Summary: This is the 7th sermon in the "Knowing God" series.

Series: Knowing God [#7]


Genesis 17:1


As we continue to study the names of God in the order that they 1st appear in the Bible, today we will study the name El Shaddai. The 1st time we find this name in the Bible is Genesis 17:1. It had been 24 years since God Promised Abraham He would make his seed a great nation and 13 years since Sarah and Abraham gave up on God and Ishmael was born. At that point, Abraham was 99 years old and he and Sarah were well past the age of childbearing- So having a child was impossible.

Genesis 17:1-5 (NIV)

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.”

The name El Shaddai tells us…

1. That God is all-powerful.

El Shaddai is translated Almighty God or God Almighty. It means, the God who can do anything. We know the name Elohim (God) means He is the almighty Creator of the universe; but there is a new dimension in knowing God by the name Shaddai. Shaddai has been given 2 meanings by scholars. Some scholars believe the word literally means “mountain”- So they interpret the name Shaddai as suggesting strength, stability, and permanence.

God intentionally let Abraham and Sarah pass childbearing age before fulfilling His Promise for a very important reason- God wanted to reveal to Abraham and Sarah that He was not only the all-powerful God who created the universe but also the all-powerful, life-giving God who could give them a child. They had to learn to quit trusting in themselves and learn to trust in God who can do anything.

After revealing Himself to Abraham for the 1st time as El Shaddai, God promised to greatly increase Abraham’s descendants. At that point Abraham fell on his face. Through the name El Shaddai God was revealing to Abraham that His covenant with him was not canceled even though at times, Abraham had lapses of faith, such as getting out of God’s will and going into Egypt, where he lied about Sarah being his sister. After that, Abraham gave up on God and had a son by Sarah’s servant Hagar, resulting in the birth of Ishmael. From time to time, all of us have lapses of faith. I know I do; but even then, we must remember that our God is El Shaddai. This name reminds us that our all-powerful God can keep His promises even when we don’t hold up our end.

The name El Shaddai tells us…

2. That God is all-sufficient.

While some scholars believe that Shaddai means mountain, others believe that it means breast. The word shad in the Bible usually refers to a mother’s breast, which gives her baby strength and nourishment. Thus, the name El Shaddai reveals God as the all-sufficient God.

The name El Shaddai is used 6 times in the Book of Genesis. It is 1st used when referring to the promise made with Abraham. The 2nd time we find it is when Abraham’s son Isaac sends his son Jacob to take a wife from the daughters of his mother’s brother. Isaac did this to prevent Jacob from marrying a Canaanite. As Jacob left to take a wife so that the promise would be fulfilled, Isaac told Jacob that he wanted God to bless him and multiply the size of his family.

The name El Shaddai is used the 3rd time in the Book of Genesis when God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. This new name given to Jacob means “having power with God”. The 1st time Jacob ever used the name El Shaddai he was old in age and had to send his sons, including the youngest 1 Benjamin, back to Egypt to get food for his family during a severe famine. He had refused to let Benjamin go on the 1st trip, during which they had unknowingly encountered Joseph, whom the brothers had secretly sold into slavery. Joseph demanded they return with their younger brother Benjamin. Jacob refused to let him go until his family faced starvation. Finally, when he came to the end of himself and faced the extinction of his family through famine, Jacob allowed Benjamin to go.

To paraphrase, Jacob finally confessed that God was all-powerful and whatever happened, God was in control and he would accept it. Jacob had never called God El Shaddai before because he had always relied on his own scheming, deceit, and power to get what he wanted. He had to reach the point in his life where he could not rely on his own power, but only that of El Shaddai. Both Abraham and Jacob had to reach the place in their lives where they were willing to depend totally upon the life-sustaining power of God. As long as we depend on our own skills, abilities, an intellect, we will never know the power of El Shaddai; but when we do completely depend upon God, we find that His grace is sufficient.

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