod of
God was lowered. The enemy then prevailed and Israel was pressed
back. The lesson is quite clear. The rod was the symbol and
pledge of God's presence and power. Lowered, it could not be
seen. It was as though God were not present, and therefore not in
the mind of the people. They were to learn that the evil forces
of the world are powerful and implacable, too great for man's
own, unaided strength. They could be strong only "by the hands of
the mighty God of Jacob" (Gen. 49:24). Moses learned how
indispensable God's presence was for victory and success, but
Israel forgot. When for their gross lack of faith they were
denied entrance into the Promised Land at Kadesh-barnea, they
repented, and were willing to discard the evil report of the ten
spies. When they attempted the entrance into Canaan, they were
told by Moses: "Go not up, for Jehovah is not among you." They
persisted, however, and were defeated and chased by the very
Amalekites whom they had defeated at Rephidim (Num. 14:42-45).
Israel suffered a similar defeat in its first encounter with the
enemy in the Promised Land. (Jericho was not a battle in the
sense of their active participation.) Because of sin God's
presence was not with them at the battle of Ai. They went again
alone and in their own strength, and were defeated. And God said:
"Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the
accursed [thing] from among you" (Josh. 7:12). Nor in the work
and warfare of our Christian experience can we do anything
without Him who is not only the Jehovah of the Old Testament, but
the Jesus of the New.
     Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be
losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God's own
choosing: Dost ask who that may be?
     Christ Jesus it is He; Lord Sabaoth is His Name, From age to
age the same, And He must win the battle.
     We must be "strong in the Lord and in the power of his
might." Then we may put on the whole armor of God and go
confidently forth to wrestle with the enemy (Eph. 6:10-12).
The victory assured. The banner of Jehovah held aloft in Moses'
upraised hand brought victory to His people. As they beheld that
rod they must have been assured of victory. This is always
assured to the people of God over the powers of evil and the
enemy of our souls when His banner is over us. Before every
battle of olden days the priest would approach the people in
behalf of God and would say: "Hear, O Israel, ye approach this
day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint,
fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of
them; for Jehovah your God is he that goeth with you, to fight
for you against your enemies, to save you" (Deut. 20:3,4). "The
Lord is on my side; I will not fear what man can do unto me" (Ps.
118:6). The rod in Moses' hand, however, was only a symbol. Moses
called the name of the attar which he built Jehova-nissi-Jehovah,
Himself, is my banner. Isaiah predicts a rod to come forth out of
the stem of Jesse. This stem or root is also Himself to be an
ensign, a banner of the peoples. That stem of Jesse is Christ,
born of the seed of David according to the flesh (Rom. 1: 3). He,
therefore, is our banner, the banner of our redemption. When
Moses lifted up a brazen serpent in the wilderness so that all
who had been bitten by serpents might look and live, the word
used for the pole on which he raised it is our word banner. The
Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent
in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up"
(John 3:14). So the cross of Christ is our banner of God's mighty
power in redemption. But He is also the banner of our warfare. He
has conquered before us; "in the world ye shall have tribulation:
but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
He, too, promises His presence. "Lo, I am with you all the days,
even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20). Faith in Him is
the assurance of our victory, for "this is the victory that
overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4). Our faith is
in Him whom Paul tells us has been placed "far above all
principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name
that is named" (Eph. 1:19-22), so that in Him we may successfully
wrestle against those principalities and powers of evil. "If God
be for us, who can be against us?" For "we are more than
conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:31,37).
     With Jehovah-Jesus, our banner, we may go from strength to
strength with each victory and we may say: "Thanks be to God,
which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I
Cor. 15:57), and "always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (2 Cor.
2:14).

     And tho' this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to
     undo us; We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to
     triumph through us: The prince of darkness grim, We tremble
     not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is
     sure, One little word shall fell him.

                          ......................


To be continued


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