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The Name that is Above Every Name
Chapter 5

"WHO AM I, O LORD GOD?"

THE Divine title of Adonai, the Lord, on the lips of His servants expressed their sense of wonder and awe. Our further study of the way they used it should excite the same sense in us, particularly when we remember that

"Abraham's God is our God,
And Isaac's God is ours,
Ours is the God of Jacob
With His almighty powers."

Having passed in review the title in the Pentateuch we look first briefly at the books of Joshua and Judges. The remarkable fact is here confirmed that although the Memorial Name was known and used, there were occasions when some added, or even different, title of respect was deemed appropriate. Such an occasion is when Joshua prostrated himself in dismay at the defeat at Al:

"Alas, O Lord GOD (Adonai Yahweh), Wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? . . . O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! . . . and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?" (Joshua 7:7,8)

The context is again one of judgement and pleading, and in the sequel the LORD'S name was sanctified by the putting away of both the accursed thing and the troubler of Israel from their midst.

The scene changes to Israel in occupation of the Land, but once more under the foreign yoke through disobedience to the law of their God. This time God revealed Himself in an angel, who came to Gideon bearing both the Name and title of the Deity. His message was:

"The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." (Judges 6:12)

Gideon's response, similar to that of Abraham when he too received an assurance of God's favour, was a question as to how that could be the case:

"O my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?"

The LORD'S answer was to commission him for the task of delivering Israel, with the sovereign utterance: "Have not I sent thee?" This was said as "the LORD looked upon him", or "turned towards him" (R.V margin), a solemn confrontation. And Gideon said further:

"O my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel?"

Again the assurance, "surely I will be with thee", held the comforting implication (see v.1) that like Moses Gideon had found grace in God's sight. It is remarkable how the impression created on Gideon deepens as the conversation develops. The first "my Lord" in verse 13 is Adoni, my master (adon), the term of respect previously considered in chapter 3 Gideon could well have used it in ignorance of the identity of what appeared to him to be a man. When it became plainer that his interlocutor was a divine being, and God's messenger, he uses Adonai, a Divine title. After the angel had revealed his power in bringing fire out of the rock, consuming the sacrifice, Gideon trembled for his life, and in solemn invocation said:

"Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face." (verse 23)

"A man of God"
Samson's parents passed through a similar experience. First his mother encountered an angel of the LORD whom she took to be a "man of God". Then Manoah besought God that the angel should return, with the words, "O my Lord (Adonai), let the man of God whom thou didst send come again to us" (Judges 13:8), then to be awestruck like Gideon by the way in which the angel ascended to heaven in the fire (v.20).

One further point: the angel would not reveal his name, since it was "secret" or "wonderful". The Name or title which he bore was, of course, not his own but representative of the greatness and power of the living God. The sense in which we are to understand the word "wonderful" and the relationship between the most High God and man whom He has made can be gauged from the limited use of this adjective in the Old Testament. It is from the same root as the word in Isaiah 9:6: "His name shall be called Wonderful . . ." It is in the Psalm about the presence of God -- "everywhere present by His Spirit" as the Christadelphian Instructor has it -- that we find the only other Occurrence of the identical word, where David says:

"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: it is high, I cannot attain to it." (Psalm 139:6)

Disciplined by Experience
The sadness of Samson's end is relieved by the knowledge that he was numbered amongst those who by their faith "pleased God", and for whom there is promised future consolation (Heb. 11:42, 40). For all his wanderings and questionable behaviour, the final picture of Samson is of one disciplined by all his experiences of evil, who in the hour of judgement, both his own and that of the Philistines, was content to humble himself and commit all things into the hands of the Supreme Potentate:

"O Lord GOD, remember me . . ." (Judges 16:28)

Apart from his Psalms, there is but one recorded occasion when David addressed God as Adonai Yahweh, in 2 Samuel 7. An important stage in the purpose of God was reached when the covenant of the kingdom was made, centred on the promised seed of David's line. God had spoken of David's house "for a great while to come", even for ever. The wonderful declaration of the Fatherhood of God, taken up in the letter to the Hebrews as a proof of the supremacy of Christ over the angels (2 Sam. 7:14; Heb. 1:5), and the promise that in this David would find "all his salvation and all his desire" (2 Sam. 23:5)-all this filled the king with gratitude and awe.

"Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?" (7:18)

Six times the solemn mode of address is employed, each time with a heartfelt emotion which clearly brings out the concept behind the title and the Name:

"And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord GOD."
"And is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD?"
"For thou, Lord GOD, knowest thy servant."
"And now, O Lord GOD, thou art that God, and thy words be true."
"For thou, O Lord GOD, hast spoken it."

A Moment of Exultation
This was the supreme moment in David's life. Never again would he be so lifted up with exultation, for the evil days were coming, after his great sin and the domestic tragedies of his household. When the partial fulfilment came in the crowning of Solomon, David was an aged man, "and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat". For all that, his last words were words of hope and confidence:

"Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure . . . although he make it not to grow." (2 Samuel 23:5)

"The mercies of David" were ordered in all things and "sure" (Isa. 55:3), and would be granted him and all those with whom the LORD has made an everlasting covenant.

 


Chapter 6

"LORD, THE GREAT AND DREADFUL GOD"

THE sovereign majesty of God which excites to "wonder, love and praise" in those who bow before Him in humility and to whom He has revealed Himself as the LORD in covenant relationship, is something to fill the hearts of the rebellious with terror. As we have already seen, the faithful never presumed upon God's mercy in their approach to Him, and in times of urgent pleading or when awestruck at the Divine condescension, addressed Him by the tide of Adonai, with or without the Name of the LORD added. We should expect, therefore, that those writers whose theme is especially the judgement of God upon a people that had turned their back on Him would use it most. And such is indeed the case. Of many such passages in the prophets we shall consider a representative selection in this chapter.

Amos, "the first of the writing prophets", as he has been called, brought to the Northern Kingdom the Divine message in the days of Jeroboam II. It was a time of great prosperity in Israel, when the boundaries of the two kingdoms extended almost as far as they had done in the great days of Solomon. Yet the LORD "roared from Zion, and uttered His voice from Jerusalem", to make the habitations of the shepherds to mourn and the top of Carmel wither. There was woe pronounced upon them that "desired the day of the LORD" in the hope that it would confirm them in their luxurious ease, for it would bring them darkness and not light.

In this prophet's heavy message the title of Adonai appears 24 times, notably in the visions in which Amos saw the inevitability of the coming destruction. It was the Lord GOD who showed him first the devouring locusts and then the consuming fire (7:1-6): and to Him the prophet cried out in anguish, "O Lord GOD, forgive I beseech thee . . . O Lord GOD, cease I beseech thee . . .". And it was the LORD, remembering His covenant, "who repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD".

Whether we are justified in drawing conclusions from every variation in the usage of Name and title the reader must judge for himself. There is, however, a pattern in these visions which is most enlightening if we follow it through the whole sequence from 7:1 to 9:10.

Mercy and Judgement
In the first two visions to which we have alluded, the covenant Name of Yahweh is combined with the title Adonai to introduce the vision, no doubt to emphasise that He who is merciful and gracious "will by no means clear the guilty" if they do not repent, even though they be, or perhaps we should say especially if they are, the people of His Name (see 3:1-2).

There seems to be increasing emphasis upon that attribute of the Name as the visions uncover the extent of Israel's failure "until there was no remedy". In 7:3 it is the LORD who declares, "This shall not be". When Israel is delivered from the fire at the prophet's intercession it is the Lord GOD (Adonai Yahweh) who declares, "This also shall not be", as though there is the added reminder that the deliverance is from the judgement which the LORD in His sovereign majesty had been justly about to execute.

There is a progressive severity in the import of the visions. In the third (7:7-9), although Israel are still "My people", it is Adonai who holds the plumbline and Adonai who pronounces the sentence: "Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them anymore."

The measuring of Israel by God's plumbline made it evident to the prophet that there was no more a place for intercession on his part or repentance on the LORD's. The end foreshadowed by the vision of the summer fruit is consummated when the Lord (Adonai) is seen standing upon the very altar, prior to the striking of the lintel of the house called Bethel, the House of God. Although "the LORD is his name" (9:6) and it is the Lord GOD of hosts . . . that toucheth the land" (v.5), it is plainly declared in verse 1 that His mercy, or covenant love, has now given place to His judgements.

Remarkably, but upon reflection surely most appropriately, the title of Adonai is entirely absent from Hosea's prophecy. His theme is indeed the waywardness of Israel, the main preoccupation of the eighth century prophets whom the LORD had sent to warn the people as the measure of their iniquity was being filled up. The tone, however, is one of pleading rather than of threatening, and reveals the grief and sorrow of heart experienced by the LORD at the thought of what must of necessity be brought upon the people of His covenant, the Israel he had betrothed unto Himself:

"And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the Most High, none would at all exalt him. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? . . . mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man: the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee . . . (Hosea 11:7-9).

The Holy One of Israel
Although Isaiah's vision concerned the backsliding of Judah and Jerusalem, his use of the title Adonai is not so frequent as we might have expected. Perhaps the reason is that he is drawing attention to the holiness of God -- "the Holy One of Israel". Moreover, one of his prominent themes is what we may call the doctrine of the remnant. They are those who are left after the judgements have been poured out and who constitute "the holy seed", the true people of God through whom the hope of the nation is kept alive and the covenant preserved.

Indeed Isaiah nearly always uses the title together with the Name -- the Lord GOD -- often in the expression "the Lord GOD of hosts. The full meaning of this combination of Name and title and why it often appears in connection with the remnant can best be studied when we consider the Name itself. Here we simply take note of the principle set forth in Isaiah 1:9:

"Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah."

We cannot leave Isaiah, however, without brief reference to chapter 6, in which the title of Lord is used in a manner reminiscent of Amos 9. The scene this time is not the house at Bethel but the temple at Jerusalem and the vision, though one of judgement upon sin and a heavy message for God's people is also prophetic of the great salvation to be revealed in Christ. The vision is one of awe and majesty as the Lord is revealed seated upon a throne "high and lifted up". Not only does His regal splendour fill the house and cause the very door posts to be moved, but heaven and earth are full of His glory. This is Adonai, thrice holy, fiery in judgement yet cleansing the lips of the humble who trembled at His word. This is, as Isaiah declared, "the King, the LORD of hosts"! The contemplation of such a scene should prepare us for the wonders yet to be unfolded, when in later chapters we come to the revelation of him to whom the Father has given all power in heaven and earth and who, upon the evidence of both John (c. 12) and Paul (Phil. 2), by reason of his obedience to his Father and his God, even unto death, inherits both the Father's Name and title.

The Days of Judgement
Sufficient has now been written upon the title Adonai in the Old Testament for its meaning and usage to be made plain. To round off this portion it will be enough to point out that Ezekiel, who prophesied in the days when the judgements had begun to be poured out upon Jerusalem and who saw the glory of the LORD depart from the city, uses this title 214 times. Jeremiah, however, reserves his use of it mainly for the Book of Lamentations, in which Adonai occurs as many times as it does in the whole of his main prophecy. In his own grief and as he describes the grief of the city which has become as a widow, or a degraded woman, the Name expressive of the covenant seems less appropriate than the word which recognises the absolute authority of God and the justice of what He has brought upon her. Nevertheless, "it is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed . . Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old" (5:21).

Finally, we turn to the Book of Daniel, where all our impressions are amply confirmed. Consistent with the view that the God of the covenant, the LORD, exercised His judgements in His capacity as the great King, Adonai, the Lord, we read in Daniel 1:2 that it was "the Lord" who gave Jehoiakim into the hand of the king of Babylon. Neither Name nor title appears again in the book except in chapter 9, Daniel's poignant prayer of confession and intercession before God. Here, in most striking fashion, the prophet refers to God as Yahweh but addresses Him as Adonai. It was a time for special pleading and earnest supplications to Him before whom the prophet had come with fasting and in sackcloth and ashes. In the intensity of his emotion Daniel poured out his soul before Him whom heaven and earth should adore: "O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and the mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned . . . O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee . . . To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness . . . O Lord, hearken and do . . ."

 


NOTE ON "THE EMENDATIONS OF THE SOPHERIM"

When the above first appeared in The Christadelphian a reader pointed out that according to The Companion Bible there are 134 passages in Scripture in which "out of extreme (but mistaken) reverence for the Ineffable Name 'Jehovah', the ancient custodians of the Sacred text substituted . . . 'Adonai' ." (The Sopherim were those entrusted with establishing a standard text of the Hebrew Bible, as the Massorites were with preserving that text as the traditional authoritative version.) The complete list of such alterations contains some of the passages used above, notably from Isaiah 6, Amos 7:1,8; 9:1 and Daniel 9. These emendations apply only to the use of Adonai on its own, not when it is used together with Yahweh as it is even in these passages just noted.

Apart from the fact that it is difficult to know how much weight to give to this evidence, and equally to see what was gained by the alterations themselves, even if we were to accept the emendations, they confirm rather than weaken the basis of our study in this chapter. For many of the passages we have referred to were not altered, so their evidence cannot be denied. With confidence we reaffirm our conviction that according to verses 7 and 8 of chapter 9, Daniel addressed God as Adonai and not Yahweh and that the combination of Name and title bears the significance we have attached to it.