Friday, May 25, 2012

Distinguishing between "LORD" & "Lord"

Genesis 15:1-2 1After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” 2Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

The Difference between "LORD" and "Lord"

In our English Bibles, translators have done us a great favor.  If you will take notice in the text above, two words are given different colors to show you the subject of today's blog: "LORD" and "Lord".  What  is the difference? 

The one name spelled in all caps "LORD" refers to God's personal name: Jehovah or Yahweh, as it is in the original text.  Meanwhile the other name rendered by "Lord" is referring to the name of God in the original text that is pronounced "Adonai". 

When we are using the name "LORD", we are concerned with the identity and personal covenant commitment of the God of Scripture to His people.  When we use the second title "Lord", we are speaking of the authority that this God has over our lives and all things.  "LORD" is answering the question: "Who is God?"  "Lord" on the other hand answers the question: "What does God do?" 

The use of "LORD" and "Lord" in Old and New Testaments
Thankfully one does not have to know Old Testament Hebrew or New Testament Greek to know when the biblical authors are referring to Jehovah or Adonai.  English translators have taken great pains to make these distinctions for us.  In the King James for example, over 6,000 places mention the name "LORD" in both Old and New Testaments, whereas in over 300 places we find reference to the second title "Lord". 

Basic uses of "LORD" and "Lord" in the Old Testament
Moses states in Genesis 15:1 that "The LORD" (Yahweh) brought a word to Abram.  This is God in His personal dealings with the patriarch.  It is He revealing His unending Deity and personal revelation to Abraham. 

Abram then responds in Genesis 15:2 - "Abram said, "O Lord God, what will you give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"  This is the first time we come across this different spelling of "Lord".  This reveals that Abram is calling God His Master (the root meaning of this name "Lord" or "Adonai") 

Why the text mentions both of these names
Abram is relating to God as both Personal and Powerful.  As the Personal God, He is Yahweh or LORD.  As noted author Henry Blackaby observes: "When people have encountered God, they know two things: They know its God and they know what He's said".  Moses is indicating that Abram knew Whom it was addressing Him, since this same God first called and spoke to Him back in Genesis 12.  He also knows that the promise of God is yet to be fulfilled - thus the reason for the name "LORD".

The second name "Lord" is used by Abram to indicate his submission to the will of His Master.  Though Abram was grappling with how the promise was going to come to pass, His use of "Lord" (Adonai, Master) indicates His willingness to be led. 

We know Abram had faith for Genesis 15:6 states - "Then He believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to Him as righteousness".  We know by the switching of spellings that Abram is believing God as both His Personal God "LORD", and that He will willing to follow Him from that point onward as His "Lord" or Master. 

Why these different spelled names matter to the Christian
To know God is the chief end of the Christian.  To know how God dealt with His people, and how they responded to what He reveals makes all the difference in our own knowledge of God.  We see from these two names that He is both the Personal God of Revelation, Unending in His Deity,  He is the one who Keeps His promises, He is Yahweh or "LORD". 

Then He also is the One who leads us.  He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep.  He is the Master, we are the slaves.  He is the Father, we are the sons.  He is "Lord", "Master", "Adonai".  As Yahweh we look to Him as the source of salvation and the goal of our worship and as Adonai we follow Him willingly and eagerly.  Both names capture the true essence of what it means to be a child of God in covenant with the God of Glory.    

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