Yesterday we looked at what many English translations of the Bible translate as LORD, with all capitals. When this is used in the Bible, it is referring to God’s proper name – Jehovah or Yahweh. Today we’re going to look at what is being referred to in the Bible when God is referred to as simply Lord, with a capital L, but lower-case for the rest of the word. This word is translated from a very different Hebrew word – adonai.
Adonai is a plural word which means lord or master. The plurality of Adonai most likely does not actually refer to multiple beings, but instead is intended to show intensity. So instead of just saying lord, someone calling God Adonai is calling Him Lord reverently and worshipfully. In fact, the name is only used of God in Jewish tradition – when speaking of human lords, or distinguished people, the Hebrew people used the singular adon. Yesterday, when talking about the proper name Jehovah, I mentioned that Jewish people refuse to speak or even write the name of God, out of reverence to Him. The name Adonai, then, is often what they call Him instead. (see here)
So what does it mean to say that God is our Lord? Lord isn’t a term we use much any more, at least not in America. According to Dictionary.com, lord can have multiple meanings:
a person who has authority, control, or power over others; a master, chief, or ruler.
a person who exercises authority from property rights; an owner of land, houses, etc.
a feudal superior; the proprietor of a manor. (i.e., the lord of the household)
- a male member of the nobility, esp in Britain
I think we can take a lot from these definitions. Notice that one of 3 basic things must be met before one can be titled a lord – they must be born with some status (nobility), they must own property (a household or land), or they must have power over others by position. Looking at God in these terms, we can see that obviously God wasn’t born with the title Lord, since He has always existed. But because of his ever-existent status, He could be considered to have a higher status than us, since we only live an average of 70 or so years. So He has already earned this title by existence-status alone. Then, we notice that He is the creator of the entire universe, and the creator of anything has possession of his creation (unless he gives it up – but God has not given His possession of His creation up). Therefore, He is Lord over all the universe, simply because He created it all. This includes humanity. Finally, because of His position as creator, as well as the One who sustains His creation, he automatically has authority, power, and control over us. In every way possible, God is Lord.
So to be Lord means to have authority. Jesus said “…all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus, therefore, is the Lord of the universe. But just because someone has authority over you doesn’t mean that you automatically submit to that authority. My boss has authority over me, but I must choose whether or not I am going to do what he says. The same is true of Jesus. We often call Him Lord, but if we don’t live in a way that is submissive to Him as our master, we are misusing this name. We must make Jesus the Lord of our lives. Here’s how:
- Make Jesus the most important thing in your life. “33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
- Sacrifice everything for His sake. “1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
- Commit to Scripture reading and memory, and to prayer. “2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
- Obey what He commands in His Word. “46Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:46-49)
- Adjust your attitude by focusing on good things. “8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
- Foster your family relationships. “33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33); “1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1); “4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
- Treat your job as if you are doing it for Him. “23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23)
- Spend money wisely, with an eternal perspective. “19Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
I’m sure this isn’t a complete list of what it takes to make Jesus our Lord. The truth is, most of these are just actions that overflow from Him already being the Lord of our lives. Making Jesus Lord is a heart issue more than a behavior issue. I think that it’s something we work on our entire lives, because we always have competing interests tugging us in different directions. But, as I learn to pray in a more effective way and in a way that honors God, I believe I will ponder the true meaning of His status as Lord before I use this term so nonchalantly again.