This past Sunday was a reminder of God’s greatness. We were reminded of the name that God gave for Himself to Moses at the burning bush, to credential Moses as His representative. That term is the name YHWH, which is normally rendered as Adonai in Hebrew. In English that name usually appears as LORD. This term appears in the Bible 434 times. The discussion reminded me of the song at the top of this week’s message. It addresses God as Adonai, along with a couple other names that God uses for Himself. In addition to the verses Pastor James discussed, here are a couple other verses where Adonai (LORD) appears:
“This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut…” (Isaiah 45:1)
“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
Another name that the song presents for God is the name in the title, El Shaddai. It appears as God’s name or title 48 times. There has always been some disagreement between scholars as to how the term should be understood. It is often translated in English Scriptures as “God Almighty,” emphasizing God’s power. Some believe the “sh” sound at the beginning of the word was adapted from more modern Hebrew, and that the original word would be pronounced “saday.” Others believe that the title should be understood as “God of the Mountain,” which may be a reference to God’s place above us, or to Mt. Sinai. I am not a Hebrew scholar and cannot determine the best choice. Nevertheless it is a distinctive name that God calls Himself. Following are a couple verses where it is found. Both verses below also contain Adonai. It is interesting to note that El Shaddai appears in Job, which is generally believed to have the been the earliest book written, over 30 times.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (Genesis 17:1-2)
“The LORD said to Job: ‘Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!’” (Job 40:1-2)
The third name that the song contains for God is El Elyon. It is used by and for God 28 times. This term translates to “God Most High.” The term elyon was also used by peoples like the Samaritans to refer to their most high god, among their pantheon of false gods for different roles or purposes. In the Old Testament, the term “El” refers to the one true God, and when used in combination with elyon, “El Elyon” gives God recognition of His true standing above all. A couple of Scriptural samples follow.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’” (Genesis 14:18-20)
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (Psalm 46:4-5)
The verses in Psalm 46 also simply call God, “God.” This word is the translation of the word “Elohim,” which appears in Scripture over 2,700 times. It means “mighty one,” or “supreme one.” Unlike the other words discussed already it is also used to refer to human leaders, judges, angels, and possibly others. So although it is often used as a name for God, it is not exclusively used as a name for God.
So which name is the best or most accurate for God? Adonai (LORD), El Shaddai, and El Elyon are all used by God to refer to Himself, as well as being used by others to refer to Him. I think the general guideline is that the word used in a particular case or Scripture is the one that best described the attribute of God that either God or the writer is trying to emphasize. I think God appreciates all of them, as they bring Him honor and glory. As long as we address Him with respect and love through prayer I don’t believe the particular term matters.
Take heart and be encouraged!