The thirteen red and white stripes represent the original thirteen colonies. The fifty stars represent the fifty states in the union. Even the colors are symbolic. Red symbolizes hardiness and valor. White symbolizes purity and innocence. Blue symbolizes vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
The symbolism of flags and banners is nearly as old as man himself. In Num 2:2 we see that every tribe of Israel had a banner, a flag, which flew over their encampment. Like the American flag, the images on the flags were symbolic. Unfortunately we do not have a Biblical record of those symbols. The best we can do are various rabbinic lists, and some of them do make sense. The image on Judah’s banner, for instance, was supposedly a lion, taken from Jacob’s description of Judah in Gen 49:9 as a “lion’s whelp.” Benjamin’s flag pictured a wolf, we are told, based on his description as a “scavenging wolf” in 49:27. The odd thing to me is that some of these symbols are anything but complimentary. Dan’s symbol, for example, is a snake: Dan shall be a serpent in the way, An adder in the path, That bites the horse's heels, So that his rider falls backward. 49:17.
And so I found myself wondering what if God ordered a flag act, requiring us to fly a banner outside every meetinghouse? What would be on them? What would represent our “tribe” of God’s people?
I wonder if we could somehow depict the city of Gibeah (Judg 19) on every flag outside an unwelcoming group of brethren, people who ignored the ones who weren’t dressed well or who showed up in leather and covered in tattoos? Maybe we could put a whitewashed sepulcher on the flags of those who sit in the pews on Sunday but live like the Devil the rest of the week. Perhaps phylacteries would be the picture on the flag of those congregations who could quote verse after verse, but who never served their neighbors or each other. Maybe we could put a big puff adder on the flag of those who were “conceited and puffed up” with “an unhealthy craving for controversy,” 1 Tim 6:4. And don’t forget one with a rendition of Judas kissing Jesus for those congregations who betray God by ignoring His authority in all they do.
It would certainly be handy wouldn’t it, far better than those “directories.” Then we could look for flags showing foot washing—truly a church of servants. We could look for flags depicting an open Bible for those known for their love of the Truth and spreading it. We could even look for embroidered hearts denoting love and sincerity.
I am sure you are sitting there right now trying to decide what should be on your congregation’s flag. Here is something even more important for you to consider for the rest of the day: what would God put on your own personal flag, the one flying right outside your home?
You have given a banner to them that fear you, That it may be displayed because of the truth. Psalms 60:4.