This post originally appeared on Scripture Dig during a series on the Names of God.
This time last week I was walking the streets of Paris. I had the wonderful opportunity for a two-day layover on my way home from teaching for two weeks in Moldova. My traveling companion and I visited many of the well-known sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre.
The long, rich history of this beautiful city probably struck me more than anything else. For more than 4,000 years, earthly leaders have fought over this geographic area. Powerful rulers like Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon Bonaparte have laid claim to the city on the Seine. Because they had power and authority over Paris, they could be considered “lord” over the city.
Many people in the Bible were also called “lord.” This title of respect was used by Sarah to refer to her husband Abraham and by David to refer to King Saul. The Hebrew word translated as “lord” in the Old Testament is the singular noun “adon.” Adon is used hundreds of times to refer to a human in a position of leadership. It means “lord, master, owner, ruler, commander, or one with a position of authority.” It signifies the relationship between the authority and those under the lord’s authority.
But no matter how great these earthly lords, there is One greater. Our God is Lord of lords and King of kings. The Hebrew word translated as “Lord” (with a capital “L” rather than a lower case “l”) in the Old Testament is “adonay” or “Adonai.” It is a plural noun with a first person singular suffix. Adonai, the plural form of adon, denotes intensity. God is not simply a lord. He is the Lord of lords. Napoleon may have been lord of Paris, but God is the Lord of everything. Notice the distinction in Psalm 136:
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:3, NIV
When you read the Bible, watch for “Lord” with the capital “L” as opposed to “lord” with the lowercase “l.” That is Adonai. Very early in the history of Israel, devout Jews began to use Adonai as a substitute for God’s covenant name Yahweh. Since “Yahweh” was too holy to be spoken, they would say Adonai instead. (For more information on Yahweh, see an earlier post.) In Scripture, these two names are sometimes used together. In the verse below “LORD” in all caps is Yahweh in the Hebrew. “Lord” is Adonai.
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Psalm 135:5, NIV
How should the truth that God is “Lord” impact us today? Remember that “Lord” describes the nature of a relationship. If God is Lord then we are His vassals. If God is Master, then we are His servants. The Psalms tell us our Lord acts with everlasting kindness (136:3) and that His understanding is infinite (147:5). Our God is not a lord that merely subdues. He is the Lord that rules in all power, authority, and love.
Let’s express our devotion today to the Lord of lords and the King of kings. Share your words of praise!