I am doing a study of the different names of God. If you read the Bible, it is very clear that names have a very specific meaning and people are named specifically to their character. God renames several people who’s character changed and they no longer fit their given name (Abraham/Sarah Gen 17:5; Jacob Gen 35:10). Why would God change their names? In their time, a person’s name spoke to their very identity. Therefore, studying the different names of God can give us insight into God’s identity. How I love Him, that He has given us insight into His very identity through the names He has given us in His Word. As I was doing this study, however, I came across a very common name for God: Adonai. Adonai is a name that “indicates the relationship between a superior and inferior;” it is a word that is directly equivalent to the English word “master” (D. W. Baker, “God, Names of,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, p364). As such, we can understand that God is the master and we are his servants.
Leviticus 25:55 says, “For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” And in the New Testament, Paul tells us in Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Over and over and over again, we are called servants and slaves to God. In this day and culture we live in, to be a servant or a slave of someone is very counter-cultural. There is a connotation to the word that is almost abhorrent due to our horrific history of slavery and prejudice based on skin color. So how do we understand how to be a servant of the God Most High when everything this culture says is to be your own master?
First, I think it would be helpful to understand what it means to be a servant of God. J. Goldingjay describes this relationship as commitment by the servant to do whatever the master requires, and commitment by the master to provide for and protect the servant; it also means that the servant is a representative of the master and has full power to act on the master’s behalf and authority (“Servant of Yahweh,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, p701). To be a servant of God means that the servant’s words and actions are representative of the master. Therefore, when we apply this to our lives, it means that every word we say and every thing we do represents the God we serve. For us who now live in the New Testament era, who have been saved by the blood of Christ and who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we are directed and guided by the Spirit; 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” And as we are transformed into the image of Christ, we are to let that light shine into the world, so others “may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).” Our purpose as servants of God is to live in such a way that people see God in us and desire to know Him. We obey God as He directs us through His Word in the Scripture and through the Holy Spirit who guides us (John 16:13), who teaches (1 Cor 2:13), who helps us (John 14:26), and who empowers us (Acts 1:8). And in obedience, we reflect God’s light into the world.
Obedience and striving to live a life worthy of the cross is not easy. It sounds so simple, to simply obey the Master; however, we all know that it can be extremely hard, sometimes at incredible cost. What we have to decide is, is it worth it?
I suppose the only way to decide if it is worth it, to lay down your life to serve at the Master’s pleasure, is to find out what the Master provides in exchange for our servitude. In ancient Jewish culture, a servant was viewed as an extension of the master’s household; thus, they were protected, privileged, and provided for by the master. Not only did the master have to provide the basic necessities of life – food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities – but they were also responsible for providing training, instruction, guidance, and accountability for the work of their servants (Mary A. Kassian, Knowing God by Name, 22). Here are some of the things the Bible says that God does for us:
He plans a future full of good and hope for us: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
He works every single thing that happens in our lives for our good: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
He is our guide, our strength, our satisfaction, our fullness of life: And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11
He gives us strength and endurance when we have nothing left to give: But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
He teaches us and watches us closely, ever ready to instruct: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8
He prepares glorious, unimaginable things for us: But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined what God has prepared for those who love him…” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Not only does He protect us, strengthen us, and give us courage, but he sends his angelic servants to help and guard us as well:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
The promises our Master makes to us are numerous – and they are not empty. As the Master, he is required to fulfill his promises: he must be faithful; he must provide and protect us with the privilege due his own family. We are his family. See, the incredible thing about being God’s servants, is that we are not just his servants; Romans 8:16-17 says, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” Though we serve God as our Master, He does not leave us at the status of servant – He adopts us as His children and heirs to the throne of the King Most High.
It may seem awkward to us who live in a world where to call ourselves “servants” is taboo; but when you weigh the blessings against the sacrifices, God will come out on top every single time. Even during the times when we have to make sacrifices to serve Him, even when we lose family or friends, when we are persecuted, even to losing our lives – the blessings we receive from Adonai, God our Master, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, are worth it every. single. time.
I pray that we would each live in obedience to God so when the day comes that we see our Master face to face, He will say, “Well done my good and faithful servant… (Matt. 25:21)” Amen and amen.