“No” or “Yes”?

I wish I could write that I identify with the hero of this blog today – with Isaiah. But honestly, I identify more with Moses. On many other days of his life, Moses is a great one to emulate! But on this day, his faith isn’t stellar, and his understanding is negligible of the terms he uses to address God and refer to himself. They are only . . . terms. And that is a hard truth I’ve learned about myself.

Most commonly I refer to God as “Lord” in prayer. Occasionally, “Lord, show me what you want me to do.” But too often, “Lord, blah, blah, blah.” Addressing Him as Lord from habit and not with a submissive, obedient heart. Saying, “Lord” with no sense of its meaning both on His behalf and on mine as His servant.

The Hebrew word “Adonai” is the word most often translated “Lord” (lowercase “ord”) in the Old Testament. Its meaning is like a double-sided coin. It speaks of a Master who is sovereign, owns his servants, and lovingly provides all they need.

Flip it, and it speaks of us as His servants ready to obey His every command and utterly dependent on Him. It is the relationship of a perfect, loving Master and His servants.

At the site of a bush bursting with flames, Moses encounters the LORD (Yahveh), who tells Moses some crazy stuff. God says He is going to deliver His people, His hundreds of thousands of people, from slavery in Egypt. And He invites Moses to be the one He uses to do it. Moses’ response is,

. . . “Oh, my Lord (Adonai), I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue. . .  Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”  Exodus 4:10, 13 (ESV)

Did you notice what Moses calls himself? A “servant.” And what he calls God? “Adonai,” which, again, means Sovereign Master. Moses answers, . . . “No.” If we ever hope to see God’s purpose unfold in our lives, it will probably behoove us never to say, “Adonai” and “No” in the same sentence. But I have.  Maybe not out loud, but my actions shout it. At those times, “Lord” is just a term.

Contrast Moses’ response to Isaiah’s. After Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord (Adonai), high and lifted up, God asks a question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah immediately responds, before He knows the job description, “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). Adonai deserves that kind of submission.

Like any slave, I have a purchase price. But it is a higher price than any slave owner ever had to pay. Adonai, my Master, was obedient as a servant to the cross. When I ponder my purchase price, how can “Adonai” ever become a meaningless term? How can I ever say, “No”?

About the Writer:
Joni Cleveland is passionate about searching after God and sharing what He teaches her, her husband and family, her grandkids’ giggles, peppermint chocolate chip ice cream, and Jesus-loving conversations around a table with good friends. She is a teacher for Refresh and Refresh@Night Bible studies at First Dallas.

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