Day 23: Adonai Nissi // 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness
Hi there! This is day 23 of a series I’m writing this October called 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness. You can find the entire series here: 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. – Exodus 14:14
Sometimes I find it difficult to see God’s hand at work in my life in the middle of a crisis, even if it is easy to see Him at work in the lives and troubles of others. Maybe I’m too close to my own circumstances, or maybe the enemy loves to make us feel like God is taking care of others and leaving us out.
There are two passages in Exodus that tell a better story.
In Exodus 14, the Israeli people have left Egypt and are smack in the middle of a lot of uncertainty with Moses in the wilderness. Suddenly, they notice that Egyptians are coming after them. (As it turns out, slaveholders don’t like it when their slaves are freed.) The Israeli people are scared, tired, and lost, and in their humanness they cry out to God and to Moses, even saying that maybe they should have stayed enslaved in Egypt, because it would be better than dying out in the wilderness. I get this. I am such a complainer and get so bitterhearted when I am afraid or hurt, and I tend to blame others for whatever painful thing is happening. I hope to grow out of this, but for now, it at least helps me understand the Israelites a little bit.
In the end, the Lord protects His people by hindering the Egyptians from approaching and ultimately parting the waters of the Red Sea to lead Israel to safety. But it is Moses’ encouragement to his people directly before this that captures my heart.
“The Lord will fight for you,” he says. “You need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14
Moses could not predict the future any more than the Israelites could, but he trusted his God to move. I need trust like Moses’ to shoot deep roots down into my soul. Oh, how each new painful uncertainty would lose the worst of its bite and bitterness if I just took a breath and reminded myself, The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. It makes my muscles relax just whispering it to myself. I wish I could tattoo it on the insides of my eyelids.
Again, in Exodus 17, we see a similar scene: Israel and Moses in the wilderness, Israel anxious and scared, so thirsty they fear they will die. God in His compassion makes water flow from a rock, providing for their needs (which He has done before, but isn’t it difficult to remember that when we are in the middle of a crisis? I am so thankful for the compassion of God when I forget what He is like and He bends down to show me…again). Directly following this, another battle is mentioned: a battle against the Amalekites. God protects His people from perishing by honoring Moses’ faith – when Moses holds a rod in the air, Israel is protected in battle, and when his arms grow tired and fall, the Amalekites begin to prevail. So Aaron and Hur help hold up Moses’ hands for the duration of the battle, and Israel is safe. Moses names the battle site Adonai Nissi – often translated as The Lord Is My Banner. But the Hebrew words here hold beautiful layers of meaning worth exploring.
As followers of Jesus in our time, many of us do not have physical battles to fight, but our battles are against forces unseen. The enemy would love to sideline us and stop us from stepping into our callings. Our fight against this is very real, as are our battles against sin, injustice and cruelty in the world around us, depression and anxiety, financial struggles, grief over loss, natural disasters, and the voice inside our own heads that tells us we aren’t good enough or too broken to serve God. There are many battles we still fight. God wants to fight them for us.
The Hebrew name that Moses gave his battle site, Adonai Nissi, can be broken into two parts. Adonai refers to the Lord, and nissi is often translated as banner or flag. Nissi is translated this way because it is connected to the root verb leset, which means to lift up, raise, or carry. But if we dive even deeper and look at the same passage in the Septuagint, an Ancient Greek translation, we find the word for nissi is translated as katapheugō, to flee and take refuge.
Close your eyes, take three breaths. The Lord is fighting for you.
You can untwist the knot in your stomach. While you breathe and sit, He is near and active.
It’s okay to rest. While you sleep, He is awake and at work.
Oh, the hope that flows from these stories.
The Lord promises both to fight for us and be our hiding place. He will not leave us in our battles with those who seek to bring us down. He is with us always.
I think of a banner raised in war or in a parade – we hold it up to say who we are. In the same way, we must lift up His name and remind ourselves whose we are. Banners in battle can also send a message to the other side as a warning. Even if we cannot see what He is doing, Adonai Nissi stands over us in battle, covering us with Himself, and warns unseen forces that we are His and we are protected. The Lord our banner. The Lord our refuge, He who we can flee to. The Lord who fights for us.
We need only to be still.