We are starting a new series this evening, in which we are looking at the different names of God in the scriptures.
The first name we’re going to look at is El Shaddai, God Almighty.
This is a fascinating name because it is only used 7 times in the whole Bible. It was first used in the Book of Genesis, when God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as ‘El Shaddai’. The name Yahweh, the true God who saves, was not used until the book of Exodus when God revealed himself to Moses:
“God also said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord [Yahweh] I did not make myself known to them”.
So, what does El Shaddai mean? Why did he only appear to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, and what can you and I take away from knowing that name?
What does El Shaddai mean?
I think it is worth looking briefly at the remaining 6 references to El Shaddai in scripture, and as we do so, we’ll see that all of them are in the context of God speaking, and making a covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to greatly increase their number and be fruitful.
All the references to El Shaddai paint a picture of a God who is mighty to do as He says. What He says comes to pass.
It reminds me of a character called Kuiil in the new Star Wars Movie. Whenever he said, ‘I have spoken’, his decisions had to happen. There was no point arguing or having alternative ideas. He had the final say.
It is the same with God. When God speaks, that is what is going to happen.
You only need to look in Genesis 1: ‘And God said, “let there be light, and there was light.’
He is Almighty. He has spoken.
El Shaddai is first mentioned in Genesis 17:1-2
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty, walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
This was God’s covenant with Abraham, and when Abraham heard it his reaction, in verse 17, was to fall face down and to laugh, because it seemed a ridiculous notion for a man 99 years of age, and his wife of 90, to have children.
But in verse 19 God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son.”
So, in the face of a natural impossibility, God declares that Abraham and Sarah will have descendants. ‘I am El Shaddai. It will be so because I have said so and I am Almighty.’
And true to his word Abraham did, of course, have a son Isaac, father of Jacob.
Which leads us to the second mention of El Shaddai in Genesis 28:3
“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.”
Here is Isaac speaking to Jacob with absolute confidence in God’s promise, because He is the Almighty one who said He would do it.
Similarly, in Genesis 35 :11 God spoke to Jacob: “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. “
This message is trustworthy. God says, ‘Let there be fruitfulness’, and there is fruitfulness.
The fourth reference comes in Genesis 43:14
And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.’
Here Jacob was giving a benediction as his sons were about to go off to Egypt, to meet Joseph. He is fearful for his youngest son Benjamin’s life, and he calls on God Almighty, El Shaddai to grant him mercy. Jacob trusts that God can do this because he has already said He would.
In Genesis 48:3-4 we see Jacob, an old man, about to die, blessing Joseph and his grandchildren.
“Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, “I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers.”
The next reference is in Exodus 1:6 where we see all of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob fulfilled:
“Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.”
El Shaddai, the one who has spoken, brings about his purposes, and there can be no other alternative.
The final mention of El Shaddai in the bible is in Ezekiel 10:3-5. This is in a different context because it describes the sound of the wings of the cherubim, in the holy temple in the presence of Almighty God.
“Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. 4 Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord. 5 The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.”
The sound made by the wings of the cherubim was thunderous and inescapable, exactly like the voice of El Shaddai when He speaks. His voice thunders to every corner of the universe.
If you look at the root words of the Hebrew ‘Shaddai’, the meaning becomes even clearer.
One root is in the word meaning to over-power. God is the one who overcomes.
We can recognise this in the verses in Isaiah which mention that ‘the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this’. This is describing an Almighty God who will not be stopped. He will overcome.
Another root is the word for breast, which describes the all-sufficiency of God, the life giver, the provider. This is especially relevant in the context of the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring forth the nation of Israel.
If we consider these qualities of El Shaddai: the one who has spoken, the over-powerer, the life giver, it is easier to answer the next question.
Why did God only appear as El Shaddai to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
The short answer is that it was enough for them. When Moses came later and the people needed delivering, then God made himself fully known as Yahweh, the God who saves. He is indeed, El Shaddai, mighty to speak and to act, but also Yahweh, the God who saves.
Exodus 6:6 says:
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”
But for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, El Shaddai was enough. Listen to what it says in Hebrews 11 :17-19.
“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death”.
Why did Abraham reason that God could bring Isaac back from the dead? It was because God had spoken. He had said that it would be through Isaac that his offspring would be reckoned. Abraham had faith in El Shaddai.
In Genesis 32 Jacob is frightened because he thinks Esau is coming to destroy him and he ends up wrestling with God from nightfall to sunrise.
Read Genesis 32:26 -29
“Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’
But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
27 The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’
‘Jacob,’ he answered.
28 Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Why is God’s blessing the most important thing for him? Because he knows this is El Shaddai, and if El Shaddai blesses him he will be blessed. He will be protected from his brother.
In the same way that the word of El Shaddai was more than enough for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to have faith, God reveals to us, everything that we need at the right time.
So, what does it mean for you and me to behold God and know him as El Shaddai?
We are in the privileged position of knowing Yahweh Shaddai, The Lord God Almighty, who saves, who is personal, who is the trinity, and the Godhead.
So how can we apply what we know of God Almighty, El Shaddai, to our own lives?
First of all, El Shaddai is the over-comer.
So often in life we feel that we are being overcome. How many sins we battle with day in day out, constantly failing and struggling! So often we may feel like giving up.
Jesus says, ‘Take heart because I have overcome the world’. The cross, for all its scorn and shame was the very place of victory for God. It may have looked like the world had overcome him: He was dying, weak, pathetic, but actually it was God’s sovereign and unassailable plan that Jesus would go to the cross to die in our place for our sins and to be raised to life again. When things looked at their worst, God was overcoming the world. So, if we belong to Jesus then we belong to the over-comer, which means we will never be overcome. 2 Corinthians 4:8
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;”
In Jesus we have one who has overcome the world on our behalf.
So, what is it in your life that you feel is overcoming you? No matter what it is, take shelter in El Shaddai, the Almighty One who overcomes.
El Shaddai is the promise-keeper.
El Shaddai has made a covenant with his people, based not on our ability to be faithful to him, but on his faithfulness to us.
If you look back at the history of the nation of Israel, God had every reason to throw in the towel on this project. You need only to look at the character of Jacob, a liar, and a troublemaker. Not the stellar, standout character that you would want to build a nation on.
Then, look at his sons, the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel, the pillars of the Jewish faith. Ten of them hated their brother and wanted to kill him.
This was the most dysfunctional family you can imagine. Why on earth would God want to continue with this imperfect troublesome family? Because He is a promise-keeping God. And His promises are always to do us good.
So, you and I can be sure that if El Shaddai has said, ‘I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean’, then we will be clean. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, then He is faithful to forgive and to save us.
So, do you feel that there are things in your life which are beyond forgiveness?
El Shaddai has promised to keep you. Not because of your faithfulness to him but because of his faithfulness to you. So, walk before him faithfully.
He is a God of relationship. He is our sustainer, our overcomer. He wants us to walk with him, and before him.
The references to El Shaddai repeat the phrase “This is what the Lord Almighty says”. He wants us to speak to him, to listen to him, to be in communion with him. Do you come to this service once a week, via social media and then when it’s over, turn God off again for another week? Or do you walk before him in the light of his faithfulness to you, in the light of his presence in you? Yes, we struggle. But that is why He is the promise keeper. So, walk before Him in repentance and faith.
You might fall but if you do, look at Jacob and see how God is faithful to his people even when they are not faithful to Him. You might sometimes doubt, but just look at what the Almighty has done throughout history when He has said He will do it.
You are parched and longing for God to say something to you. Open the scriptures and hear the cherubim’s’ wings, I am El Shaddai, walk before me faithfully.
Will you recommit to doing that, to walk before El Shaddai the Lord God almighty the one who has said, “I have spoken”?
Genesis 17:1 - 17:8
17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (ESV)
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.