As young girl of six or seven, living in the mountains, I was very much a tomboy. Being my dad yearned to have a son, but ended up with three daughters, may have caused some of my tomboyish ways. Daddy was a teacher, and for one learning session he took us, the handful of students from his one room schoolhouse, down the hill to the meadow across the highway. He led us to the small creek, lined with fuzzy brown cattails. There he caught a small harmless snake as it soundlessly slithered through the grass. Dad said that the snake was harmless and I believed him. Feeling very brave, I begged Daddy to let me carry it back to the schoolhouse, and with a wry smile he handed the colorful little snake to me. But the little girls who saw the snake, squealed and scattered. So naturally, I began to chase them with the snake held out in front of me, laughing all the while.
That was one incident, decades ago. Today, snakes are not my favorite thing, I definitely would not play with one, especially one the size of this. In some countries snakes are revered. The devil took the form of a snake to entice Eve to commit the first human sin. GOD put a special dislike of snakes in women, back then in the Garden (Genesis 3:15) as HE began to reveal some of HIS strategy in dealing with sin.
The Jews were cruelly treated slaves in Egypt, they cried out to the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, and HE sent Moses to deliver them. He brought them out by doing many miracles. But they had two major weaknesses. The Jews had very short memories, they forgot how cruelly they had been treated in Egypt, and forgot all the wonderful miracles that GOD had done through Moses, to deliver them out of bondage. But, the biggest problem, the underlying problem, was that they didn’t really trust GOD, or Moses. Over and over again, problems came up, and instead of asking GOD for help, they murmured and complained, and cried out, “Where is GOD?” Even so, GOD, in HIS great mercy, always came through and met their need. HE fed them with manna (angels food) from heaven, and once when they didn’t have water, GOD told Moses to strike a rock and out gushed water. There was enough water for all to quench the thirst and being there was over a million people, plus all their cattle and sheep that meant a lot of water!
When an army came against them, Moses went to stand on a hill with the rod of GOD in his hand, and Joshua led the Jews into battle. When Moses lifted up his hand to the LORD, the Jews prevailed in the battle, when his hand came down, the enemy prevailed. Since Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses helping him hold up his hands up to the LORD. Because of that, the Jews won a mighty victory. Moses built an altar there, and called it YAHWEY Nissi–the LORD is my Banner. “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD” (Exodus 17:8-16). They had looked to GOD for help.
This Hebrew word for banner is NES. Nes means that which shines, or is lifted up. The Nes was a banner raised on special occasions, always on some elevated place, or object. It was used as a rallying point to call the whole people together, to hear some vital message, or to assemble the people for some important action. Therefore, Moses was announcing that the LORD HIMSELF is the rallying point for HIS people. They are to look to HIM in difficult, and impossible situations.
Even after seeing GOD deliver them over and over, providing them with food and water, fighting their enemies, the Israelites continued to murmur and complain. They were sick and tired of daily problems, and delays (sound familiar)? They were discouraged, impatient, feeling they had reached the limit of their endurance. Plain and simple, they forgot all GOD had done for them. They trusted GOD to get them out of Egypt, but didn’t trust GOD to fight their battles, or meet their needs.
Many look at what GOD did next as punishment, but the way I see it is, GOD had to teach them to trust HIM. Opportunities to trust, mean problems. To learn to trust, you must have situations where you need to trust. So every time they failed the test, it meant another round in the Wilderness, before GOD could do for them all the wonderful things HE wanted to do for them.
One time the people became very discouraged because of the way and spoke against GOD and Moses. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among them. When a person got bit, they died. Immediately the people understood it was their murmuring and complaining that had caused this, so they ran to Moses and begged him to pray to the LORD for them. GOD told Moses to do a strange thing. HE told him to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole (nes) and put in on a high place, so all the millions of Jews could see it. If someone got bit, all he had to do was to look at the snake on the pole. If he did, he would live. But, if he didn’t believe it would help, and refused to look at the snake that was lifted up, he would die. (Numbers 21:4-9).
JESUS talked about that very snake on a pole. HE said, “As Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man (JESUS) must be lifted up. That whosoever believes in HIM, should not perish but have eternal life. For GOD so loved the world that HE gave HIS only begotten SON that whosoever believes in HIM, should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16).
Just as the Jews had to look to the snake on a pole, to be cured from the deadly snake bites; so we must look to JESUS, who carried our sin on the cross, to be cured/ forgiven of our sins and made righteous (Romans 3:20-22). The LORD was Moses’s banner (nes), the focus point to win the battle, The snake on the nes was the focal point to the Jews who got bit by a snake, so JESUS is our banner (nes), the focus point to be saved from our sins (Matthew 1:21).
Did you notice it was the murmuring and complaining that got the Jews into trouble? It showed that they didn’t trust GOD. Do you, do I, murmur and complain? Or do we look to YAHWEY Nissi-the LORD our Banner- trusting HIM to know best and to deliver us? Is the LORD JESUS your banner?
Looking unto JESUS, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.