We’ve begun looking at the names of God and how his names help us understand him better. We’ve seen that God is called ‘The Father’, ‘The Son’ and ‘The Holy Spirit’ and unpacked what those names teach us. We’ve also looked at what we can learn from the names ‘God’ and ‘YHWH’, often translated as ‘LORD’ or ‘Yahweh’.
This week I want to consider what it means that God is often called by the Hebrew word ‘Adonai’ (its Greek equivalent in the New Testament is ‘Kurios’).
When the Jews stopped pronouncing the name YHWH, they used the word ‘Adonai’ in its place.
This name, ‘Adonai’, is also used in the Scriptures many times to refer to God. For example in Psalm 114 we read: ‘Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord (Adon), at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalm 114:7-8).
Moses himself uses the name ‘Adonai’ when speaking to God: ‘Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord (Adonai), I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue”’ (Exodus 4:10).
Now it gets a little confusing in English translations if both Hebrew names ‘YHWH’ and ‘Adonai’ are translated as ‘Lord’.
To help us distinguish the Hebrew behind our English translation, the New International Version says in its preface (it’s always worth reading the preface of your Bible at least once in your lifetime) that, ‘In regard to the divine name YHWH…the translators adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that name as “LORD” in capital letters to distinguish it from Adonai, another Hebrew word rendered “Lord,” for which small letters are used. Wherever the two names stand together in the Old Testament as a compound name of God, they are rendered “Sovereign Lord.”’
So if you see ‘LORD’ in the English, it represents the Hebrew name ‘YHWH’. If you see ‘Lord’, it represents the Hebrew name ‘Adonai’.
But what do we learn from the name ‘Adonai’ about our God?
‘Adonai’ is the common Hebrew word for ‘Lord’ or ‘master’. It is often used to refer to humans who are in authority. For example, Joseph’s brothers use ‘Adonai’ to refer to Joseph in his role as king of Egypt (see Genesis 42:10). And Sarah uses ‘Adonai’ to refer to her husband (Genesis 18:12).
Thus, when ‘Adonai’ refers to God it demonstrates his authority. By referring to himself as ‘Adonai’, God demands that humanity respect him as the boss. We see this in Malachi’s prophecy: ‘”A son honors his father, and a servant his master (Adonai). If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master (Adon), where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty’ (Malachi 1:6).
So is God your master? If not, be assured that one day you will recognise that he is Lord over you and by then it will be too late to escape his punishment. Repent of your sin and acknowledge God as your Lord today.