Summary: When we say that God is Adonai, we are stating that He is Lord of all and that He is supreme over His subjects.
This week I saw someone I don’t know real well and called out her name. I thought I got it right but as soon as I said it I realized that I had used a shortened form of her proper name, and she wasn’t too happy about it. She corrected me quickly and told me what she prefers to be called. I apologized and made a mental note to get it right next time.
God has some strong feelings about what He goes by as well. And He doesn’t want us to use names that are too casual or even commonplace. I’m sure He’s not real impressed when we refer to Him as the “big guy in the sky” or the “man upstairs.”
We learned last week that the first name He wants to be called is “Elohim.” He is creatively powerful, completely sovereign, and gloriously great and because of who He is, we can draw four conclusions.
1. He is eternal…therefore His existence is established.
2. Creationism is correct…therefore evolution is in error.
3. The Trinity is true…therefore redemption can be received.
4. Every person has a purpose…therefore the preborn must be protected.
On Monday morning, as I reflected on this, I thanked God for the ministry of the teachers and staff at Pontiac Christian School and wrote these words on my blog: “Day after day, Pontiac Christian School unashamedly teaches these four biblical truths. Our students are developing a respect for the Word of God and an ability to think critically about controversies in our culture. My hat is off to this team of committed Christians who are going against the grain in order to exalt Elohim everyday! If you’re looking for a Christ-centered biblical education for your children, please contact the school. Preschool screenings are now being conducted” (www.pontiacbible.org/brian).
The name we’re going to get to know today is “Adonai.” It’s used over 300 times in the Old Testament, and is a bit difficult to see in our English Bibles because many translations use two different renderings of the same name to make a distinction between “Yahweh” and “Adonai.” Jehovah appears with capital letters: “LORD” and Adonai is “Lord” with one capital and the rest in smaller case. When this word is used of God it is almost always plural and possessive. Like the name Elohim, this name also supports the doctrine of the Trinity.
In the singular, the word Adon often refers to “Master” and is also defined as “Lord” or “Owner” and is used for how slaves speak to their masters and subjects to their kings. When we say that God is Adonai, we are stating that He is Lord of all and that He is supreme over His subjects. Deuteronomy 10:17 uses three names for God and captures His majestic supremacy: “For the LORD [Yahweh] your God [Elohim] is God [Elohim] of gods [Elohim] and Lord [Adonai] of lords [Adonai], the great God [Elohim], mighty and awesome…”
In order to help us capture the meaning of Adonai, let’s turn to the world of pets. How many of you have a dog? Let me see your hands if you’re a cat lover. Do any of you have both a cat and a dog? We have counselors set up in the back of the auditorium for you! In his book called, “Cat and Dog Theology,” Bob Sjogren describes the different attitudes between a dog and a cat.
A dog says: “You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, and you love me… you must be God.”
A cat says: “You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, and you love me…I must be God.”
In a humorous way, this book captures how we often approach God. Both cats and dogs want obedience in their lives. Dogs want to obey God; cats want God to obey them. Dogs worship God primarily for who He is; while cats enjoy what He’s done for them. Dogs study “Theology” and cats study “MEology.”
Isn’t it easy to think that life is all about us? God does not exist for our benefit; we have been given good gifts for His glory. Let’s do a selected Scriptural survey of “Adonai” to help us get our priorities and purposes back on track so that we become more like canines instead of cats.
Adonai in the Old Testament
We’ll look at two Old Testament individuals who struggled to fully surrender and then at two who got it right.
1. Abraham argues with Adonai. Adonai is first used by Abraham in Genesis 15:2: “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” The NIV translates Adonai as “Sovereign,” while other versions use the name “Lord.” This interaction should encourage us since it shows us that Abraham was a real person. He had left his country in Genesis 12 and at Bethel “called on the name of the LORD” (12:8). He obeyed the Lord but then he resorted to a lie to protect his wife when they were in Egypt. In chapter 13, Abram and Lot separate, and then Abram experiences the blessings of God in verse 17 when God tells him, “Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” In chapter 14, Abram rescues Lot from some trouble.