Q. I read somewhere in the Old Testament that one of the Names of God is “Jehovah Nissi.” What does this mean?
This name gives rise to several GREAT lessons:
It comes from Ex. 17:15: “Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner.” (NAS95)
I would actually use the whole context to teach the lesson:
Ex. 17:8-16 (NAS95)
8 ¶ Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.
9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
10 Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.
12 But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.
13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner;
16 and he said, “The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”
This is a familiar story, and therefore just the kind of story we need to read again to gain additional insights. Most will likely remember the part dealing with Moses in prayer, and the assistance of Aaron and Hur.
But the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey would say) is this:
Moses built an altar to commemorate the great victory given to Israel by God in their defeat of their terrible enemy the Amalekites. He named the altar (in Hebrew) “YHWHNISSI” or “Jehovahnissi” – which can be literally translated in two ways:
1)”The Lord is my Banner” which is probably a reference to the lifting up of the rod of God as a banner in this action. The Hebrews, like the Assyrians and the Egyptians and other ancient nations had military ensigns (Num. 2:2, Is. 10:18; Ps. 74:4), we might call them flags or banners, which were set up on a pole as a signal for mustering troops. Here the “banner” (perhaps the rod) was a symbolic rallying point for God’s people in the midst of this great battle. It was something they could look to and visually see in the middle of the battle to be reminded of God’s presence. Moses is identifying that it was the power and the presence of God, under whom they had enlisted in this action, who was with them, who strengthened them, who gave them power and kept them together until they gained victory in battle. God did all of the work, therefore, Moses asserts, He should get all of the praise. The altar DOES NOT commemorate what ISRAEL accomplished, it commemorates what GOD accomplished.
2) “The Lord is my Miracle” – it was the Lord who brought them victory.
While either of these translations are valid, my personal preference is number one.
Many great lessons and parallels to Christ here, which I will leave for you to develop.