Dating all the way back to Biblical times, armies used visual cues to identify themselves. Uniforms, armor, color, and other articles were all used to let everyone around them know who they fight for. One of the most significant and well-known items used was the banner, or flag. Picture a legion of soldiers marching in metal armor, above them a large banner displaying their kingdom’s color and emblem. Consider the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944 with their nation’s flag stitched to their shoulder, or the massive bow of an aircraft carrier cutting through the waves, with nautical flags hanging from above, signaling to every other ship her nation, mission and needs. Banners have been used over the course of history to unashamedly display one’s allegiance.
Throughout the Bible, we see that banners are used just as they are in the rest of history - to declare allegiance, or display nationality. Psalm 20 tells us that God will erect His banner over us when we trust in Him. Then in Psalm 60 we read that those who fear God will have His banner over them. Isaiah 11 says that Jesus will be a signal, or a banner, for all people. Yes, it is abundantly clear, that even from a small selection of scripture, that there is significant symbolism in the banner.
Now, as a modern day Christian, consider the banner of your life. One of the greatest, life-altering perspectives I picked up was to constantly consider what the imaginary banner over my head proclaimed. Throughout the day, I would stop to examine my situation, reactions, thoughts and plans, and ponder whether or not I was fighting for Christ. Think carefully about your banner. What does it read right now? If you were to go to war, by default, who would you be fighting for based off of the fruit of your life? Remember, Jesus says that love for Him produces kingdom fruit and obedience. It is not hard to look at the fruit of someone’s life and have a general understanding of who or what they fight for. I pray that my banner always reads “JESUS” but if I am being honest, often times it does not. It is when selfishness, pride and bitterness surface in my soul that the invisible banner over my head begins to change from “Jesus” to “Pete.” Therefor, the Christian must understand and embrace the truth that we may only ever worship one thing. You can worship God, or self. Jesus, or acceptance. Worry or faith. The list goes on, but you can never have both on your banner. Do not be fooled, Christian. Just as an army cannot hold multiple allegiances, neither can the Christian worship multiple gods.
In Exodus 17, Moses erects an altar to God and names it “Jehovah Nissi” or “The Lord Is My Banner.” Now, Moses had just come out of battle with the Amalekites in a well known battle where Moses held his hands up in the air as his men conquered their foes. Contemplate where Moses and Israel were coming from, though. They were not a heavily equipped army with the latest weaponry and tactics. A short while ago they were slaves and were fleeing their captors. They were shepherds and builders, seeking a land promised over 400 years ago. These were not warriors, yet they became victorious over their foes because the Lord their God was with them, and as Moses held his hands to heaven, it was clear that God was fighting for them. This is the reason why the altar, or memorial was built and named Jehovah Nissi. Because Israel knew that the only reason they were victorious was because God fought for them. They fought for God, and were part of His kingdom. Yahweh was their banner, and they were victorious because of it.
A good friend of mine, Chris, always has the banner of Jesus over his head when I see him. Now nobody is perfect or sinless, but I cannot think of a time I was with him that Chris acted out of selfishness or personal ambition. He is always quick to offer prayer to the strangest of strangers, and is completely unashamed of the Gospel. His stories of sharing the gospel with strangers inspire me, and challenge me to be bigger about my faith in Jesus. It is abundantly clear that when the banner of Jesus hangs high above your life, you will impact other’s lives in ways unimaginable. People will see Jesus in everything you do. What better way to worship God in your life than to display the name Jesus as a banner over everything you do - to make it clear to friends, strangers and even enemies that you speak, act, and live for Jesus?
Go to battle, Christian. The Word tells us to be in the world, but not of it. Therefor we should never have the banner of the world hanging over our heads. During the Civil War, the flag was treated as one of the most important pieces of warfare. As men fell left and right and bullets whizzed through the air, the flag of your side stood tall. A soldier would drop his musket, his only weapon, to keep the flag raised high because of how influential and important it was to them. It represented honor, commitment, bravery and courage. In the same way, Christian, we are to defend the banner above our head. Do not let selfish ambition or sin or temptation change what your banner reads. What are you willing to sacrifice to keep Jesus high above your life? What are you willing to lose, or endure, or experience, to ensure that your banner never reads something else? Jesus tells us that in order to do just that, we must deny ourselves. We must reject our desires, or perceived needs, and everything we want in life. We must pick up the heavy cross of Christianity and bear the splintered wood on our back. Enemies rise up when they see an army with a different banner. Prepare for war, and charge into battle knowing that God is with you, and that every time you sacrifice your desires for the banner of Christ, it is counted unto God as worship.