Recently, I’ve had conversations with friends and family, all who know people who are walking through the wilderness of suffering: cancer, heartache over issues with kids, fractured marriages, and strained friendship.
Meanwhile, the challenges of COVID-19, racial injustice, riots, polarized politics, and wonky weather patterns fill the news reports. I even heard recently on the news that an asteroid is going to come dangerously close to earth in November. Wow!
Needing encouragement, I opened my Bible to the book of Psalms. The psalmist’s words in Psalm 60 jumped off the page at me: “You have shown your people desperate times; You have given us wine that makes us stagger.” My spirit cried, “Yes!”
Thankfully, the psalmist doesn’t leave it there. He goes on to write:
But, for those who fear you, you have raised a banner... – Psalm 60:3-4
So, what comfort is a banner?
You might be thinking, “If an asteroid is going to hit, I need a bunker, not a banner!” I understand, but let’s take a closer look.
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The Context of ‘The Lord Is My Banner’ in Battle
The children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness on their way to the promised land when the Amalekites attacked (Exodus 17:8). Moses sent Joshua to lead the army into battle but told him that he would stand on the top of the hill overlooking the battle with his arms raised to the Lord.
As long as Moses kept his arms raised in worship, the Israelites were winning. If Moses’s arms started to drop, the Israelites started to lose the battle. When Aaron, Moses’s brother, noticed this trend, he and Hurr climbed the hill and put a rock under Moses to sit on. Aaron and Hurr then stood on either side of Moses holding up his arms.
As a result, the Israelites defeated the Amalekites. After the incredible victory experienced on the battlefield, Moses built an altar to the Lord and called it, “The LORD is my Banner” (Exodus 17:15).
As I’ve thought about this story, I realize it has huge implications for you and me today.
Many of Us Feel Like We’re in the Wilderness
As if the circumstances of the wilderness aren’t enough, there’s an unexpected attack. Perhaps, circumstances feel very dark in your world. It could be that just when things were finally going well in your marriage, the unexpected strain of working from home has brought new friction.
Or you’ve been fighting the invisible enemy of cancer. Or maybe you just felt like you were getting to a good place financially, and unexpectedly you lost your job.
Maybe, you were so excited to finally get all the kids back in school only to discover that online learning at home is your only option due to COVID-19 restrictions. Ah, desperate times. You feel like you’re stuck in the wilderness with a battle on your hands.
What exactly does it mean that the LORD is your banner today in your personal wilderness? Here are four truths to embrace:
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1. God As Your Banner Means His Purpose Stands Firm
When troops went into battle, a banner was raised as a rallying point and proof of their purpose. On the battlefield, soldiers could become easily confused and lose their sense of direction. They would look for the banner as a focal point. The banner would call them back and re-align them with their sense of purpose.
Sometimes, in the wilderness of our suffering, we become confused. We feel lost. Questions pummel our minds. It’s easy to become distracted and lose our focus.
Here’s the thing: God’s purposes stand firm. He has appointed you and anointed you to join Him in making His love known to the world. When you become confused, fix your focus on God as your banner and come back to center yourself in Him.
The author of Hebrews put it this way: “Fix your eyes on Jesus!” (Hebrews 12:2). As we keep our eyes fixed on our banner—Jesus Christ—we are able to follow Him and His purposes.
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2. God As Your Banner Means He is With You through Every Trial
When Joshua fought the Amalekites, Moses kept his arms lifted towards heaven in worship as a reminder to the people of Israel that God had not abandoned them! God was with them and He deserved all the honor, glory, and praise.
By keeping his arms lifted towards heaven, Moses was honoring God as the ever-present One.
When you feel like you’ve been shown desperate times and been made to drink wine that makes you stagger, it’s easy to feel abandoned. The enemy of your soul wants to discourage and defeat you. He sends doubts and you wonder, “Where is God? And why doesn’t He step in and do something!”
Friend, God raises a banner over you to remind you that His presence is with you. He is fighting for you. He has promised He would never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). That promise still holds true today.
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3. God As Your Banner Means His Provision Sustains You
All that you need He will provide. How do I know? He promises that He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). Sometimes, when the battle feels intense, we don’t even know what we need. We just know we feel desperate. In those moments, Jehovah Nissi—Our Banner—is Jehovah Jireh—Our provider. He is more than able to give exactly what we need to sustain us.
In the wilderness, when Moses felt so tired that his arms began to slip and fall, God provided Aaron and Hurr to sustain him by holding up his arms. In the wilderness, when the children of Israel didn’t know which way to go, God provided the cloud of His presence by day and the fire of His presence by night to lead and guide them.
You might feel like you’re not going to make it through this present wilderness. You might feel like your faith is slipping or confused about which way to go. God’s provision will sustain you.
He will bring people to encourage your heart and lift your arms when you feel weary. He will provide unexpectedly for your financial needs. He will open unexpected doors. He will bring hope when you feel hopeless.
He will lead you safely through the wilderness. Look for His provision.
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4. God As Your Banner Means His Protection Brings Victory
It’s easy after the year we’ve had to fall into negative thinking and wonder, “Is evil winning?” No! We are promised that our Jesus is and will be victorious! I remember when my husband, Steve, was showing the Jesus film in Southern Sudan. A crowd had gathered. When the film came to the part where Jesus was being whipped, Steve heard a “click” and hundreds in the crowd ran for their lives.
There stood a soldier with tears streaming down his face and a gun pointed at the screen. Steve went over to him and gently put his hand on the barrel of the gun to lower it. He whispered, “It’s okay. We win!”
The soldier put his gun away and fell to his knees sobbing. He watched the rest of the movie in spellbound attention. The troubles in your life might feel overwhelming. I have good news for you—we win!
We win because in Christ, under His banner, we have protection from the enemy. As He is victorious, we are victorious.
Friend, may I ask you: What’s the battle you’ve been fighting recently? Does the news have you feeling overwhelmed and defeated? Do you feel your faith slipping? Jesus quietly whispers, “My Beloved Child, it’s okay! Keep your eyes on the banner. My purposes stand firm, my presence goes with you, my provision is enough for you, and my protection will ultimately bring victory. I am with you and for you. We win!”
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Becky Harling has a degree in Biblical Literature and is a sought-after speaker and Bible teacher at women's conferences and retreats. Through her writing, Becky creatively combines deep biblical insight with her powerful testimony and the stories of other women. Her life experiences as a pastor's wife, parent of four adult children, grandmother of five grandchildren, women's ministries director, and survivor of breast cancer and sexual abuse bring depth to her message. Becky is a gifted communicator with a passion for helping women find hope, healing, freedom, and transformation through Jesus Christ. She is the author of Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom From Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge, The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents, and How to Listen So People Will Talk.