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LORD and Lord?

In reading Scripture, have you ever noticed it sometimes uses "LORD" (in all CAPS) and other times "Lord" (with only the L capitalized) and wondered why? There must be a difference in usage, right? Except for appearance, there is no distinguishable difference in the English language.

However, there is a definitive difference in the use, meaning and significance of the two words in the original languages. Before launching into that difference, let's briefly reflect on last week's blog. We need to realize again that Jesus taught His disciples to proclaim the holiness of God and of His name! Teaching His followers to pray, Jesus said: "When you pray, say Our Father, hallowed be your Name." "Hallowed" means holy, sanctified, set apart, consecrated, anointed, revered or highly honored. So, regarding the holiness of God's name there is no debate!

Now, to the meanings and usage of the terms LORD and Lord in the Scriptures. One (LORD) is His name and the other (Lord) is His title. His name tells WHO He is and His title tells WHAT He does. Let's talk about His name first. The word LORD is the very name of God. In the Bible, we read: "Let them praise your great and terrible name, for it is holy." (Psalm 99:3) "Neither shall you profane my holy name." (Leviticus 22:32) The Psalmist encouraged all people: "Glory in his holy name." (Psalm 105:3)

Yahweh (YHWH) is the Hebrew name of the God of Israel. It occurs 6,800 times in the Hebrew Bible, and is referred to as the tetragrammaton (meaning four letters - YHWH). Did you know God is the only Person who named Himself? He told Moses: "I AM WHO I AM". (Exodus 3:14) This name is so holy and majestic that many orthodox Jewish people still do not pronounce or say this name of God out loud. Instead, they say: "Hashem" meaning "the name" or "Adonai" which means "Lord" in order to safe-guard the holiness of His name. There are other major names for God in the Scriptures: 1) "Adonai" - Lord or Master, 2) El - Deity or God, 3) Elohim - deity, God, 4) Shaddai - The Almighty, 5) Tzevact - "Lord of Armies" or "Lord of Hosts."

Yahweh is the name by which God identified Himself to Moses. In this personal name, God revealed Himself to be a present Living Being (Divine Person) - present with and for His people. Whenever and wherever His name is invoked, it is saturated with the certainty of His attention, His care, His power, His love and His grace and mercy. A paraphrase of God's word to Moses at the burning bush could be: "Say to the people of Israel, 'I AM present has sent me to you.'" God is Yahweh, present with and for His people in ALL their situations! This means you and me also!

It is significant that Jesus referred to the words "I AM" linking Himself to the Old Testament revelation of God. There are seven times Jesus said "I AM". In doing so, He claimed the attributes of deity, identifying Himself as GOD. Note:

  1. "I AM the Bread of life" - John 6:35, 41, 48, 51

  2. "I AM the Light of the world" - John 8:12; 9:5

  3. "I AM the Door" - John 10:7 & 9

  4. "I AM the Good Shepherd" - John 10:11 & 14

  5. "I AM the Resurrection and the Life" - John 11:25

  6. "I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life" - John 14:6

  7. "I AM the true Vine" - John 15:1 & 5

Also, there are two other "I AM" statements of Jesus, which are not metaphors, but declarations of God's name, as He applies it to Himself. Jesus told the Pharisees: "Before Abraham was born, I AM." (John 8:58) Then in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked the mob who they were looking for. They replied, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I AM HE". (John 18:4-5) When He identified Himself, a very remarkable thing happened - "they (the mob) drew back and fell to the ground." (verse 6) Jesus applied God's covenant name to Himself and in doing so, He demonstrated His power over His enemies and showed that His surrender to them was entirely voluntary. (See John 10:17-18; 19:11)

The word "Lord" is used as God's Title. It means "Master": one who has authority over another. Jesus' followers used this title many times as recorded throughout the Gospels. God has many titles given in the Scriptures, such as, "Father", "Almighty", "King" and "Savior." "Lord" is the English translation of "ADONAI". This is the most exalted title that the Scriptures use for God. This is the same title given to Jesus when He is referred to as Lord. The term "adonai" means 'the supreme Sovereign One".

I have written this blog to simply help us when we read the words "LORD" or "Lord" in the Scriptures. First, let's be aware of which word is used, Name or Title". Second, let's be aware of the context and the meaning of each word. I believe knowing the distinction will enhance our understanding of God as we read the Scriptures.

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God has blessed me with a long and fruitful ministry! I have over 40 years in pastoral ministry, retreat speaking, Evangelism, teaching and Christian Radio broadcasting.

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