In May, I talked about "Elohim" and "El." Elohim means "Mighty Creator." Elohim is used when we read about God as the creator - the one who created from nothing. El means "God of Power & Might." El is used when we read about God's vast power - a power unlike any other. Elohim and El.
Today, I want to share two more names for God. The names for God are in the bulletin. The first name is El Roi (el raw EE) - it means "the God who sees me."
El Roi appears in Genesis 16 - the story of Abram ten years after God first made a promise to Abram - the promise is that a Savior, who can reconcile all mankind to God will come from Abram's family line. Abram's wife, Sarai, is frustrated with not being pregnant. Abram and Sarai have been waiting ten years for God's promise to be fulfilled. Sarai takes matters into her own hands and encourages Abram to sleep with her maid, Hagar. Abram agrees to sleep with Hagar. Then, Sarai is upset when Hagar is pregnant. Sarai mistreats Hagar, who then flees.
The angel of the Lord finds Hagar in the desert. The angel tells Hagar to return to Sarai and submit herself. The angel adds that Hagar's descendants will increase. The angel says Hagar will have a son, named Ishmael because God has heard Hagar's misery. Hagar says she has seen the one who sees her. Hagar gives the name El Roi to God, meaning "the God who sees me."
The language in the Hagar story leads scholars to believe that the angel who appears to Hagar is an appearance of God himself. Hagar gives God a personal name to express her awe and gratitude. The name El Roi is more than an all-seeing and all-knowing description of God. Hagar makes the name personal when she says "You are the God who sees ME." - El Roi. This is the only time in scripture where someone gives God a name, instead of God giving himself a name.
God seeing us individually is so much more than God being aware of us. God reveals himself to Hagar - to us - as El Roi because God wants us to know he is a God who sees us.
Hagar naming God El Roi - the God who sees me - foreshadows what happens in the New Testament. Jesus' ministry calls us to be in relationship on a personal level with God - a close intimate relationship. Jesus calls us to know in our hearts that God sees us individually - repeat after me "God sees me." I want to encourage us all to start each day this next week saying "God sees me." out loud - see how it feels - see where it may lead us individually.
Another name for God is El Shaddai (el shad DI), meaning "God Almighty." El Shaddai is found about 50 times in the Old Testament. The meaning of El Shaddai - "God Almighty" - seems the same or close to the meaning of El - "God of Power & Might." However, Shaddai means another type of power and might than El describes. The Almighty of Shaddai means God has the power to keep his promises - God has the power to do what he says he will do, especially if the promise seems impossible.
Shaddai comes from a similar Hebrew word, "shad," meaning breast. Shaddai is a metaphor for God as one who nourishes, supplies and satisfies. Shaddai means God is all-sufficient. God keeps his word and fulfills his promises. God is able to do abundantly more than we can ask for or imagine.
El Shaddai is used in Genesis 17, the story of when God appears to Abram again and confirms his covenant - his promise - first made 25 years earlier - 15 years after Hagar returns after naming God El Roi. Covenants are part of Biblical culture. A Biblical covenant is a clear statement of God's purposes and intentions expressed in terms that bind God by solemn oath to perform what he promises.
A covenant is not a contract because a covenant does not expire like a contract does. A covenant is a permanent agreement that God is obligated to keep, even after the death of the person with whom the covenant was made. God uses the covenant model because it is so readily understood by the culture at that time.
Genesis 17:1 is the first time in the Bible that El Shaddai is used. Why does God use El Shaddai at this point? Perhaps because all of God's promises - that Abram will be the father of many nations - that God changes Abram's name which means "exalted father" to Abraham which means "father of many" - that Abraham will be fruitful with millions of descendents, including kings - that God's promises to Abraham will continue for generations to come - that God promises to be Abraham's God and the God of all of Abraham's descendents - that the land of Canaan, where Abraham lives as a stranger, will be given to Abraham's descendents - that Sarah will be the mother of many nations and her descendents will include kings - that Abraham and Sarah will have a son within a year who they will name Isaac - that God will establish his covenant with Isaac and his descendents - that God also will bless Abraham's son, Ishmael, though Ishmael is not part of the covenant - all these promises hinge on Abraham and Sarah having a child, a seemingly impossibility.
God knows Abraham fathered Ishmael with Hagar 13 years previous to this reconfirming of God's promises. God knows Abraham and Sarah are still waiting for their son. God pulls out his biggest name - El Shaddai - God Almighty - the one who has the power and might to keep and fulfill the promises he makes. Abraham's response is to fall facedown before God - perhaps an involuntary response to the nearness of God's presence and voice - still, a sign of deep respect before God - submission to God's plans.
God asks Abraham to be circumcised - a permanent, constant reminder - a sign of believing in and accepting God's promises. Every male in Abraham's household, including Ishmael, is circumcised. Every male descendent in the future is to be circumcised. The change of Abraham's and Sarah's names is a sign to everyone that God made promises to them. Isaac, born to Abraham at 100 and Sarah at 90, is a miracle and the fulfillment of El Shaddai's promises.
We know from the Hagar story in Genesis 16 that Abraham's faith in El Shaddai to keep his promises was not perfect or without struggle. However, Abraham came to believe in God's promises. We, too, are called to believe in God's promises to us. In addition to saying out loud to ourselves every day this next week "God sees me." - I want to encourage us to spend some time reading scripture. Jot down 2 cites: Philippians 4:6-7 & 1 Corinthians 10:13. Read these verses and highlight or note the promises God makes us - read what we need do to receive these promises. I promise you the conditions are not as severe as circumcision.
Elohim, Mighty Creator - Genesis 1, the creation story;
El, God of Power & Might - 2 Chronicles 20:1-30, the story of Jehoshaphat;
El Roi, the God Who Sees Me - Genesis 16, the story of Hagar;
El Shaddai, God Almighty - Genesis 17:1-12, the story of God's covenant with Abram.
May God continue to reveal himself to us. Amen.