First Congregational Church
March 22, 2020
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Facebook Live Inaugural Venture
Genesis 22:14, Exodus 17:1-15
“A Rose by Any Other Name: Yahweh Yireh and Yahweh Nissi”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
For those of you who would like to follow the scripture passage this morning, I’ll give you a heads-up that it will be Exodus 15:1-17. Exodus 15, 1-17.
Over the course of the last weeks, our church family has been exploring some of the names of God. We’ve looked at six names so far, and I’m beginning to think that at least I might appreciate a scorecard at this point. So I came up with something kind-of like that.
God’s most proper and holy name is Yahweh. I know the color isn’t great, but it’s a picture of a formal dinner setting - wine glass, water glass, champagne glass, white linen, the whole nine yards or however many yards are needed for a single tablecloth.
The name, Elohim, pertains to the power and might of God, especially as it pertains to creating. We don’t think of a chef having ‘power and might,’ but they do, just in a different way than we usually think of power and might.
Abba is the Bible’s “familiar” name for God. It actually translates as “daddy,” and it was that form of God’s name that Jesus called out when he was on the cross, because when we’re in pain, often times we go back to those things that are basic and even primal.
El Elyon is the name that refers to God’s high domain. It’s not necessarily one of actual place, but it certainly the idea that “God” is over all.
El Roi is the “God Who Sees.” This doesn’t translate into a God who just waits to catch us making a mistake, but a God who sees our circumstances, with compassion and understanding.
El Shaddai means God Almighty, the part of God where we can rest in peace and safety, regardless of what is going on around us. I realize that this idea of food and God’s provision is quite close to being trite, but it helps our brains begin the extrapolation of just how big and complex and personal our God is.
Today we get to Yahweh Yireh, which means “The Lord Will Provide,” and Yahweh Nissi, which refers to the Lord as our banner, meaning protector. I have to admit, I thought the graphic for Freezer Wrap, Press’n Seal and Cling Wrap was quite clever, because if you were to unroll them, they’d be like long, quite skinny ‘banners.’
Before we get to this morning’s scripture passage, I thought it would be good for all of us to recall that the reason water never laughs at jokes is because water isn’t a fan of dry humor. Water - dry - humor.
I’m guessing that not everyone realizes the ease knowing if an ant is a boy or a girl, because everyone knows that if you toss a girl ant into water, it will sink, and if it floats, it’s a bouyant. Boy ant, bouyant.
The backdrop to this morning’s scripture passage is that while Moses and the Israelites were strolling through the desert, just after God had arranged for the menu of manna and quail, after leaving the eastern coast of the Gulf of Suez, they started to head east, into the heart of the desert proper. They had spent some time in an area of the Sinai Peninsula known then as the Desert of Sin, which is a name not related to the general meaning of a “transgression.”
Our passage will deal with the great and ancient enemy of the Israelites, the Amalekites. As Israel is to Israelites, Amalekites are to Amalek. They are said to have been descended from a grandson of Esau, making them some of the oldest enemies of the Chosen People.
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
The Amalekites Defeated
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against[c] the throne of the Lord,[d] the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
Earlier in the passage, it said the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. Just change a couple of words, and it becomes, the people were thirsty for toilet paper, and they grumbled against the virus. That being a specific, the general would be, the people were thirsty for normalcy, and they grumbled against change. Or people get thirsty for peace and they grumble against fear.
Whatever the specific reality for us, after such an ordeal, Moses ordered an altar built, and called it Yahweh Yireh, The Lord Is My Banner. It’s doubtful that Moses, Joshua, Aaron or Hur could have anticipated a “successful” solution involving hands and literally “helping hands” - from afar. Who among us, in our rightful minds, would think to try such a plan when faced with the possibility of being overrun? And who, among them, in the middle of such a “plan” would have thought it even a remote possibility of succeeding?
Yahweh Yireh, The Lord Will Provide.” In one of the gruesome and even confounding passages, God provided a ram, instead of Abraham sacrificing his son. God provided Abraham and Sarah a child, when it was well past the time of feasibility. God provided a world and a vast menu for Adam and Eve, even though the focus - for a bit - became that one forbidden fruit. From before the beginning of time, God has been providing for us. When our lives become different, or something scary happens, our human nature is to jump to the dire, rather than the real.
God truly answers our prayers, just not always the way we’d really like, or even in ways we can easily recognize. But our side of life doesn’t even begin to realize the length and breadth and depth of how God provides for so much more than we realize. From planting, harvesting and production of little sesame seeds on buns, to the provision of means of transport and barter, God has provided humanity with brains and curiosities and abilities to provide even the most common of items. And our altars of thankfulness become banners of appreciation when we give God our gratitude for all the pieces of this thing we call life.
For those who were never fortunate enough to have Star Trek as their afternoon babysitter as a kid, you perhaps don’t realize how many people grew up with the idea of a complete plate of food coming out of a place that looked like a dumb waiter or a nook in a wall that could have been construed as a futuristic elevator. Such things sort of magically appeared and rarely, if ever, was any real big deal made of it. Granted, we have modern vending machines that can accommodate a credit card. And there were days when a quarter could get you a cold bottle of pop out of a cold case that required you to slide the bottle along the galvanized steel bars that held the bottles in place. But behind even those inanimate and very impersonal objects is Yahweh Yireh, the Lord Who Provides.
And as crazy as some of God’s answers to our prayers are, our God still wraps us in banners - of concern and care and grace and love. As unlikely as it may seem in any particular moment, our God wraps us in healing and peace and comfort - sometimes in the goofiest of manners - sometimes even in the watching of a Facebook Live event from our own home. And if God has provided and so wrapped God’s people in days before, why would God stop now? Based on God’s fulfillment of past promises fulfilled, we can trust that God will continue to do so in the days to come, regardless of how those days might look. For such promise and anticipation, let us pray.
Yahweh Yireh, Yahweh Nissi, God of Provision and Banner, thank you that we get to be witnesses to such fulfillment of promises that gives way to reassurance for each step and breath and thought that we are given. Each and every one of us could have been born at a different time, and yet you determined the best time for each of us - to see your might, and power and grandeur and familiarity and nobleness and watchfulness and comfort. You know well how the world is not at ease these days.
And you know as well, that we can find moments of ease, slowing of and expansion of breath that has been rather stifled as of late. So help us to see your greater good, your larger life, your vast view, that such vistas allow us encouragement and assurance in even the tiniest and quietest of ways. And when we are over fears and toils, help us to remember to make our altars of sacrifice to you in the most honest parts of our hearts. And all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.