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Twin Cities Destroyed!

The Power of Sin

God is angry with Sodom and Gomorrah–twin cities. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lives there and Genesis 18 is about Abraham praying that God will not destroy the cities. However, the sin is so bad in Sodom and Gomorrah that ten righteous people cannot even be found there. Consider this:

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door. (Genesis 19:1-11 ESV)

Note the power of sin. (And be careful how you talk with your children about this!) These men are so overcome by their lust that they can’t help themselves. They “wore themselves out” groping for the door all night.

Discussion: What kinds of sin are “dangerous” for you or your children. (This is a great opportunity to talk about technology and boundaries for it.)

The Power of God

Morning comes and the angels urge Lot to get his wife and daughters out because God is about to destroy the cities.

The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:23-29 ESV)

Discussion: Why did Lot’s wife die? (Because she looked back and longed for the sinful place God was destroying.) What does this say about sin’s power that Lot’s wife would risk everything? What does this say about God’s power that he would destroy those cities? How seriously does God take sin?

Talking Points: Why was Lot not killed? (Because Abraham prayed for him.) What role can you have in praying for family members and friends who go on in sin? How might God use you to pray? Who should be on your prayer list? What does this say about God’s grace and love that he would go to the trouble to rescue Lot?

The Redeeming Rainbow: Genesis 9

[8] Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, [9] “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, [10] and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. Genesis 9:8-10

The waters had flooded the earth and all of creation, except for Noah, his family and the animals safe in the ark, had been killed. This is not a cute children’s tale: it is a story of God’s divine judgment.

Discussion: Do you think God was fair in judging the world so harshly? What made this fair or just?

Talking points: Noah built the ark and (according to Peter in the New Testament) preached for 120 years. People had the opportunity to repent and they didn’t. When people don’t respond to God’s invitation for salvation, it isn’t unfair on God’s part–they are being ungrateful.

[11] I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  Genesis 9:12

Discussion: God established a covenant with Noah and all of creation. What is the difference between a covenant and a contract?

Talking Points:  With a contract, if one agreeing party does something in violation of the contract then it is considered broken. The whole contract becomes null and void. Basically the signers of a contract agree to hold up their ends as long as the other signatories hold up theirs too.  With a covenant, both parties agree to hold up their ends regardless of whether the other party keeps their part of the agreement. A violation of a covenant by one party doesn’t matter as far as the other party’s responsibility to continue to do what they agreed to do.

[13] I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. [14] When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, [15] I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. [16] When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” [17] God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:13-17 ESV)

Discussion: When we think of rainbows, what comes to mind?

Talking points: Notice that it is called a “bow.” Think of it as a “bow” for a moment without it being a rainbow. What is a bow used for? Hunting. Killing. Death. Now think of a rainbow you’ve seen. Which way is it pointed? Toward God! God put a bow in the sky, pointed toward him, to say that he would die before he would break this covenant with all of creation. And he made good on that promise. On the cross, Jesus died for the sins of mankind.

Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? If not, talk to a family member about how to trust Jesus as your Savior. The next time you see a rainbow, remember God’s faithful promise to His people–and to you!

In the Beginning

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5 ESV)

Every institution, every person, every team, every invention has its beginning, its own special history. Sometimes the beginning was intentional (most technology), and at other times accidental (a “mistake” in the kitchen that became the family’s favorite recipe.)

When the Bible speaks of the beginning of all things, there is a simple statement: In the beginning, God.

Discussion: What does it mean that “God” immediately follows the word “beginning?”

Talking Points: All of creation points to a creator. Divine design. The world did not come into being accidentally. If God is the “beginner” then all of creation is a reflection of Him. Not only does creation reflect God, creation glorifies him. Just as a work of art makes an artist famous, creation makes God famous. A sunrise: God’s work. A rainbow: God’s work. A beautiful waterfall: God. As creator, God is unavoidable. Everything points to him!

Verse 3 says, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Here we see the formula for creation: and God said…and there was.

Discussion: What does this say about God that he created simply by speaking?

Talking Points: God is all-powerful. We call this God’s omnipotence—his power over everything. God speaks and things happen. God doesn’t begin with raw material—all he needed was his will to create. What God wants, God can make happen.

Application: What is in your life that you need God’s power on? Share those needs with one another and pray for each other. Give your needs to the omnipotent God who simply speaks and creates.

The Banner Flies High

This is the complete story of Jehovah Nissi. Take time to read and genuinely pray the prayer at the end. God longs to fight for you.

Twins. Not one child, but two. And though they came from the same womb, they grew to be worlds apart. Their names are probably familiar to you. Esau, born first, loved to hunt. Isaac, his father, loved him for it. Jacob, riding out of the womb on the heel of Esau, hung out at the tents—a homebody of sorts. Rebekah loved him.

Esau could hunt, Jacob cook. Esau was passionate, emotional and sporadic. Jacob, cunning and deceitful. Isaac kept on loving Esau, Rebekah continued to favor Jacob.

One day. How a day changes everything. Esau, as the firstborn owned the birthright. He owned it for no other reason than the fact he was born first. As owner of the birthright, he knew that several privileges awaited him at his father’s death. First of all, he would receive twice as much of his father’s property as any other heir. His wealth was secure. Second, he received authority over the other family members. He became the new patriarch, the newly respected leader of the family. His authority would be in tact. Finally, he would receive the much-desired blessing from the father which secured his relationship with Almighty God. His spiritual heritage was pronounced. All because he owned the birthright.

One day. Esau came home from the field—exhausted, famished, weary. Almost home, he smelled lunch. Jacob was practicing his culinary arts again. The aroma of the freshly cooked stew floated through the dry desert air. Esau’s empty stomach screamed for food. His tired, aching body begged for relief. His mind listened to nothing else but their voices.

“Jacob, please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished,” Esau begged.

Jacob had plenty of time to fill his stomach and his heart with a devious plan. Seeing Esau’s desperate condition, he went for the jugular.

“First, sell me your birthright.”

Esau’s eyes grew larger than his stomach. Hunger overwhelmed him. Forgetting that in his father’s house was plenty of food, in his father’s house were servants who could have responded to his request for food, he chose a swallow of lentil soup— a simple stew of red beans. Where he could have enjoyed a leg of lamb, he gulped a mouthful of beans. When he could have feasted at Isaac’s table, he begged at his brother’s trailside soup kitchen. Overcome with emotion, Esau responded:

“Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?”

Jacob, wanting to clearly understand that he had so easily won the coveted birthright asked Esau for further assurance. “Swear to me.” The steam from the bean soup slowly wafted to Esau’s nostrils. Swearing that Jacob could have his birthright, Esau lunged for the bowl of soup.

Jacob served Esau for the last time. From now on, Esau would serve Jacob. With each swallow of the soup Esau’s birthright disintegrated into nothing. A full stomach gave way to an empty heart. Esau despised his birthright.


Years passed. Esau continued to hunt and his father continued to favor him. Jacob perfected his bean soup. Isaac aged. His eyesight grew dim. Death lurked just around the corner.

One day. So much happens in a day. Isaac called Esau into his quarters. “I am old and do not know the day of my death. Now, then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.”

Esau’s heart jumped for joy. A glimmer of hope shed new light on the emptiness. Though he did not have his birthright, at least he would receive the blessing. He readied his bow, filled his quiver with arrows, dressed in his best camouflage and headed straight for hunting ground.

Rebekah overheard the entire conversation. Her favor for Jacob overshadowed her respect for her husband. Her plan became her priority. Quickly she summoned Jacob, informed him of Isaac’s intention to give Esau the blessing and instructed him to choose two young goats from the flock. She would prepare one of Isaac’s favorite dishes and Jacob would carry it into him and receive the blessing.

“But mama,” Jacob replied, “Esau is hairy and I am smooth. What if my father feels me and discovers that I have deceived him. I will be a deceiver in his sight and receive a curse, not a blessing.”

“Do what I say,” Rebekah scolded. Jacob conceded.

Once again the pleasing aroma of a simple cooked meal paved the way for Jacob to receive what rightly belonged to Esau. He stepped into his father’s room.

“Father.”

“Here I am. Who are you, my son?”

“Esau, your firstborn. I have done as you told me.” Jacob hesitated—shocked by a shiver of fear. “Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.”

Esau had never gotten game so quickly and prepared it so wonderfully. Isaac hesitated.

“How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?”

Jacob continued resolutely in his deception. “Because the Lord your God caused it to happen to me.”

Isaac hesitated again. Something wasn’t right about this and he couldn’t put his finger on it. “Come close that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.”

Jacob’s heart skipped a beat.   Did Isaac know? He feared his father’s curse if his true identity were revealed. He walked timidly toward his father, arranging the goatskin that now graced his hands and neck so that his father would touch the hairy hands of Esau.

“The voice is the voice of Jacob,” Isaac stammered, “But the hands are the hands of Esau.”

Isaac blessed Jacob.

Another moment of doubt. “Are you really my son Esau?” Isaac asked.

Another lie. “I am.”

Jacob served Rebekah’s best. Young goat marinated in deception. Wine aged by dishonesty. An aging father, a desperate son, a doting mother and a deceitful brother. A recipe for disaster.

Isaac’s tired voice broke the silence. “Come close and kiss me my son.”

Jacob approached his father—again—and kissed him. The smell of the fresh goatskins pleased Isaac.

“See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine; may peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”

Jacob breathed a sigh of relief, gathered the leftovers and slipped out of the room.

Esau rushed in. His food prepared to perfection, he awaited his father’s blessing. “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” Esau waited.

“Who are you?” Isaac questioned.

“I am your son, your firstborn,” Esau answered, carefully indicating that he had been born first, though only a few seconds before Jacob.

The news shocked Isaac. He trembled in his bed. “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he will be blessed.”

The words pierced Esau like an arrow from his quiver. He cried out bitterly, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”

Isaac’s trembling body lay still. All that could be heard was Esau’s groaning and Isaac’s weakening voice, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.”

Esau, filled with rage, begged his father. “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing. Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

Isaac’s words stung like driving rain. “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?”

Dignity gone. Self-respect relinquished. Esau begged. “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” Esau’s weeping could be heard through the entire village.

Isaac’s feeble voice penetrated Esau’s sobbing cries. “Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling. And away from the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless that you will break his yoke from off your neck.”

A blessing? Esau hardly thought so. “Once dad has died,” he thought, “I’ll kill Jacob.” Anger gave way to revenge. Bitterness grew like a deep root in his heart, squeezing out his very life. He set his heart on killing his brother.


Time passed. Esau and Jacob died…but the bitterness lived on. Generations later Moses confronted the offspring from that root of bitterness. Esau fathered a son named Eliphaz. Eliphaz had a concubine, Timna who bore him a son. They named him Amalek. From Amalek, a people known as the Amalekites arose who became bitter enemies of Israel. Perhaps Amalek heard stories passed down from his father about Jacob’s deceit. Though Esau had forgiven Jacob (whose name had been changed to Israel), the anger and enmity between the Amalekites and the Israelites ran deep. The Hatfields and the McCoys were no match for the Israelites and the Amalekites. These cousins fought one another furiously.

Moses had just witnessed the parting of the Red Sea. Israel, pursued by an advancing army on one side and a raging sea on the other walked across on dry land. The same sea that became a dry bed for them swallowed Pharaoh’s army alive. Though the people had seen God’s hand in a mighty way, their celebration soon gave way to agitation when they ran out of food. They wished once more for the food of the Egyptians. Like Esau, their stomachs cried louder than the voice of their God. “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

God’s response: manna and quail. Every evening, the quail flew into the Israelite camp. Each family had enough to fill their stomachs. The next morning, once the dew evaporated, fine flakes of delicious bread, fresh from God’s bakery, with a dash of honey taste. What more could they ask? Perhaps a light, fluffy croissant dripping with honey would compare.

God’s provision. In His faithfulness, He provided. They moved on to Rephidim. The very name means “rest.” And the Israelites must have needed rest. Tens of years in captivity had come to an end. A pursuing army, a parting sea and the stubborn Mediterranean climate had taken their toll. And they were thirsty.

Rephidim. A river valley. Along this valley tall palms grew in long groves providing shade and rest for all who entered. Cool streams of water mixed with the shade from the palms created the most fertile place in the land. Towering mountains provided much needed protection from the enemy. Rephidim. A place of rest and refreshment. Here the Israelites would be renewed, revived, restored. Here they would receive much needed energy and refreshment. Here, their cousins showed up—the Amalekites!

They attacked Israel at their weakest point. The sick, the faint, the weary were their targets. Those who straggled behind the great Israelite host were suddenly attacked. Amalek, whose grandfather Esau lost his birthright when he was weary, now used the same plan of attack against the Israelites. Ruthlessly, the Amalekites sought to destroy the Israelites. Cousins bitterly engaged in war.

Moses instructed Joshua, his young recruit, to head the troops. This valley of Rephidim, refreshment and restoration, became the battleground of revenge for the Amalekites. There were no tanks, no hand grenades, no weapons of mass destruction. This was hand-to-hand combat. Soldier to soldier. Sword to sword. Man to man. The men of Israel confronted their cousins, the descendants of Esau. Moses, Aaron and Hur sat on the mountain nearby cheering them on. The Israelites were hardened men. Years of slavery had yielded strong muscles and resiliency. They could fight. The Amalekites were well-trained warriors. They knew how to fight—and win. The outcome was a toss-up—until God showed up.

Moses raised his staff toward the sky. When he lifted his hands, the Israelites won. When he lowered them, they lost. No other single factor controlled the outcome of the battle. Moses looked at the people he loved so dearly. To lose would mean the death of thousands of men, women and children. His own people, those he risked his life to lead from Egypt. His arms became weary.

Aaron and Hur stepped in. When Moses became weary, they lifted up his arms. They too recognized that the battle was not won by expertise, but by divine intervention. Winning or losing depended not on training, but on the God who had brought them this far. So they held up his hands. What a foolish thing to do! Winning a war by holding up your hands. Holding up one’s hands normally signified giving up, not overcoming. At the end of the day, Israel had won hands up.

“Write it down,” God said. “And tell Joshua that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Moses built an altar and called the place Jehovah-nissi, The Lord is my Banner. In the wilderness journey, on the tall mountain surrounding the valley of Rephidim, in the middle of the battle, the Lord became the banner for Israel. And not just any banner. The Hebrew word for banner suggests something that gleams from afar and was often a shiny piece of metal raised high enough for all in the camp to see. In the heat of the battle, when the sun struck the banner, it would glisten letting those engaged in war know that they were still in the battle—the war was still winnable.


What about you? Have you lost sight of the banner? Your faith so weakened by the battle that you can’t see the Son’s reflection?

“This is no ordinary battle,” you say. “You don’t know what I’m facing.” And you think God doesn’t understand either.

No one is free of the Amalekites. And often they are so closely related to how we live our lives that we fail to see them before they have attacked. Amalek was of the same flesh and blood as the Israelites. What is your weakness, your pet sin? Just when you have geared yourself up for rest and restoration, your flesh rears its ugly head. At your weakest moment, when you are straggling in your walk with Christ, you fall prey to temptation. Your head buried in the muck and mire of a bad decision, the banner no longer glistens in the sunlight. Hope escapes you.

Get up! That’s right, get up! The banner hasn’t moved, you have. The Son hasn’t gone down, you have. Look toward the hill overlooking the valley. Can you see? There hangs the Banner. You need no sun to reflect His image for He is His own light. There is no beauty that you should desire Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Though the battle rages long and hard and the enemy of the flesh persists in rearing his ugly head, the Banner waves. His name is Jesus.   In the cross, God demonstrated his power over the penalty of sin. You bear the scars of battle. He bore the penalty for those scars. He was pierced through for you. The penalty for your sin has been paid in full. No longer must you lose in the battle with the flesh.

Look to the cross—the banner. Jesus keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain. Free to all a healing stream flows from Calvary’s mountain. The blood that flows through the heat of the battle is not yours—but His. He paid the price. He is Jehovah-Nissi.

The cross frees you from the penalty of sin. One day you will be free from the presence of sin. Did you miss it? Notice God’s promise 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.”

One day. O, the difference a day makes. One day Jehovah-Nissi will return. Sin—gone. The war ended. Until then God provides a promise: “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.” The Lord will have war. And you are included in those generations. The battle is His, not yours. And I have news for you—He’s never lost. And He never will.

He knows the battle. He is your Banner—Jehovah Nissi.

Pray this prayer to Him right now:

Jehovah Nissi, the Lord my Banner, I confess that I have seen the battle as mine, not yours. I’ve tried to repeat the work of the cross. Too often I look at my problem and fail to see your provision. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Now, I lift up my head. I lift up my head to see Your face, your bleeding, hurting face. On your shoulder I see my burden, my sin, my battle. And I hear you say ‘It is finished!’ I know that the battle with my Amalek will continue. As long as I live, I’ll live with this flesh. However, I also know that you won this battle. The price for sin You paid. The penalty for sin You took. Thank You. Today and everyday hereafter I lay my Amalek before you. Fight for me. The battle is yours. Your warrior child.

Why I Love Lucy

Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the LORD and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. And Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. (1 Samuel 7:5-11 ESV)

The Israelites desperately needed prayer…for the enemy within (we have sinned) and the enemy without (the Philistines). Samuel interceded to God on behalf of Israel for their sin. No sooner had they repented than the enemy reared his ugly head. While they were gathering in revival at Mizpah, the Philistines heard about it and decided to attack. The people were afraid and Samuel prayed. God answered.

My dad has shared many times that he was anything but a model teenager. He lived a reckless life of sin. One night, while staggering up the gravel road toward home, having been on one of his many escapades, he heard cries coming from a small white frame house across the creek. “Who is up at this hour of the morning?” he thought. It was Lucy. In the moonlit night he stopped to listen to what Lucy Hensley was saying. Her words pierced the darkness–and his heart. She was calling his name out in prayer. “Lord, save Ross Lewis,” was her prayer.

God answered that prayer. That’s why I love Lucy. I have wondered many times where I would be if Lucy hadn’t prayed. What if Lucy hadn’t loved God and my dad enough to intercede on behalf of my dad?

I love Lucy. When I get to heaven I’m sure I’ll thank her.

Who prayed for you? And who are you praying for?

O the Difference a Day Makes!

No one is free of the Amalekites. And often they are so closely related to how we live our lives that we fail to see them before they have attacked. Amalek was of the same flesh and blood as the Israelites. What is your weakness, your pet sin? Just when you have geared yourself up for rest and restoration, your flesh rears its ugly head. At your weakest moment, when you are straggling in your walk with Christ, you fall prey to temptation. Your head buried in the muck and mire of a bad decision, the banner no longer glistens in the sunlight. Hope escapes you.

Get up! That’s right, get up! The banner hasn’t moved, you have. The Son hasn’t gone down, you have. Look toward the hill overlooking the valley. Can you see? There hangs the Banner. You need no sun to reflect His image for He is His own light. There is no beauty that you should desire Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Though the battle rages long and hard and the enemy of the flesh persists in rearing his ugly head, the Banner waves. His name is Jesus.   In the cross, God demonstrated his power over the penalty of sin. You bear the scars of battle. He bore the penalty for those scars. He was pierced through for you. The penalty for your sin has been paid in full. No longer must you lose the battle with the flesh.

Look to the cross—the banner. Jesus keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain. Free to all a healing stream flows from Calvary’s mountain. The blood that flows through the heat of the battle is not yours—it’s His. He paid the price. He is Jehovah-Nissi.

The cross frees you from the penalty of sin. One day you will be free from the presence of sin. Did you miss it? Notice God’s promise 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.”

One day. O, the difference a day makes. One day Jehovah-Nissi will return. Sin—gone. The war ended. Until then God provides a promise: “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.” The Lord will have war. And you are included in those generations. The battle is His, not yours. And I have news for you—He’s never lost. And He never will.

He knows the battle. He is your Banner—Jehovah Nissi.

Pray this prayer to Him right now:

Jehovah Nissi, the Lord my Banner, I confess that I have seen the battle as mine, not yours. I’ve tried to repeat the work of the cross. Too often I look at my problem and fail to see your provision. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Now, I lift up my head. I lift up my head to see Your face, your bleeding, hurting face. On your shoulder I see my burden, my sin, my battle. And I hear you say ‘It is finished!’ I know that the battle with my Amalek will continue. As long as I live, I’ll live with this flesh. However, I also know that you won this battle. The price for sin You paid. The penalty for sin You took. Thank You. Today and everyday hereafter I lay my Amalek before you. Fight for me. The battle is yours. Your warrior child.

Battle in the Valley, Victory on the Mountain

They attacked Israel at their weakest point. The sick, the faint, the weary were their targets. Those who straggled behind the great Israelite host were suddenly attacked. Amalek, whose grandfather Esau lost his birthright when he was weary, now used the same plan of attack against the Israelites. Ruthlessly, the Amalekites sought to destroy the Israelites. Cousins bitterly engaged in war.

Moses instructed Joshua, his young recruit, to head the troops. This valley of Rephidim, refreshment and restoration, became the battleground of revenge for the Amalekites. There were no tanks, no hand grenades, no weapons of mass destruction. This was hand-to-hand combat. Soldier to soldier. Sword to sword. Man to man. The men of Israel confronted their cousins, the descendants of Esau. Moses, Aaron and Hur sat on the mountain nearby cheering them on. The Israelites were hardened men. Years of slavery had yielded strong muscles and resiliency. They could fight. The Amalekites were well-trained warriors. They knew how to fight—and win. The outcome was a toss-up—until God showed up.

Moses raised his staff toward the sky. When he lifted his hands, the Israelites won. When he lowered them, they lost. No other single factor controlled the outcome of the battle. Moses looked at the people he loved so dearly. To lose would mean the death of thousands of men, women and children. His own people, those he risked his life to lead from Egypt. His arms became weary.

Aaron and Hur stepped in. When Moses became weary, they lifted up his arms. They too recognized that the battle was not won by expertise, but by divine intervention. Winning or losing depended not on training, but on the God who had brought them this far. So they held up his hands. What a foolish thing to do! Winning a war by holding up your hands. Holding up one’s hands normally signified giving up, not overcoming. At the end of the day, Israel had won hands up.

“Write it down,” God said. “And tell Joshua that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Moses built an altar and called the place Jehovah-nissi, The Lord is my Banner. In the wilderness journey, on the tall mountain surrounding the valley of Rephidim, in the middle of the battle, the Lord became the banner for Israel. And not just any banner. The Hebrew word for banner suggests something that gleams from afar and was often a shiny piece of metal raised high enough for all in the camp to see. In the heat of the battle, when the sun struck the banner, it would glisten letting those engaged in war know that they were still in the battle—the war was still winnable.

What about you? Have you lost sight of the banner? Your faith so weakened by the battle that you can’t see the Son’s reflection?

“This is no ordinary battle,” you say. “You don’t know what I’m facing.” And you think God doesn’t understand either.

No one is free of the Amalekites. And often they are so closely related to how we live our lives that we fail to see them before they have attacked. Amalek was of the same flesh and blood as the Israelites. What is your weakness, your pet sin? Just when you have geared yourself up for rest and restoration, your flesh rears its ugly head. At your weakest moment, when you are straggling in your walk with Christ, you fall prey to temptation. Your head buried in the muck and mire of a bad decision, the banner no longer glistens in the sunlight. Hope escapes you.

Tomorrow we will discover the hope for what you’re facing.

Battle in the Valley, Victory on the Mountain

They attacked Israel at their weakest point. The sick, the faint, the weary were their targets. Those who straggled behind the great Israelite host were suddenly attacked. Amalek, whose grandfather Esau lost his birthright when he was weary, now used the same plan of attack against the Israelites. Ruthlessly, the Amalekites sought to destroy the Israelites. Cousins bitterly engaged in war.

Moses instructed Joshua, his young recruit, to head the troops. This valley of Rephidim, refreshment and restoration, became the battleground of revenge for the Amalekites. There were no tanks, no hand grenades, no weapons of mass destruction. This was hand-to-hand combat. Soldier to soldier. Sword to sword. Man to man. The men of Israel confronted their cousins, the descendants of Esau. Moses, Aaron and Hur sat on the mountain nearby cheering them on. The Israelites were hardened men. Years of slavery had yielded strong muscles and resiliency. They could fight. The Amalekites were well-trained warriors. They knew how to fight—and win. The outcome was a toss-up—until God showed up.

Moses raised his staff toward the sky. When he lifted his hands, the Israelites won. When he lowered them, they lost. No other single factor controlled the outcome of the battle. Moses looked at the people he loved so dearly. To lose would mean the death of thousands of men, women and children. His own people, those he risked his life to lead from Egypt. His arms became weary.

Aaron and Hur stepped in. When Moses became weary, they lifted up his arms. They too recognized that the battle was not won by expertise, but by divine intervention. Winning or losing depended not on training, but on the God who had brought them this far. So they held up his hands. What a foolish thing to do! Winning a war by holding up your hands. Holding up one’s hands normally signified giving up, not overcoming. At the end of the day, Israel had won hands up.

“Write it down,” God said. “And tell Joshua that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Moses built an altar and called the place Jehovah-nissi, The Lord is my Banner. In the wilderness journey, on the tall mountain surrounding the valley of Rephidim, in the middle of the battle, the Lord became the banner for Israel. And not just any banner. The Hebrew word for banner suggests something that gleams from afar and was often a shiny piece of metal raised high enough for all in the camp to see. In the heat of the battle, when the sun struck the banner, it would glisten letting those engaged in war know that they were still in the battle—the war was still winnable.

What about you? Have you lost sight of the banner? Your faith so weakened by the battle that you can’t see the Son’s reflection?

“This is no ordinary battle,” you say. “You don’t know what I’m facing.” And you think God doesn’t understand either.

No one is free of the Amalekites. And often they are so closely related to how we live our lives that we fail to see them before they have attacked. Amalek was of the same flesh and blood as the Israelites. What is your weakness, your pet sin? Just when you have geared yourself up for rest and restoration, your flesh rears its ugly head. At your weakest moment, when you are straggling in your walk with Christ, you fall prey to temptation. Your head buried in the muck and mire of a bad decision, the banner no longer glistens in the sunlight. Hope escapes you.

Tomorrow we will discover the hope for what you’re facing.

Fighting Cousins

A blessing? Esau hardly thought so. “Once dad has died,” he thought, “I’ll kill Jacob.” Anger gave way to revenge. Bitterness grew like a deep root in his heart, squeezing out his very life. He set his heart on killing his brother.

Time passed. Esau and Jacob died…but the bitterness lived on. Generations later Moses confronted the offspring from that root of bitterness. Esau fathered a son named Eliphaz. Eliphaz had a concubine, Timna who bore him a son. They named him Amalek. From Amalek, a people known as the Amalekites arose who became bitter enemies of Israel. Perhaps Amalek heard stories passed down from his father about Jacob’s deceit. Though Esau had forgiven Jacob (whose name had been changed to Israel), the anger and enmity between the Amalekites and the Israelites ran deep. The Hatfields and the McCoys were no match for the Israelites and the Amalekites. These cousins fought one another furiously.

Moses had just witnessed the parting of the Red Sea. Israel, pursued by an advancing army on one side and a raging sea on the other walked across on dry land. The same sea that became a dry bed for them swallowed Pharaoh’s army alive. Though the people had seen God’s hand in a mighty way, their celebration soon gave way to agitation when they ran out of food. They wished once more for the food of the Egyptians. Like Esau, their stomachs cried louder than the voice of their God. “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

God’s response: manna and quail. Every evening, the quail flew into the Israelite camp. Each family had enough to fill their stomachs. The next morning, once the dew evaporated, fine flakes of delicious bread, fresh from God’s bakery, with a dash of honey taste. What more could they ask? Perhaps a light, fluffy croissant dripping with honey would compare.

God’s provision. In His faithfulness, He provided. They moved on to Rephidim. The very name means “rest.” And the Israelites must have needed rest. Tens of years in captivity had come to an end. A pursuing army, a parting sea and the stubborn Mediterranean climate had taken their toll. And they were thirsty.

Rephidim. A river valley. Along this valley tall palms grew in long groves providing shade and rest for all who entered. Cool streams of water mixed with the shade from the palms created the most fertile place in the land. Towering mountains provided much needed protection from the enemy. Rephidim. A place of rest and refreshment. Here the Israelites would be renewed, revived, restored. Here they would receive much needed energy and refreshment. Here, their cousins showed up—the Amalekites!

They attacked Israel at their weakest point. The sick, the faint, the weary were their targets. Those who straggled behind the great Israelite host were suddenly attacked. Amalek, whose grandfather Esau lost his birthright when he was weary, now used the same plan of attack against the Israelites. Ruthlessly, the Amalekites sought to destroy the Israelites. Cousins bitterly engaged in war.

Bitter Enemies

Jacob breathed a sigh of relief, gathered the leftovers and slipped out of the room.

Esau rushed in. His food prepared to perfection, he awaited his father’s blessing. “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” Esau waited.

“Who are you?” Isaac questioned.

“I am your son, your firstborn,” Esau answered, carefully indicating that he had been born first, though only a few seconds before Jacob.

The news shocked Isaac. He trembled in his bed. “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he will be blessed.”

The words pierced Esau like an arrow from his quiver. He cried out bitterly, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”

Isaac’s trembling body lay still. All that could be heard was Esau’s groaning and Isaac’s weakening voice, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.”

Esau, filled with rage, begged his father. “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing. Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

Isaac’s words stung like driving rain. “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?”

Dignity gone. Self-respect relinquished. Esau begged. “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” Esau’s weeping could be heard through the entire village.

Isaac’s feeble voice penetrated Esau’s sobbing cries. “Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling. And away from the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless that you will break his yoke from off your neck.”

A blessing? Esau hardly thought so. “Once dad has died,” he thought, “I’ll kill Jacob.” Anger gave way to revenge. Bitterness grew like a deep root in his heart, squeezing out his very life. He set his heart on killing his brother.