"The LORD my Banner."
He who undertook to accomplish our redemption fought the fight alone. Peter, with all his boasted ardour of affection, could not follow his Lord in that dread hour. (Johns xiii. 36, 37).
None could be with Him, much less take part with Him, in making atonement for sin. This truth was jealously guarded in the type (Lev. xvi. 17). If Peter had laid down his life, as he declared himself ready to do for his Master's sake, what would it have availed.? By the precious blood of Christ alone could he, or any, be redeemed to God.
But beside this aspect of the Lord's blessed work, which was wholly God-ward, and was submission not conflict, He had also in it real conflict with Satan, in order to annul his power. He took the prey from the mighty, Be delivered the lawful captive; and who could be with Him in this? As delivered, as redeemed from the hand of the enemy, as well as redeemed to God, we are called to continue the conflict. How vain the effort before! How vain the thought of fighting the Lord's battles in!
Considering the conflict which our Lord thus, in self-sacrificing love for us, endured, how little is required of those who are now called upon to " fight the good fight of faith." " Unto you it is given on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake;" wrote Paul, being desirous that the saints at Philippi should count such sufferings a privilege, and not simply endure them as having no alternative but to submit to a painful necessity. (See also Acts v. 40, 41)
And what real and rich grace it is, to call any to thus "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." Paul rejoiced in the privilege, and surely others also in their measure. He who, expressly addressing the sons of Zebedee, uttered the memorable words—" Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized," was perfectly aware that the warfare which they would presently be called upon to wage, would bear no comparison with His. Nevertheless, for their own sake, He was pleased thus to associate James and John with Himself in conflict, and they shrank not. Paul, also, as we have seen, that he might please Him who had chosen him to he a soldier, nobly withstood in an evil day; " taking pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake," the power of Christ resting upon him. Above all things, fervently desiring " to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto his death."
Beloved, He who met " the strong man armed " and overcame him, now leads His people on to do battle with an already defeated foe. He that loveth us is graciously pleased even now to associate us with Himself in conflict. Why, then, do we hesitate to put on the whole 'armour of God? Why are we so timid in the presence of the foe? If we shrink from "enduring hardness," how can we prove ourselves to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ?
The banner, " Jehovah Nissi," over, every believer in Christ Jesus, is proof against all the assaults of the enemy. Throughout the conflict He abides the confidence, and strength of the Christian warrior. Cold principles, however important, can never take the place of Himself, or give the purpose of heart which He so desires and approves; and while our eye is fixed on Jehovah-Jesus the enemy can gain no advantage over us. Fully aware of this he employs every artifice to attract the believer's gaze upon another. He is ever prepared to exalt some object before them which may prove successful as a counter attraction. Well might one say, " If Christ were apprehended we should cease to know what the world calls little or great. The pursuit of an empire or of a butterfly would be to us alike little."
But Satan would have us always pursuing something. The more laudable the object the more successful his wiles. Again and again he has ostensibly lauded and honoured those of the. Lord's servants whose devotion to the Master's service has rendered them prominent among their brethren. For what purpose? Simply in the hope that thus he may draw them off the one great work of glorifying Jesus, to seek their own glory, and then he will yet further exalt them in their own eyes, that self insensibly may get the place only due to Christ. Surely this was the aim in Acts xiv. 11-13; xvi. 17, but how utterly unsuccessful. Even if he fail with the servant, he will seek to allure his brethren to fix their eyes upon him, that they may cease to gaze wholly upon Jehovah-Jesus (I Cor. iii. 4, 5). Alas, in this he is often but too successful. Even the Apostle John needed to be cautioned not to worship a fellow-servant, though an angel (Rev. xxii. 8, 9). But the man that was born blind, young believer as he was, faithfully fought and overcame every form of this temptation. (John ix.) True to the light he had, he swerved not from the boldest confession of the One who had given him sight, and of Him only; and though cast out for his steadfastness, as a heathen man and a publican from the privileges of the fold, in this very thing he had the honour of following the Shepherd of the sheep (x. 4), and of learning " the higher mysteries of His fame" in communion with Himself as "the Son of God " (verses 35-38, Isaiah xlv. 22, Ps. cxxiii. 1, 2).. What encouragement to the youngest and weakest of us to-day! Christian warrior! " Take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore "—but ever remember that obedience is a soldier's most essential qualification. He fears, if a " good soldier," his commander's word more than he does the enemy's sword. He would far rather face the latter than disobey the former. So must it be with us. Christ must be obeyed as our only Commander, and His word our only rule. Suitable and wholesome, too, is the advice given by one fifty years ago—" Keep close to the simplicity of Christ; nothing will keep us from extravagancies but walking with Him. He always moved so seriously to the object He had in hand—the fulfilment of His Father's will."
To those beloved saints at Philippi who had " always obeyed " the Apostle wrote, still encouraging them in the conflict—" Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Paul might labour for them, but it was God alone who worked in them, and that was their power, whether Paul was present or absent, to work out their salvation—practical deliverance from the whole power of evil—right on to the end. The conflict is seen thus to be real and serious, since God alone can sustain in it.
Jehovah-Jesus had gone before them (verses 5-11), and He was now their banner over them, " Jehovah-Nissi." In obedience to His word they must, as in the presence of the enemy, take unto them the whole armour of God, make good use of those weapons for offence and for defence which God has (provided for the protection of every believer (Eph. vi. 13-18), and the final result would be victory. To what rich blessing obedience ever leads! May it be ours to fix the earnest gaze wholly on the Lord,. the Captain of our Salvation. May we "keep His word and not deny His name,"• who is able to give even to " little strength " to be more than conqueror, and God shall indeed be glorified in the conflict.