Moses and Messiah: The Living Banners

     A banner, or standard, is defined as “a military ensign; the principle symbol of a head of state.” (1)  There are two different Hebrew terms to describe this banner or standard in the Old Testament.  They are “degel” (lgd) and “nes” (sn).  These words “Generally mean a rallying point or standard which drew people together from some common action or for the communication of important t information…People would rally together around a nes for various purposes one of the most important being the gathering of troops for war.” (2)  Each family and tribe in the nation of Israel had a banner (Num 1:52).  They were used to organize the army and to deploy troops.  These are the most common use of the words.  There are; however, three very interesting uses of the word.  One refers to Yahweh as a Banner (Ex. 17:15), the second refers to the “Nehushatan” or the bronze serpent that Moses constructed in the wilderness (Numbers 21:9).  Thirdly, Isaiah 11:10, mentions that Messiah would, likewise, be a banner to the nations.  It is the purpose of this article to examine the spiritual significance of these three passages.

     The Exodus passage states, “The Lord is my Banner.”  It occurs immediately following a battle between the armies of Israel and the armies of Amalek.  As long as Moses raised his arms over the battle, Israel would prevail.  When he did not, Amalek would prevail.  Aaron and Hur assisted Moses in the elevation of his arms and Israel wins the day.  Afterwards, Moses builds an alter and declares, “YHWH Nissi” (sn hwhy) The LORD is my Banner.”  The interesting point about this is that Moses was the standard-banner during the battle.  He was the living Banner that represented Yahweh.  He was the rallying point and the human representative of the Divine activity.  Commenting on this, the International Bible Encyclopedia states, “Perhaps the oldest use of this word in the OT took place at Rephidim where Israel battled the Amalekites and Moses himself, with arms outstretched, became a living banner symbolizing God’s presence.” (3)  Moses was a living banner.

     Similarly, Isaiah the prophet gives us a picture of Messiah.  He writes, “Then in that day, there shall be a Root of Jesse who shall stand as a banner to the people.  For the Gentiles shall seek Him.  And His resting place shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10 NKJV)  The root of Jesse refers to a Jesus the son of David, the son of God and He is a Living Banner that represents Yahweh.  (See my previous article regarding the Angel of His Face).  He is a banner for all the peoples of the earth to commune with God and find the glorious resting place of His salvation.  Finally, the Old and the New Covenant meet over a common banner.

     The people of Israel are plagued by an invasion of snakes.  They are bitten and on the brink of death.  God instructs Moses to build a bronze serpent and place in on a pole (making it a standard) for all the people to see.  The people, by faith, would look at the serpent and be healed.  This bronze serpent became a symbol of divine healing and restoration in relationship with God.  Jesus links the Old Covenant with the New when he identifies himself as the living banner.  He states, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that whoever believes will have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-16.  Thus, Jesus is the Living Banner of YHWH.  He is the prophet that Moses told us would come.  A prophet “like Moses” (Duet 18:18) who would be a living banner of God.  He is also the banner that calls the nations to enter into His rest by faith.  Moses was the first “living banner” and Messiah would be the final and fulfillment of the “Living Banner.”

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.       Webster, Noah, “American Dicitonaryh of the English Language 1828.”American Christian Education, San Francisco, CA, 1967.
  2. 2.      Harris, R. Laird; Archer, Gleason L.; Waltke, Bruce; “The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament” Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL, 1980, page 583.
  3. 3.      Bromiley, Geoffrey (chief editor), “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia” William Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, page 409.
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