El-Shaddai

 

by Mike Ratliff

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, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” (Genesis 17:1-2 ESV)

In these last days it is imperative that God’s people have a more complete knowledge of God. So, in light of this, let us look at one of the names of God that speaks much about His power and provision. God keeps His part of the covenants He makes and it is this name, El-Shaddai, that God used for Himself that gives us much comfort as we come to understand that He helps and blesses His people. El-Shaddai (   אל שׁדּי  ) – We must never forget that in Hebrew we read from right to left and this name of God is two separate words,  Ēl( אל), meaning, “might,”  and Shaddai  (שׁדּי, meaning , “the Almighty, the Powerful One, or the Mighty One.” As a combined name of God, El Shaddai, which occurs seven times in Sacred Scripture, was the covenant name for God to the Patriarchs until the time of Moses. The Jewish rabbis believed  that the term meant the “One who is self-sufficient.” God’s covenant was moral and ethical in character, not ritualistic or orgiastic. 

The KJV and the ESV  translate El Shaddai as God Almighty or Almighty God. This covenant name of God is spoken to Abram (Genesis 17:1-2 above) very appropriately here because it carries with it the concept that it is El Shaddai who sustains His covenants. He is the one who preserves His saints. He is the one who saves.  

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (Hebrews 10:15-17 ESV)

In the book of Hebrews we read of the New Covenant replacing the old. This covenant was made through the blood of Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ declared this covenant in effect at the Last Supper. 

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27-28 ESV)

All in Christ are in this blood covenant with the Saviour. Each of them have had the laws of God put on their hearts and written on their minds and have had their sins forgiven. This is the power of the cross. All in this covenant with our Lord are being sustained in it by El Shaddai. He is God Almighty my brethren. 

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)

The Greek word translated in this passage as “sustain” is “βεβαιόω” or “bebaioō.” This verb is in future tense. This refers to the fact that El Shaddai shall preserve all in Christ to the end of this age, complete them at that time then they will all be with their Lord forever. Paul was confirming to the Church each genuine believer’s salvation by their preservation in a state of grace. God is faithful and will do this. 

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:22-39 ESV)

My brethren, we are held in our Lord’s hands and the Father holds us together with Him. El Shaddai is sustaining us in this state of grace. He is keeping us in this covenant. No matter how we are persecuted or mistreated or denigrated or treated by the enemies of the truth, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

The verb “separate” here is the Greek word “χωρίζω” or “chōrizo.” It means, “to place room between.” It implies one coming between two people to force them apart. It is in Aorist tense, Infinitive mood, and Active voice. This describes punctiliar action but does not signify the time of the action. I believe that Paul is telling us here that no matter what our enemy tries to do to come between us and our Saviour, from now until he is cast into the Lake of Fire, no matter what sort of force he brings to bear, even death, he will not be able to do it. We are secure in the covenant with our Lord and are sustained by El Shaddai

Be encouraged my brethren! El Shaddai is working in each of us to keep us in this state of grace. This does not mean that we can just kick back and coast to the end. No, we are commanded in scripture to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We are commanded to become Spirit-filled by drawing near unto God, prayer, worship, and submission to the brethren. We are commanded to walk in repentance and abide in Christ, to run the race that the Father has set before us. We must pursue our Lord and stay on the narrow, difficult path while making disciples all along the way.

Soli Deo Gloria!

25 thoughts on “El-Shaddai

  1. Pingback: El-Shaddai - Reformata

  2. El Shaddai, oh how I love Him!
    What encouraging words with which to begin the day – along with studying the Scripture passages within this insightful post.
    Mike, thank you once again for your work.
    You likewise, be encouraged!
    Now, off to another blessed day filled with the privledge of ‘working out my salvation with fear and trembling’.

  3. The Hebrew “Shaddai” is also motherly term and evokes the idea that God is able to make the barren fertile in order to fulfill His promise to Abram. God truly is the one who has the ability to do that which He has promised. And what I find most compelling about this passage is that after providing him with this assurance, God gives a command to Abram: Walk before me and be blameless.

    Now, this command can be misleading if not understood in context. A note on the grammar of this command: the word translated, “be” should not be read as the NIV (and ESV) translates it, since it is dependent on a preceding imperative (“walk”), Instead, it should be understood as a consequence that follows from an initial condition. In other words, we should read God’s command like this: “Walk in my presence and you will be blameless.” This gives us an important insight into a relationship with God: blamelessness is the result of our relationship with God, not a prerequisite for it. We do not have to get our life all cleaned up in order to come to God. Instead, if we will make a commitment to walk before God, to allow Him to direct and order our lives, He will do the hard part. He will make us blameless. He will make us holy.

  4. Really? Have you been watching the politics this year? You don’t think those ruled by the sinful nature have the ability to contend also?

  5. Heath,

    I think Josh means that we cannot contend efficaciously without the Holy Spirit working through us as we obey God and pursue His glory and the edification of the Church.

    Sure, we can contend without the Holy Spirit, but will it be effacious? Nope.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Mike,
    I have no idea if this comment will get approved but if it does not so be it.
    The most interesting aspect of Abram/Abraham story is that God told him to pack up and go to the land that He would show him. Obedience ensues and there’s a famine when Abram/Abraham gets there! Absolutely a fascinating aspect.

  7. Heath,

    My point is that right now, I am hard pressed from every side. This is just part of a fiery trial. My flesh wants me to throw in the towel, while the Spirit is willing, enduring, and not weak. Yes, I get discouraged, crushed, perplexed, and grieved when hard pressed, but the Spirit sustains me. Though I am dead to this world, the Spirit is ever faithful in pleading on my behalf. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (hard-pressed, broken, humiliated, crushed), I shall fear no evil…….. because even though it feels like God is a million miles away, he has not forsaken me. Contending for the Lord is costly. Jesus said not to think it strange when we experience these fiery trials. At times it will seem that our persecutors outnumber the hairs on our heads, but rejoice, because we know that God tries those he loves in the fires of tribulation.
    I don’t know what kind of gospel you are used to, but this whole idea about praying a 2 minutes prayer and then being guaranteed heaven on earth is not the gospel. Contending for the faith is just part of walking with the Lord. God will expose us to some pretty intense and uncomfortable situations as part of refining us. It is essential that we pass through the fire. There is just no easy way around that one. When things get hot, my flesh tells me to take the easy road and do ‘what feels good.” The Spirit however is willing, powerful, persistent, forbearing, patient, and able to make me stand against ungodliness. As Christians we face opposition from the world all of the time. We have to guard our hearts from corruption. Making godly decisions in the midst of the ungodly will make us appear peculiar to the world. This usually costs us because others will mock us for not taking part in the things that they do. At my work, the guys look at porn and they mock me because I get up and walk away. Also they gamble and drink.. They ask me to go out with them and party, but I tell them that I don’t want to do that because I love the Lord. This brings even more reproach. Standing up for what is right is costly in that sense. They murmur their little spiteful comments under their breath to one another, but they can have their booze, their porno, and their perversion. It is better for them to hate us for not doing those things, and for not shrinking back from their reproach. But that is what contending is Heath. Jesus died for them too, but he didn’t say to ‘run with them’ and do the things they do. He knows men’s hearts and the wickedness in them. At certain times during his earthly ministry he had to quietly slip away and get away from them to be alone with his Father. Guarding our hearts from ungodliness is essential and beneficial. We can love the unrepentant sinner, but we cannot ‘run with them’ and do the things that they do.
    God is pleased when we stand up for what is right. If we abide in Him, he will sustain us.

  8. El Shaddai – “the breasted One”. The term indicates that like infants we receive all our sustinance and strength from Him who gave us life. It is both powerful and intimate together.

  9. Heath, Josh,

    Having been through a fiery trial that literally burnt the sin out of me — I fully sympathise with Josh as he passes through his own trials and tribulations. Josh you are well on your way to the greater glory found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Persevere and you will be given the right to eat from the hidden manna that is in the paradise of God. Heath is right about God being the sole source of our holiness.

    I speak from experience. Had the Lord not appeared to me with the glory of the the Father’s angels I do not know where I would have ended up. Seeing and experiencing the risen Lord is enough to make even mortal flesh understand who Jesus is.

    Josh, knowing who Jesus is, does not make our life a bed of roses. On the contrary, it makes us realise how truly awful our sin was, and that it is the love of the Father that allows us to share the eternal inheritance that only Jesus deserves.

    “Beloved, even if we should attain the very pinnacle of virtue, let us consider ourselves least of all, as we have learned that pride is able to cast down even from the heavens the person who does not take heed, and humility of mind is able to bring up on High from the very abyss of sin the person who knows how to be sober. For this is what placed the Publican before the Pharisee. By pride I mean an overwhelming boastful spirit, surpassing even incorporeal powers, that of the devil himself while humility of mind and acknowledgment of sins by the robber is what brought him into Paradise before the Apostles.” —St. John Chrysostom

  10. I’m sorry, but the future tense of βεβαιόω does not refer “to the fact that El Shaddai shall preserve all in Christ to the end of this age, complete them at that time then they will all be with their Lord forever.” That’s the understanding we may draw from the passage as a whole, but language does not generally pack that much meaning into a particular word, and the Greek certainly doesn’t in this case.

    I don’t understand your interpretation of the aorist of χωρίζω, but it’s irrespective of time.

  11. Well Vlad, I’m not sure what point you are trying to make, but since βεβαιόω is the verb in question in 1 Corinthians 1:8 then it most certainly DOES refer to the preservation of the saints to the end of the age. It is in light of the future tense of βεβαιόω that we study in concert with the rest of the passage that gives us this interpretation.

    Now with respect to χωρίζω in Romans 8:39, since this verb describes punctiliar action instead of continuous or repeated action then the context of the action must be understood from the rest of the passage. What is Paul talking about? It is about the tests and trials and tribulation that all Christians go through and he is telling us that these “actions” cannot create a space between us and God.

    Knowing the grammar and the word defintions is only part of Bible study. We must also look at the context, which is what I did in these two passages.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  12. I understand, Mike. What I’m saying is that you imply that the form of the verb is carrying the weight of the significance you point out. That not the case. Your commentary on the passages, which in fact are based on context, as a whole are fine, but claiming that those particular morphological inflections are giving insight into the meaning is, with all due respect, irresponsible.

  13. Vlad,

    It is the verbs and participles which describe the action in those passages and I respectfully disagree with your statement that they do not carry much of the weight of the significance. It is imperative in our understanding of scripture to look at the grammar and context. I also disagree with your analysis that this type of analysis was not a large part of the meaning and interpretation of my article. The verb tense, mood, and voice plus the context of the passage can give us a much deeper meaning than simply reading the text.

    God gave us language and it is deep in meaning if we are willing to dig and listen to the spirit as we dig.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  14. How then, does the future in the Greek differ from the future in English? And what is the significance of a punctiliar aorist? In other words, you must have brought up the Greek for a reason, presumably because the English translation was missing something.

    In your commentary I don’t see any exegesis from the Greek, just a, (entirely noble and encouraging) explanation based on the context.

  15. Vlad,

    The significance of the future tense in this passage for that word is that Paul is telling Christians that each act of suffering or act by our enemy is meant to come between us and God (that’s what the word means), but the action is not definite. It is not continuous, but it is like the word “shall.” It is going to happen and when it does it will not come between us and God.

    You must also understand that these articles are not going to be written to the same depth as I would like because of space and the need to publish each evening so I do leave out much of my reasoning and the detail. That does not mean that I did not go through the process of analysis and study.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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