In John 3:14-15, Jesus said to Nicodemus:
"For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
It is an ironic truth that He who is crucified is lifted up, or exalted, above those who crucified Him. Perhaps this is one reason why crucifixion was decreed, in the counsel of God, to be the form of death to be suffered by His Son as the sinner's substitute. And it was so decreed; for scattered throughout the Old Testament are unmistakable signposts pointing not merely to a sacrificial death, but to the cross itself. Typical of these foreshadowings are the passages that speak of victory and deliverance to be achieved through a lifted-up one. Isaiah predicts in Chapter 11, verse 10:
"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious."
The word ensign is nes in Hebrew and is derived from the verb nasal, which means to lift up or exalt. Nes, therefore signified something lifted up, or a lifted-up one. The word is variously translated standard, ensign, sign, etc., but always carries the meaning of something or someone lifted up.
When Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, he put it on a pole. The word translated pole is nes in Hebrew and obviously is a type of the cross, since Jesus identified the brazen serpent with Himself. The passage does not say that the brazen serpent was lifted up, but that it was placed on a nes, which signifies something lifted up. The Israelite, bitten by the fiery serpents and doomed to die, unless a remedy could be found, was given that remedy in the lifted-up serpent. He had only to look and live. The serpent pictured Christ made sin for us and lifted up to die the shameful death of the cross in our place.
But not only do we have victory over sin through the lifted-up one, we also have victory over the flesh, as illustrated by Exodus 17:8-16. Amalek here refers to the Amalekites, descendants of Amalek, who in turn was descended from Esau, who is said by the writer of Hebrews to be a profane or fleshly person. Amalek, then, symbolizes the flesh, and the conflict at Rephidim illustrates the warfare which the flesh wages against the spirit in the believer.
It was not Moses, but Joshua, who led the Israelites to victory over the Amalekites. Moses was identified with the Law, which cannot give the believer victory over the flesh. Joshua, as a name, is the Hebrew equivalent of Jesus, and he accordingly appears as a type of Christ as our leader and champion, who is able to give us victory over the flesh. In order to reinforce the lesson that victory over Amalek (the flesh) comes only through divine help, Moses went to the top of a hill and held up his hands toward heaven. As long as he did so, Israel prevailed over Amalek; but when his hands grew tired and he let them down, Amalek prevailed. Seeing this, Aaron and Hur held up Moses' hands until Amalek was completely defeated. Thus the Israelites won the victory over Amalek through a lifted-up one! Moses then built an altar and called the name of it, Jehovah-Nissi. Scofield's note that this compound name of God means The LORD, Our Banner is in error, for the pro nominal ending i is singular and signifies my, not our. Furthermore, though nissi could mean my banner, that is only one possibility. The word is actually our word nes, which we have been considering, and which is translated variously, standard, ensign, banner, pole, etc. The word nes changes its vowel from e to i and doubles the final consonant when the possessive ending i is added to it. Thus the compound name literally means The LORD, my Lifted-Up One! This meaning is more in keeping with the context than banner. The lesson for us is that only through Jesus, the lifted-up one, can we be victorious over the flesh. But victory on a different level is pictured in Isaiah 18:3:
"All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye."
This prophecy may have had a literal fulfillment in the Babylonian invasion of the land, but we are rather interested in the secondary reference which the passage appears to make to the first and second advents of Christ. Ensign is again the word nes and the passage literally reads, when he lifteth up a lifted-up one. Blowing the trumpet seems to be a clear reference to the coming of Christ for His saints. All who have beheld in faith, the Lifted-up One, will hear the sound of the trumpet and the voice that calls, "Come up hither", and will say with the Apostle Paul:
"0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?"
I Cor. 15:55
There is victory over sin, over the flesh, and over death, in Jehovah-Nissi, The LORD, my Lifted-Up One.John H Mattox