One of my favorite songs is “Orphan” written by a good friend, Ronnie Freeman. When I first listened to it, one line kept running through my mind: “Your love’s a banner over me.” I have been raised in the church – since my womb days. I’ve heard that God is my banner over and over thorughout my life, but honestly, I never really understood what that meant. As this line kept replaying in my mind, I decided to investigate and contemplate exactly what God’s banner meant in my life.
My first question came from the song line. “What connection is there between God’s love and his Banner over us (jehovah nissi)?” My answer began to form based on my knowledge of cheerleading. (Yeah, I know you’re thinking, “how did we go from God’s banner of love to cheerleading?”) Stay with me, it will all make sense in the end.
I cheered for many years while I was younger. Later, I spent the first four years of my teaching career moonlighting as the cheerleading coach at a rather large high school. One thing I am very familiar with is the idea of a Run-Through Sign. Some of you might not be so up on the cheer lingo, but basically this is the sign that the football or basketball team busts through at the beginning of a game. Cheerleaders work tirelessly on creating this monstrosity with markers and paper. They want it to be perfect. It’s words and pictures must intimidate the other them to the point of wanting to leave the field or gym. It’s catchy slogan informs the opposing them of basically this “Hey, we’re awesome and you’re gonna lose – that’s a fact!”
How is God’s love like that for me? The word says his love for us is perfect; and perfect love casts out fear. The banner (run-through) proclaims exactly who the team members belong to. God’s love for us should enable us/inspire us to do anything…the impossible..the unbelievable…the crazy…the sacrificial…the bold. In essence beat any enemy team! How should this banner work in our lives? If we truly understood the love of God, would we be so scared about what lies ahead of us…what game is about to face us..the injuries…the miscued plays…the unexpected scores for the other team…the fumbles…even a touchdown in the 4th quarter than indicates we are going to lose?
Consider Exodus 17 where we get the meaning of Jehovah Nissi: “The Lord is our Banner.” This came as a result of teamwork…Aaron and Hur were holding up the arms of Moses as they fought the Amaleks. After the victory, the instructed Moses to write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder…The Lord is our Banner.” I can just picture the Israelite “cheerleaders” painting their banner as they prepared to fight a daunting army. This banner would have stated their leader, their name, and their slogan. I’m pretty sure It would have read, “If God is for us, Who can be against us?! Goooooooooooo, IzzyNites!!!!”
Okay, so I embellish a little, but I think you get the picture. When we want to represent a country, school, organization or cause, we adopt its flag, its mission, its standards as our banner which represents our motivation, goals, standards, and allegiance. As Christians, God is our banner, representing all that He is. It has nothing to do with us, because without Him we are nothing. But with Him, we are EVERYTHING! When we stand behind a run-through/banner, we are saying that we represent all that that sign stands for. We are a part of something greater than ourselves. And when the Lord is our banner we sign up for the same thing…we are a part of someONE greater than ourselves.
God’s love as a banner means that we grasp and use the knowledge that His love is unconditional. It’s not about how we perform in the game. It’s not about how many plays we execute with perfection, but it’s about living and playing our best within that love. This should push us to do more, to jump off the ledge so to speak when He asks us to. It should give us the strength to realize that if God asks us to do it, he has prepared us, and he will empower us to succeed. At the end of the game, we WILL be winners!
Are you currently standing behind this banner and wondering if you can survive the fight on the other side? The game before you is one of trick plays, teammate letdowns, and poorly executed plays. You only needs to look up and remember that the banner of God’s love does not let you fail. Keep your eyes on Him and TRUST that the banner over you of God’s perfect love will enable you to execute WHATEVER plays lie ahead.
The run-through always provided a team with confidence, with drive, with just enough aggression to believe that the game was theirs for the taking. I submit that as Christians God’s banner over us should do the same. We run out ready for a victory, ready to execute the plays of his Love, Kindness, Joy, Peace, Patience with confidence. The game before us is one that He’s already won, we just have to listen as he coaches with the love that never fails and never lets us fail.