Flags are everywhere today. We of course have the American flag and state flags, but now more than ever there is a flag for everything—for elementary schools, for corporations, for sports teams, and for colleges. As a matter of fact, the next time you drive through your city just take a look at how many flags you see flying and you’ll become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of flags we have in our skies these days.
The giant quantity of flags has led to flags losing their meaning. After all, if a sports team’s flag is flying on the same poll as the American flag, what message are we sending here? But it wasn’t always this way. Back in the days of the Old Testament, flags had some real meaning and purpose to them.
Each of the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament had a unique flag that helped its residents know where they would be camping that night as the Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years. The Israelite army also relied heavily on the flags during the heat of battle.
First and foremost, the flags were used to help organize the army in their divisions and units before the battle began. But the true value of the flag came when the battle actually started.
Without walkie talkies, iPhones, or radios, the only way a general could have his orders reach across a massive army in a short period of time was through the use of a flag or banner. If the general felt the army needed to charge, he would order the flag bearer to move towards the enemy and the entire army would follow. If the general feared that defeat was eminent, he would order the flag bearer to retreat which would signal to all his soldiers that it was time to get out of there. Where the flag went, the soldiers went.
Unfortunately the “Christian flag” seems to be in retreat today. With all the new laws that our country has implemented that have flown directly in the face of the Word of God it’s hard to see how anything could change, how anything could get better. But the other day I saw this clip from the movie The Patriot and couldn’t help but think about the church today as it relates to one of the Lord’s names—“Jehovah Nissi,” which means “the LORD is our Banner” (Exodus 17:15).
While the whole army was in retreat, Benjamin Martin grabbed the American flag and charged back into the fray. Despite the odds that were against him, he knew that if he could just get that American flag back into the heat of the battle, the entire American army would gain new strength and return to the battle. And that’s exactly what happened. The Americans saw their beloved flag charging against the grain back into the fight and they couldn’t help but to be reinvigorated for the purpose of winning their freedom from the oppressive English regime.
What if we did the same in our generation? What if we made the Lord our banner, our identity, our courage? What if we charged back into the battle that is raging all around us to reclaim those that Jesus died for? What if we, through our continual love and outreach, started a revival in our nation?
It’s happened in the past and it can happen again if we faithfully carry the banner of the Lord’s love with us everywhere we go. It’s possible if the world stops recognizing the church for all the things it is against and starts recognizing the church for all the positive things it does. We were not called to hide our light under a bushel but to set it on the highest hill and let it shine for all the world to see (Matthew 5:15-16). We were called to be difference makers who charge into the world with the hope of the Gospel rather than retreat into the safe confines of our churches.
The Lord is our banner. And just like the flags in the Old Testament and the movie The Patriot, where the Lord goes, we as His soldiers go. And I can guarantee you that the Lord is not on the retreat. He’s not running from opposition or difficulty. He’s not anxiously pacing back and forth in heaven wondering if this war against evil can ever be won.
How can I be so confident that He’s charging forward rather than retreating back? Because I’ve read of a time when He made the ultimate charge against the enemy by sending His son Jesus to come down into enemy territory to change the tide of our eternities as He made the Lord His banner. He could have sat in heaven and let the war unfold as it may but instead He took it upon Himself to change the trajectory of our fate.
You see, God is on the offensive. He is a God who never retreats but always charges. He is a God who is in the heat of the battle beckoning His children—you and me—to do the same.
The Lord, who is our banner, is running into the battle for the souls of the lost today, will you follow?
Grant Gaines is the Dean of Men at the Kanakuk Institute and a proud Texan from the University of Arkansas.