Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Lord: the Believer's Master, Father, Spouse

Genesis 15:1-2 After 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?”

We once again turn our attention to this amazing conversation between Abram and God in Genesis 15.  God has been addressed by Abram as "Lord", which in the Hebrew is Adonai.  This name has among its meanings the idea of "Master".  As one begins to dig deeper into the meaning of this term, one finds a treasure trove of thoughts that bring out the relationship between Abram and the God of scripture.  The name "Adonai" is also used in the Bible in the realm of human relationships.  I want to show you three ways in which this name is used, and then show how we can understand better God as "Adonai".

1. To be a "Lord" or "Adonai" is to be a Master over slaves.
In the biblical periods of the Old and Testament, slaves and their masters (i.e lords) were common practice.  Unlike the horrible practice of slavery practice in America during the nineteenth century, slaves in the Old and New Testaments had the possibilities of advancement, and if so chosen, their masters would even adopt them as members of the family.  Of course there were exceptions, yet if the master was good, generally the slave could expect to have a quality of life based upon the character of the master.

In Genesis 24:12, we see Abraham's chief slave praying to the LORD: "He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham."  This slave recognized his owner as "master", which in the Hebrew is the term "Adonai". 

2. To be a "Lord" or "Adonai" also referred to Fathers and sons
We see instances of offspring referring to their fathers as "lord" or "Adonai".  Genesis 31:35 records the words of Rachael to her father Laban: She said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.” So he searched but did not find the household idols.  Often when we see this use, it is out of respect.  Rachael wanted to communicate to her father that even though she was not going to move, she still regarded Him as her superior.

3. To be a "Lord" or "Adonai" also referred to Husbands and Wives
In Genesis 18:12, Sarah says these words about Abraham: "Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”  1 Peter 3:6 comments on this text with these words: "just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear."

Many wives may wonder why the biblical practice was to refer to one's husband as a "lord"?  From studies done in other languages similar to Hebrew, we have discovered that this manner of speaking was a term of respect and affection for the husband.  It was not to be taken as him being "the master" as in a slave/master relationship, but rather recognition of his care, protection and God-given leadership in the home. 

Considering Abram's use of "Adonai" or "Lord" and our own relationship to "The Lord"
In considering the three above uses of "Adonai" (Lord), and how they functioned in the realm of human relationships, we can grasp why God revealed Himself to Abram and does so to us.  I don't doubt Abram's use of this term was primarily centered around his viewing himself as the slave and Yahweh as His Lord. 

But I wonder too if in the context of what we know about Abraham's life from Genesis 12-25 that we could see Abram as the son and God as the Father?  Think about it.  The Lord took Abram out to view the night sky.  He revealed to Him more details about His purposes for Him.  Jesus commments in John 15:15 "“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."

Truly then what we're seeing is The Heavenly Father, Adonai, the Lord, speaking to his son by faith, Abram.  We are seeing the Master of all things relating to His slave, who by nature is a son. 

But then in the rest of God's revelation to Abram we can make one final observation: Abram was shown by the Lord the destiny of His physical descendants.  He was shown how they would be in bondage in Egypt.  He also revealed How He was going to rescue them from that bondage.  Isaiah 54:5 states: “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth."  Thus in the prophetic portion of Abram's dream, God is relating to His people as a Husband to His wife. 

Adonai or The Lord is truly the believer's Master, who Leads; the Father, who communicates and the Spouse, who loves. 

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