28/02/2018: The Names of God | Adonai | Timothy Rist

Summary of names studied thus far:

  • Elohim = God (the power and glory of his being)
  • Jehovah (Yahweh) = LORD (God of righteousness, holiness, love, salvation)
  • El-Shaddai = God Almighty/Almighty God (All Sufficient)

Each of these names for God add to our understanding of the nature and character of God and have to do with the “Person” of God.

This week we deal with Adonai (= Lord); focuses on humankind’s response to God through obedience and service. The spelling here is important too – Lord; Adonai can mean Lord, master, sir, and lord; and it is a term used to refer to important people as well as to God.

  • [Read excerpts from Genesis 24][1]

The word Adonai signifies ownership or master-ship; God is the owner “of each member of the human family, and that he consequently claims the unrestricted obedience to all.”[2]

In the O.T the name Adonai has to do with the relationship that God has with all that he has created, a relationship that must work both ways; God loves his creation and creation should respond to his love. Abraham again is a prime example of how this relationship should be observed.

Genesis 15:2 – 2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”[3]

Abraham was himself a master of a large and wealthy estate, he commanded respect from his peers and enemies. Abraham understands the boundaries of his relationship with God – God is Adonai-Jehovah; the Master of all creation. Lordship in Abraham’s time meant the Lord had complete ownership of all his household, and his all his household would be under his absolute authority (power of life and death rested in his hands). How much more then was Abraham to submit to the total Lordship of Adonai?

How does the modern day understanding of God as Master of everything differ to Abraham’s view? Is there the absolute respect for God in our time, as there was for Abraham?

There are many examples of the use of Adonai in the O.T. it is in fact one of the most widely used terms (inserted in the tetragrammaton YHWH to make the name of God even more complete).

A few examples of how the relationship of “call” by Adonai and obedient response:

  • Exodus 4:10 – 10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord (Adonai). I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
  • Gideon in Judges 6:15 – 15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
  • David used the term frequently – 2 Samuel 7:18 – 18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?

The most powerful of the images for me is the one that is used at the Ordination Service of the MCSA:

  • Isaiah 6:1-9 ff.

Isaiah’s Commission

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

9 He said, “Go and tell this people:

Take special note here of the imagery and awe associated with Adonai. Again, the question needs to be asked as to whether our modern picture of God has not become too compatible?

In the O.T. those who worship Adonai understand the authority of God over them, and regards themselves as his “servants” – a label frequently used to describe their relationship with God-

  • Psalm 119:125 – I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.”

Adonai in the N.T:

The meaning of Adonai as Lord and Master is carried over to the N.T and is used to describe God in similar ways to the O.T. understanding, Adonai is the one who gives spiritual gifts to those he calls and equips them for the work they are to do.

Ephesians 4: 11-12

  • 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Adonai is also a term that is used to describe Jesus. We have been bought with a price, and the price paid is the life of Jesus, and therefore we belong to our Lord and Master who is our Father in heaven. The relationship with Adonai must be evident in lifestyle and action:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

  • 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.

We must understand what the Will of our Father is – Ephesians 5:17

  • 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Perhaps the Parables of Jesus give the clearest picture of who Adonai is and of what is expected of his people as in the Parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the Parable of the ten coins (minas) (Luke 19:11-27). If we are faithful we are rewarded, if unfaithful we are punished!

The connection between Adonai of the O.T and N.T continues with the understanding that there will come a day of reckoning (a day of judgement) for all people. Adonai is the Lord of all people whether they recognise and acknowledge him or not.

Jeremiah (46:10) refers to this as the Day of Adonai, Lord of hosts and the judgement here is in accordance with the “work” the faithful have done:

  • 10 That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of retribution,
        to gain vindication from his foes.

In the New Testament we have the shift that Jesus is the one who delivers, and rescues, all who believe in him from the judgement of Adonai, it is because of and through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we can be saved from the penalty of sin. Matthew 20:24-28:

  • 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

We are created to worship Adonai and to serve him by working for him in our world and the reward for that is eternal life – Romans 6:22:

  • 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.

Matthew 25:31-36:

  • The Judgment of the Nations

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

God bless,


[1] Figures of speech – See also Ruth 3:7 “Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.”

[2] Nathan Stone: Names of God: pg.44

[3] All Bible Readings in this study taken from: New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.