El Shaddai, Or The God Who Is Enough
I am the Almighty God. Walk before Me and be thou perfect. Genesis 17:1
There are epochs in every great life, and perhaps this day marks an epoch in many of our lives. The text marks such an epoch in Abraham’s life. Several similar crisis hours had already come in the history of the patriarch. The first was when he left his native land at God’s bidding. The second was when he entered Canaan and found it a famine-stricken land of foes. The third was when he separated from Lot and God appeared to him and gave him the promise of all that he had left and much more besides. The fourth was when God gave him the promise of a son, perhaps fifteen or twenty years before the present epoch. That promise was accompanied with a very wonderful revelation of God and a covenant covering all the future and foreshadowing the blessing of coming ages.
But Abraham had not been altogether true to the high calling which God had given him. He had not doubted God’s promise and yet he had staggered under its weight enough to unite with Sarah his wife some fourteen years before the present incident in helping God to fulfill His promise by taking into his family Hagar, their servant, and striving through her to bring about the fulfillment of the promise of a son in the person of Ishmael. In all this God had seen the wavering of a double mind, and now when He appears to Abraham in his hundredth year He very obviously alludes to Abraham’s doubtful attitude by the startling message which is as much a reproof as it is a promise, “I am El-Shaddai. Walk before Me and be thou perfect.”
He had not been quite upright in his faith because he had not quite believed in the all-sufficiency of his God, and therefore it was necessary that God should come to him in a new revelation of His power and require from Abraham a new expression of his faith. It may be that this is just where some of us are standing today. We have been trusting God in part and have been trying to do the other part ourselves, and God is speaking to us by His new and almighty name and saying to us “I am El-Shaddai. Walk before Me and be thou perfect.”
I. A NEW REVELATION OF GOD
Every advance step in our spiritual life must spring from a new view of God. It was the vision of God that sent Abraham forth on his new career of faith, and it was a new revelation of God that led him to further advances in the successive steps of his life of faith. It was the revelation of God to Jacob, first at Bethel and next at Peniel, that led to the great crisis of his life. It was a revelation of God that sent Moses forth to deliver Israel. It was a similar revelation that made Joshua the conqueror of Canaan. The vision of God brought healing and new life to Job and called Isaiah to his great prophetic mission; and it is such a vision of God that alone can meet the needs of our hearts and inspire our souls to our heavenly calling. It is God we need to see and it is God in this mighty character as El-Shaddai, the All-sufficient One.
THE GOD OF THE SUPERNATURAL
This name stands for the Almightiness of God. We might translate it to mean the God of the supernatural. Men are trying to get the supernatural out of the Bible and explain it all on rationalistic principles. The devil is engaged on a parallel line to get the supernatural out of Christian life and to bring religion down to a mere matter of ethics, morals and humanitarian improvement. The very essence or Christianity is that it is the revelation, worship and fellowship of a supernatural Being and it is all Divine from the first to the last century. God’s great object is to make Himself known to us and then to work out His almightiness in us. Every situation into which He brings us is just a frame in which to set His promises and a mold in which to cast some new manifestation of His all-sufficiency. The very difficulties that surround our lives today are but opportunities for God to show Himself to us as El·Shaddai.
WHAT THIS MEANS
This does not merely mean that He is almighty in the abstract and that He has the attribute of Omnipotence. All will concede this in a general way, for if God be God at all He must be omnipotent. But many of us hedge Him around with such limitations, laws and modes of operation as to practically tie His hands and make it impracticable for Him to do any real supernatural thing in our lives. To really believe in the all-sufficiency of God means that He is actually at liberty to do for us all that we need a God for, and that we have a right to take Him for everything for which we are unequal and insufficient. It means that He has promised all things necessary for life and godliness, that He has provided all things and that we have a right to come to Him for all things, presenting without question the mighty check on the bank of heaven, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
ABLE TO SAVE
It means, in the first place, that we have a God that is equal to our salvation and the salvation of any sinner, however lost and however long resisting the mercy and grace of God. It means that He is equal to the salvation of your boy, your friend, your soul, whoever you are and whatever you may be. It means that He is equal to your sanctification and the sanctification of any temperament, no matter how impracticable; the counteracting of any habit, no matter how confirmed; the overcoming of any defect, infirmity and sin, no matter how deeply rooted and aggravated; victory over any and every temptation that may come, and a life sanctified through and through and preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It means that He “is able to keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”
ABLE TO HEAL
It means that He is equal to your physical need and has made provision for your sickness as well as your sins, your infirmities of body as well as your infirmities of temper and the supply of all needed strength, health and help until your life work is done. It means that He is equal to your circumstances, that He can sustain you, comfort you and keep you under all possible unfavorable conditions, making you happy when everything around you is uncongenial, using and blessing you when everything seems to conflict and hinder, and then transforming circumstances, turning the curse into a blessing and bringing up the fir tree and the myrtle instead of the thistle and the thorn.
It means that He is equal to your work, no matter what the difficulties and obstructions may be, that He can overcome the antagonism of China, the caste of India, the barbarism of Africa, and even the lethargy and selfishness of the church itself, and can carry on and complete His glorious work in spite of the selfishness of man, the hate of Satan and the faithlessness even of His own followers. As old Matthew Henry quaintly expresses it “El-Shaddai just means the God that is enough.”
Enough for you, enough for me,
Enough for all forever.
II. A NEW EXERCISE OF FAITH
It is not enough to have an almighty God, but we must be able to respond to His promise and appropriate His almightiness. There must be in us a corresponding faculty of faith which first comprehends and then appropriates and proves in action the reality of all His power and promise. In Eden man lost this power and got away from the sphere of God’s supreme attraction, and since then has been like a wandering star out of its orbit, off from its center and plunging into the blackness of darkness forever. Faith is the law of spiritual gravitation which brings man back to God and swings his life into the orbit of trust, fellowship and obedience.
In this Abraham is our great forerunner, and our part is to follow in the steps of our father Abraham, and as we follow we shall find that all his steps were steps of faith. But Abraham’s faith was not as yet perfected, and God had now to give him a startling object lesson of what it really means to believe God. And so He does much more than talk to Abraham. He requires Abraham to meet Him and answer back by the actions of responsive faith. And so we see in the following verses the most dramatic picture of the steps of faith to be found in the Bible.
THREE TENSES OF FAITH
First – God gives Abraham the promise of future blessing. “I will make My covenant between thee and Me.” Abraham meets this promise and goes down upon his face before God to claim it. Then follows secondly the next tense of faith, which is the present tense. “As for Me behold My covenant is with thee.” The thing that God would do He now does. The thing that Abraham expected he now accepts and takes as a present fact. The future becomes the present tense and faith becomes action. But there is still a third tense and a third step of faith. “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, for thy name shall be Abraham for a father of many nations have I made thee.” It is now the perfect tense.” The thing that was promised was done and is now finished. Action has become transaction and has passed even beyond the present tense, and therefore Abraham must take the position of one who has passed through all these stages and has actually received his yet unseen blessing. He must change his name and stand before the public and be laughed at and called a fool, an old man in his dotage, a dreamer; as his neighbors ask him the reason of the strange difference in his name, and he tells them that God has made him the father of many nations. Faith must be sealed by testimony and testimony must be steeped in trial, shame and many a waiting hour of trusting in the dark.
But at length there comes the day of vindication, when the laugh is turned upon them and little Isaac is called the name of “Laughter” because God has made him to laugh instead of them in the glorious vindication of His believing child.
RECKON ON GOD
This, beloved, is the way in which we must meet El-Shaddai. We must not only take the promise for the future, but we must bring it into the present and claim it as an immediate fact in this moment of our lives. Then we must translate it into the past and take the position that it is an accomplished fact and call it so, nor be ashamed to have men know that we believe our God and venture on even calling the things that are not as though they were. This is the committal of faith. This is the place where so many fail to enter in, but this is the very ladder of blessing described in the thirty-seventh Psalm, where David says, “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and He worketh. Rest in the Lord, be silent to God and wait patiently for Him and He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light and thy judgments as the noon day.”
Do we want salvation? First, there is the promise “Him that cometh unto Me I will not cast out.” There must come a moment when that promise is brought into the present and faith must say, “He does not cast out, He does receive.” And then faith must take one step further and add “He has accepted. I am saved,” and accept the new name of child and call Him Abba, Father. Then it is that the Spirit witnesses to the soul and the glorious reality pours into our conscious life.
THE WAY TO RECEIVE HIM
Is it sanctification and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost that we seek? We must take the same three steps of faith, He will, He does, He has given the Holy Ghost. I am His and He is mine and Christ is within me the Hope of glory.
Is it healing we seek? We shall pray in vain and in vain expect the promise to be fulfilled until we accept the promise as fulfilled and pronounce the word of accomplished faith and pass into a Divine transaction. And so with every blessing that we may need and every promise that we may claim, each of them must be passed through these stages of promise, the appropriation and the acknowledgment of testimony and praise, and then the great wheels of God’s mighty co-operation will begin to revolve, and the glorious results of faith will pass into living realities in your life.
HE STAGGERED NOT
Abraham successfully passed through this crisis place, and henceforth we see him walking before El-Shaddai upright, perfect, unwavering and triumphant. If we turn to the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, we shall find a magnificent picture of the new Abraham after he met EI-Shaddai. We are told that his faith was so strong that against hope he believed in hope. We are told that he could look at his own body and consider it as good as dead without being discouraged, because he was not looking at himself, but at the Almighty One that could quicken his body and make it equal to the fulfillment of the promise, and in spite of Sara’s age and inability could supernaturally work through her for the accomplishment of His will. We are told that “he staggered not at the promise through unbelief.” He did not walk with a wobbling or unsteady gait, but stood straight up unbending beneath his mighty load of blessing, and instead of growing weak he waxed strong in the faith, growing more robust the more the difficulties became apparent, glorifying God through his very insufficiency and being “fully persuaded,” as the Greek expresses, “that He who had promised was” (not “able,” as our version has it, but, as it literally means) “abundantly able,” munificently able, able with an infinite surplus of resources, infinitely able, “to perform.” He recognized it as an easy thing for God to do all this, and for this God was glorified, pleased, delighted, and He holds him forth as an eternal example of the faith He expects from us in the later days of the Christian dispensation and in the age of a risen and ascended Christ and a present Holy Ghost.
The best application that I know how to make of this sublime message of God is the passage quoted above in the third chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.
1. It tells us that He is able exceeding abundantly. He is the God of boundless resources. The resurrection and ascension of Christ is forever the pattern of what we may expect Him to do for us.
2. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking our ideas are too low, our prayers are too small, our expectations are too limited. The Greek is very strong – “far beyond all that we ask or think.” He is trying to lift us up to a higher conception and lure us on to a mightier expectation and appropriation. Oh, shall we put Him in derision!
3. There is but one measure here given for His blessing, and that is “according to the power that worketh in us.” God will do for us just as much as we will let Him work in us. His temporal provisions will be commensurate with our spiritual experience. As much as we know Him in our hearts we may know Him in our lives and circumstances. As much as He works in us He will work for us. As much as He prays in us He will make real in His glorious answering providences.
4. The sphere of His mighty working is in the church. It is through His work, His word, the building up of His kingdom, that we are to experience the glorious riches of His power. He will not give it to us for selfish or worldly needs, but He will use it for the building up of His church and the bringing in of His kingdom. He is head over all things for His body, the church. All that He is and all that He has over yonder is for the completion of the church, the preparation of the bride and the evangelization of the world. There is no limit to what we may ask and expect of our glorious El-Shaddai.
5. But to Him must be the glory. All this must be in the spirit of self-abnegation, and Christ alone must be exalted. The way to glorify Him is to take much from Him and let Him do much for us.
6. There is one more suggestion in this sublime passage, “throughout all ages, world without end.” Literally, it means through the generation of the age of ages. In the apostle’s mind time and eternity consists of generations and ages unfolding forever. We are living in one of those generations. This is the generation in which He wants to work for us as He never worked before. Oh, that He may give us grace to be men for our generation, to understand the sublime significance of this last age of the Christian dispensation and to make our generation one that shall shine among the rolling ages of the coming eons as the sublimest exhibition of the power of the glory of our King amid all the ages that have been and that through it and through us He may yet make known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places in the ages to come the manifold wisdom of God.