GOD ALMIGHTY OR EL SHADDAI
WE have already seen how the revelation of the first two names of God, "Elohim" and "Jehovah," involves what looks like an antagonism. "Elohim" is One who is in covenant-relationship, and loves in virtue of relationship; who therefore carries on His new creation work accordingly to His own purpose, till all is very good. "Jehovah," on the other hand, reveals true being; One therefore who must be opposed to all that is false and evil, that is, to all that is not true being; and who must judge it, because His will is crossed by evil, even though He Himself suffers with His creatures in the judgment. We cannot deny that there is something which looks like a contradiction here, between a God who carries out His purpose according to His will, and One whose heart is grieved and whose will is crossed by the disobedience of the creature. But Holy Scripture does not shrink from repeating this apparent contradiction. We see it in the seeming opposition between the truth of God's free grace and man's free will, and in the no less seeming contradiction that our Lord's sacrifice and death was at the same moment both a sweet-savour and a non-sweet-savour offering. How, it has been asked, can it be true that all is of God's grace; "not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy" (Rom. 9:16); and yet that God can say, "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life" (John 5:40); "How often would I have gathered you, and ye would not?" (Matt. 23:37). How is it possible that our Lord's sacrifice, even unto death, could have been voluntarily offered by Him, as the most perfect freewill offering of love, and therefore most acceptable to God, as a sweet savour upon His altar; and yet that at the same time it should be penal, the divinely required and necessary vindication of a broken law? Yet Holy Scripture distinctly teaches that Christ's sacrifice has both these aspects; and, as we pass from things as they appear to things as they are, we see that no sacrifice can be perfect, unless it is at the same time both voluntary and involuntary. So as to God Himself. It is only in the union of apparent opposites, (as I have already said,) that we can get even glimpses of His unmeasured and immeasurable fulness. To contend therefore only for one view or side of truth against another, simply because under the limitations of our present nature we cannot at once logically reconcile the two, is to shut ourselves out from that more perfect knowledge to which God leads us by varied revelations. But how many are thus "straitening themselves" (2 Cor. 6:12, 13), losing thereby the fulness of the light, which the acceptance of every ray of His truth, however much one may seem to differ from another, must always bring with it.
And both saints and sinners may err in this way, through one-sided views of truth. On the one hand careless souls, with their vague hope of some future salvation, on the ground that God is merciful and can "never leave us nor forsake us," shut their eyes to the no less certain fact that He is righteous, and must judge, not all evil only, but evildoers also, to the uttermost. On the other, those who have learnt that God is righteous, and that His will is crossed by sin, which He must judge, conclude that, because it is now so crossed, it will be crossed for ever, and that, because He is righteous, though He desires to save all, He must for ever lose a portion of His creatures. If these careless souls could only see that their thought ignores God's holiness, and that all evil sooner or later must be judged, because the Lord is righteous, they could hardly live as they do in their present carelessness, but would judge themselves, that they might not be judged of the Lord. On the other hand, if those who think of God as just, and that He must condemn evil, could but go on to know the Lord as He is revealed under the names "Almighty" and "Most High," they would see how their view of "Jehovah" yet lacks something, and that there are powers in the "Almighty" and the "Most High," which cannot permit God to be crossed for ever, but which, first in His elect, and then by them, can and must accomplish His will, that all men should be saved, and should come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4-6).
For the third and fourth names under which God is revealed in Holy Scripture, the name "Almighty," by which He revealed Himself to Abram, the man of faith, and the name "Most High," by which He was known to the Canaanite King, Melchisedek, if we can read them aright, give God's solution of the seeming contradiction, first, to the elect, and then to those who are as far off as the Canaanite. But to know "El Shaddai," we must be like him to whom this name was first revealed, and, even if we are such, there are many stages to be trodden before this revelation is vouchsafed to us. For the man of faith "gets him out of his country," and then "from his kindred and his father's house," and has some experience of Canaan, and has gone down thence to Egypt, and has denied Sarai, and is yet without the promised seed, though he has sought it by Hagar, that is by law, and by his own energy (See Gen. 12:1, 5, 11, 12; Gal. 4:24), before he hears the words, "I am God Almighty," and learns in self-judgment how the strength of God is made perfect in our weakness. If we know nothing of this path, there may be things yet beyond us in the revelation of "El Shaddai," even though we may be Abrams, that is men of faith, who seek to be obedient. But a time comes when the name is known, when we learn, not in word but deed, how the self-willed creature can be blessed, and "Jehovah's" will, crossed by man's sin, shall henceforth by grace be crossed no more. The Lord Himself, the "Almighty," help me, while I try to open what may be opened here respecting this name, "El Shaddai," or "Almighty."
And, first, to say what this name, "Almighty," does not mean, (for there may be some misapprehensions respecting this,) that we may better see what it does mean.
"Almighty" is supposed by some to mean One who has the power to do anything and everything. But such an idea of Almightiness is not that which Holy Scripture presents to us. Holy Scripture says that God is Truth (Isa. 65:16) and Love (1 John 4:8). As the true and righteous God, the very Truth, He "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2; Numb. 23:19). He "cannot." Does this "cannot" limit His Almightiness? Would He be more Almighty, if He could lie? Certainly not. Falsehood is weakness. Almightiness therefore is not the power of doing anything or everything. Almightiness is the power to carry out the will of a Divine nature. It is no part of God's nature to be false or lie. It is therefore no limiting of His Almightiness to say, He "cannot lie."
But God is also Love. His will is to bless all (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Would it be any proof of His Almightiness, if, instead of being able to save and bless His creatures, He could only punish and destroy them? Take an illustration. Suppose a sculptor, who desired to form an image of himself out of some material, whether of wood, or stone, or metal. Would it be any proof of his power as a sculptor, if, because the stone, or wood, or metal, were hard to work on, he dashed his image all to pieces? Would such an act shew his ability? Quite the reverse. And so with God. To be "Almighty," He must be able to carry out His own will and purpose to the uttermost. And this will is to save His creatures, and to restore and re-form His image in them. If He cannot do this, and "turn the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just" (Luke 1:17), He is not able to fulfil the desire of His nature, and so would not be Almighty. I say, "If He cannot do this." Thank God, "He is able to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:21). And, because He is Love, to "subdue all things to Himself" is to subdue all things to Love.
Now this third name, "God Almighty," in the Hebrew "El Shaddai," taken in connexion with the circumstances under which it was revealed to the man of faith, opens the secret how He does this.
The name itself says not a little. "El," which is so often and rightly translated "God," primarily means "might," or "power," and is used in this sense in not a few passages of Holy Scripture. So Laban says, "It is in the power (El) of my hand to do you hurt" (Gen. 31:29). So again Moses, foretelling the judgments which should come on Israel, for their sins, says, "Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given to another people, ... and there shall be no might (El) in thine hand" (Deut. 28:32). (Note: For further examples of this use of "El," see Neh. 5:5, where we read, "Some of our daughters are brought into bondage, neither is it in our power (El) to redeem them." So too Prov. 3:27—"Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power (El) of thine hand to do it;" and again in Micah 2:1:—"They practise evil, because it is in the power (El) of their hand." Parkhurst's note on the root idea of this word, "El" as expressing Interposition or Intervention, even when applied, as it so constantly is, to God, is well worth turning to. See his Lexicon, under the word אל.) Where the word is applied to the One true God, as it continually is, it always assumes His power. So David says, "It is El that girdeth me with strength" (Psalm 18:32); and again, "Thou art the El, that doest wonders" (Psalm 77:14). (Note: To a mere English reader there will always be a difficulty in knowing whether the name "God" in our English version is "Elohim" or "El" in the original. For both these names have been alike translated "God," while there is an important difference in their signification. When I state again that "Elohim" is translated "God" about two thousand two hundred and fifty times, and that "El" is also translated by the same word, "God," no less than two hundred and twenty-five times in our Authorised Version of the Old Testament, and that there is nothing in our translation to mark the difference between these two names, it will at once be evident that it must be impossible for a mere English reader to know whether some given passage, where the name "God" occurs in our version, speaks of "El" or of "Elohim." If a Revised Version of the Old Testament is ever issued by authority, it would surely be well in some way to mark where the original reads "El," and where it is "Elohim." See further as illustrating this name "El," Deut. 3:24; Psalm 68:35; 78:19; 89:7; Neh. 9:32; Job 36:5, 26; 40:9; Isa. 40:18; 46:9; &c.) When it is applied to angels or men, the same idea of power is always present in it (Psalm 29:1; 82:1; 89:6); as also when it is used of lower creatures, such as "Behemoth," who in virtue of his power is called, "chief of the ways of El" (Job 40:19), or of the "great mountains" or "goodly cedars," which are called "mountains of El," or "cedars of El," because they surpass others in magnificence (Psalm 36:6; 80:10). The thought expressed in the name "Shaddai" (Heb. שדי) is different, though it also describes power; but it is the power, not of violence, but of all-bountifulness. "Shaddai" primarily means "Breasted," being formed directly from the Hebrew word "Shad" (Heb. שד), that is, "the breast," or, more exactly, a "woman's breast." (Note: See Gen. 49:25; Job 3:12; Psalm 22:9; Song 1:13; 4:5; 7:3, 7, 8; 8:1, 8, 10; Isa. 28:9; Lam. 4:3; Ezek. 16:7; 23:3, and other passages; in all which the word translated "breasts" is "Shad," the direct root of "Shaddai." Our English word to "shed" is said by some to come from the same root, which can be traced also in Sanscrit.) Parkhurst thus explains the name:—"Shaddai, one of the Divine titles, meaning 'The Pourer or Shedder forth,' that is, of blessings, temporal and spiritual." But inasmuch as the pourings forth even of the breast, if not properly received, may choke a child; as the rain from heaven, if not drunk in by the earth, may form torrents, and cause ruin and destruction; the same word came to have another meaning, namely to sweep away or make desolate; (Note: For instances of this secondary sense of שד see Job 5:22; Psalm 12:5; Isa. 13:6; 22:4; Jer. 6:7; Joel 1:15; and in other places.) and this thought also may be connected with the name "Shaddai," for blessings and gifts misused become curses. The kindred name, "Sheddim" (Heb. שדים), referred to as objects of idolatrous worship in other parts of Scripture, (and in our Authorised Version translated "devils," See Deut. 32:17; Psalm 106:37,) describes "the many-breasted idols, representing the genial powers of nature," which were "worshipped among the heathen, as givers of rain, and pourers forth of fruits and increase." (Note: See Parkhurst's Hebrew Lexicon, under the words "Shaddai" and "Sheddim." The "Vale of Siddim," which is mentioned in Gen. 14:3, 10, and which was "well watered as the garden of the Lord," Gen. 13:10, seems to have received its name, which is from the same root, שד, from its extreme fertility.) "El Shaddai" is the true Giver of His own life, of whom these heathen "Sheddim" were the idolatrous perversion. In this name the men of faith have ever trusted, of His fulness to receive grace for grace.
If this is seen, I need hardly explain how this title, the "Breasted," or the "Pourer-forth," came to mean "Almighty." Mothers at least will understand it. A babe is crying,—restless. Nothing can quiet it. Yes: the breast can. A babe is pining,—starving. Its life is going out. It cannot take man's proper food: it will die. No: the breast can give it fresh life, and nourish it. By her breast the mother has almost infinite power over the child. Some perhaps will remember the old Greek story, which has come down to us in different forms, (Note: See the Greek Anthology, lib. 1., cap. 14, § 1.) of the babe laid down near some cliff by its mother, while she was busy with her herd of goats. The babe, unperceived, crawled to the edge. The mother, afraid to take a step, lest the child should move further and fall over the precipice, only uncovered her breast, and so drew back the infant to her. It is this figure which God Himself has chosen in this third name, by which to express to us the nature of His Almightiness. The Almightiness which will make His creatures like Him is not of the sword or of mere force. "Jehovah" bears a sword (Deut. 32:41, 42; Ezek. 21:3, 5). But "El Shaddai," the "Almighty," here revealed to Abram, is not the "sworded" God. His Almightiness is of the breast, that is, of bountiful, self-sacrificing, love, giving and pouring itself out for others. Therefore He can quiet the restless, as the breast quiets the child: therefore He can nourish and strengthen, as the breast nourishes: therefore He can attract, as the breast attracts, when we are in peril of falling from Him. This is the "Almighty." And so St. John, when he receives the vision of One who declares, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty," marks that He, who says, "I am the Almighty," is "clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle" (Rev. 1:8, 13). (Note: "Girt about the paps." St. John here uses the word μαστὸς, which is the woman's breast or "paps," while μαζὸς is used more indiscriminately for the breast of either man or woman.) Here is the woman's dress and the woman's breast, while yet the speaker is "The Almighty." This is "El Shaddai," the "Pourer-forth," who pours Himself out for His creatures; who gives them His lifeblood (Acts 20:28); who "sheds forth His Spirit" (Acts 2:17, 33), and says, "Come unto me and drink" (John 7:37): "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it" (Psalm 81:10): and who thus, by the sacrifice of Himself, gives Himself and His very nature to those who will receive Him, that thus His perfect will may be accomplished in them. The blessed Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ is the ceaseless witness of this His giving Himself to us. We may, and we must, "Eat His flesh and drink His blood," if He is to live and work His works in us. Only so, "if we eat His flesh and drink His blood," can we "abide in Him and He in us" (John 6:53-57). Only so, in virtue of His indwelling, can He fulfil His purpose, and be Almighty in us. And yet this giving of Himself involves judgment: self-judgment, if we are obedient: if disobedient, the judgment of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:31, 32).
This is the truth which the name, "El Shaddai," or "Almighty," everywhere proclaims. But it nowhere comes out more clearly than in the record of the Lord's dealings with Abram, when this name, "Almighty," was first revealed to him. Abram had long been the heir of promise. As yet he knew not "Jehovah," but the Lord had promised to bless him, and to give him an inheritance, and a seed which should be as the dust of the earth for multitude (Gen. 12:7; 13:15, 16). But Abram was yet childless. Moved, however, by the promise of God, in his own energy, and by a bondmaid, he makes efforts to obtain that which was to come to him, not in his own strength, but by God's Almightiness. Then comes the revelation of "El Shaddai." God gives Himself to Abram, and then Abram perfectly gives himself to God, and by God is made fruitful. First, the Lord says, "I am God Almighty." Here is the revelation of the source from which Abram is to receive everything. Then He adds something to Abram's name. He puts something into Abram, which at once changes him from Abram to Abraham. What He adds is the letter He, (ה), the chief letter of His own name "Jehovah,"—that sound which can only be uttered by an outbreathing,—thus giving to the elect something of His own nature, (for name denotes nature,) and so by the communication of Himself and of His outbreath or spirit, moulding His creature to His own pleasure, that he may be a channel of blessing to many others. (Note: May I refer the reader to my Types of Genesis, pp. 221, 222, for a further exposition of the import of this change in Abram's name.) At once Abram yields himself to "God Almighty" in everything:—first, in the outward act of circumcision, that figure of self-judgment and perfect self-surrender, which testified that his hope was not in the flesh, or its energies, but only in the blessed Giver of Himself, by whom alone we can bring forth the fruit that is accepted of Him:—and then no less in the giving up and sacrifice of the much-loved son, who had so long been waited for, and of whom it had been said, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called;" that thus, in the utter renunciation of himself and of his own will, the power of "Almighty God" might be brought in, and the elect in his weakness be made strong, and in his giving up of all be filled with all the fulness of his God.
This was the lesson Abram learnt from the revelation of the name, "El Shaddai." This is the lesson we must all learn, if we too are to know God as "Almighty," able to fulfil His purpose in us, and from fruitless Abrams to make us Abrahams, that is the "fathers of a multitude" (See Gen. 17:5, margin). From the "Pourer out" of His own Spirit we must receive that Spirit, which will make us give up ourselves in all things; and that Spirit, though freely given, we only receive in the measure that we are emptied of all self-will and self-confidence. Thus are the elect made fruitful. So long as we lack this breath of God, though heirs of promise, we struggle on for our own will, and even in our efforts to gain the promise, as in Abram's dealings with Hagar, are really crossing Jehovah. When He reveals Himself as the One who gives Himself and His own life to us, and by grace we drink into His Spirit, that "renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He sheds forth abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Titus 3:5, 6), then the creature's will is yielded to God, and indeed becomes one with God's will, and therefore God can do what He will, both in us, and with us. Thus God gives Himself to us, just in measure as we give ourselves to Him. Thus His Almightiness comes to us in what appears to be our helplessness. The less of self, the more of God. And the one only thing needed on man's part, to receive all this Almightiness, is the faith to yield oneself to God, and to let Him do what He will with us. Can we so believe as to let God do what He pleases with us? Then as "all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27), so "all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). "Nations and kings shall come out" of him who is "as good as dead" (See Gen. 17:6; and Heb. 11:12). Nor are the elect alone blessed in all this. Abram is witness, that by this sacrifice of self, through receiving God, blessing comes down on others who are yet far off. All the kindreds of the earth are blessed in the elect, when he can give himself, and his strength, and his life, and all he has to God, that Jehovah's will, so long crossed, may have its way everywhere.
Such is the lesson of the name "El Shaddai," and its connexion with circumcision, that is the self-judgment of the elect, and with the higher fruitfulness which at once results from it. Its subsequent use in Holy Scripture only illustrates the same great truth, that God by giving Himself and His life to us can make us like Himself, givers of ourselves and of our lives, first to Him, and then by Him to others. The name, "Almighty," occurs forty-eight times in Holy Scripture; and of these, thirty-one are in the book of Job, and eight in the Revelation; but wherever it occurs, all the allusions to it repeat implicitly or explicitly this same teaching. I have already referred to the words to Abram, when "El Shaddai" speaks and says, "This is my covenant which ye shall keep. Ye shall circumcise your flesh, and I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and nations and kings shall come out of thee" (Gen. 17:6). But the same thought of fruitfulness is present wherever "El Shaddai" is spoken of. So when Isaac sends Jacob away to Padan-aram to seek a wife, it is upon "El Shaddai" that he calls, saying, "God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people" (Gen. 28:3). So it is "God Almighty" who says to Jacob, "Be fruitful and multiply: a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee" (Gen. 35:11). It is to "God Almighty" that the same Jacob looks to save his children, when he hears that Simeon is detained in Egypt, and his loved Benjamin is required to go there (Gen. 43:14). And in his blessing upon his sons, it is under this name, "Almighty," that he blesses Joseph, with "blessings of the breasts and of the womb" (Gen. 49:25). The name is ever linked with fruit and fruitfulness, even in cases where it is the loss of fruit that is lamented. Thus Naomi twice speaks of her sons' deaths as "affliction from the Almighty," saying "The Almighty hath afflicted me." ... "The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (Ruth 1:20, 21); while, on the other hand, a "seed that is great, and an offspring as the grass of the field," is the portion of him who "despises not the chastening of the Almighty" (Job 5:17, 25). For indeed, as with Abram, so with the elect, an acceptance of the judgment of our flesh is the one way to receive, and then to minister, the special blessing which "God Almighty" has prepared for us.
But it is in the book of Job, and in the Revelation, as I have already said, that we most often find the name "Almighty," and in both cases for the same reason. First as to Job. One can hardly understand the continual reference to "El Shaddai" in this book, without some apprehension of its distinctive lesson. The aim of the book is to shew the sacrificial use of God's elect, and how a "perfect and upright" man, not yet dead to self, by suffering in the flesh is purged from self, and thus made an instrument, first to silence Satan, and then, as a priest, appointed by God, to pray and intercede for those who have condemned him. All know the story, how Job is stripped, first of his wealth and of his sons, and then smitten with a loathsome disease, which is a daily death to him. Three friends come to assist him. "Miserable comforters are they all" (Job 16:2). They all, in their replies to Job,—Eliphaz more often than the other two,—refer to and dwell upon the name "Almighty." (Note: Eliphaz uses this name in Job 5:17; 15:25; 22:3, 17, 23, 25, 26; Bildad, in Job 8:3, 5; Zophar in Job 11:7. I notice too that while Job's three friends constantly refer to "El," e.g. Job 5:8; 8:3, 5, 13, 20; 15:4, 11, 13, 25; 18:21; 20:15, 29; 22:2, 13, 17; 25:4, &c., they only twice name "Elohim," and in both these instances they speak of "El" in the same verse. See Job 5:8; 20:29.) They seem to use it as a sort of proof, that Job's troubles are a judgment for his sins, for "Shaddai" the "Pourer-forth," would (so they argue) surely bless the upright; and if, instead of blessing, He pours out judgments upon Job, then Job must be an evildoer. Eliphaz's one idea of God's government is the exercise of power, especially in punishing the wicked; for when he speaks of the great doings of God, his words are mainly of "crushing," and "destroying," and "causing to perish" (Job 4:19, 20; 5:4; 15:21). Bildad dwells rather on God's justice (Job 8:3, 6, 7, 20). Zophar's reproof of Job is based on God's wisdom (Job 11:6-12). But the three friends agree that Job's sorrows must come from sin on his part. None of them have any idea of the sacrificial use of God's elect, or how by the sufferings of His saints God may be stilling the enemy and the avenger. Of these three friends God says, that, with all their zeal to justify God, "they have not spoken of me the thing that is right as my servant Job hath." Eliphaz is singled out for special reproof (Job 42:7); though his view of God's "Almightiness," as being mere power to "crush" and to "destroy," is still with many the approved doctrine. Job is accepted and blessed, spite of all his self-assertion, and his perplexity, how "God Almighty," being what He is, can allow him to suffer such varied agonies (Job 24:1; 21:1-34). (Note: Thirteen times does Job specially refer to this name, "Almighty.") But he understands at last. His pains have wrought his cure. He needed to be emptied to be better filled; and "God Almighty," having emptied, fills His servant in due time with double blessings.
For the day had been when Job could say, "When the ear heard me it blessed me: and when the eye saw me it gave witness to me" (Job 29:11). The day comes, when his flesh is judged, and he cries out, "But now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5, 6). Job, even as we, with all his uprightness, had to learn how self can live and please itself, not only in an irreligious and worldly life, but even in what looks like, and indeed is, real devotedness. Of this religious self he has to be stripped. And he is stripped by "El Shaddai." The judgment of his flesh, which is "the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh," by that death to self, which is indeed "the circumcision of Christ" (Col. 2:11), brings him to the self-emptying and self-despair, where the Lord, as the "Pourer-forth," can fill him out of His Divine fulness. Job at once is freed, and made a blessing. He "prays for his friends, and is accepted," and his "latter end is blessed more than his beginning;" for he receives "twice as much as he had before, fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses: he had also seven sons, and three daughters. And after this Job lived a hundred and forty years,"—that is, twice the allotted "three-score and ten,"—"and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations" (Job 42:10-16). Here was fruitfulness indeed. "El Shaddai," whom he had invoked, though He had tried him, had indeed blessed him.
The other book, where the name "Almighty" recurs so often, is that which describes "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him" (Rev. 1:1), and which thus opens the course and stages of the manifestation of the Divine life in this outer world, where sin and death are now working. Here the other view of "El Shaddai," as the "Pourer-forth" of judgments, is most prominent; for the Revelation shews the coming in of God's life, not so much with the elect, (which is seen in Abram, Job, and others,) but rather into the world, which will not willingly receive it, or which, if in some sense it is accepted, only perverts it. And the result is, that as the pourings forth of the breast, not properly received, may choke the babe:—as the rain from heaven, not drunk in by the earth, may cause a torrent, which for the time brings only desolation:—as drinking Christ's cup may be a drinking of judgment or damnation (1 Cor. 11:29):—so the pouring out of the Divine life and Spirit into the world may, and indeed must, bring judgment, that so through judgment, if in no other way, the true Kingdom may be brought in. The elect who willingly receive the Word and outbreath of "El Shaddai," shew that even an obedient reception involves the judgment of the flesh. How much sorer must this judgment be to the world which will not receive God! If the Word or Spirit comes to such, it must be in double judgment. It is judgment to the willing elect: how much more to those who will not open their hearts to welcome it! For "all flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it" (Isa. 40:6, 7). Therefore in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gives Him in the world, we read so often of the "Almighty," and of the outpourings of "El Shaddai," as causing judgments. His most precious gifts bring chastening and judgment to His rebellious creatures. Yet spite of the judgment, nay rather by it, the Kingdom comes.
In the Revelation we are shewn the successive stages of its coming. And it is especially at the end, when the best gifts are given, that there is the sorest judgment. Three stages of the coming of the Lord are revealed, under the figures of the Opening of the Sealed Book or Word, (Note: "Book" or "Word" are the same in Hebrew, דבר; see Gen. 15:1, 4; 24:30, 52; 1 Chron. 29:29; 2 Chron. 9:29; 12:15, &c. A book is a word.) the Sounding forth of Trumpets, and the Pouring forth of Golden Vials. Connected with all these is the name "Almighty:" once in connexion with the Loosing of the Seals (Rev. 4:8): once with the Trumpets (Rev. 11:17): and four times in connexion with the Pouring out of the Vials, and the final coming of the Lord (Rev. 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:15). (Note: Isaiah and Joel also both foresee, that "the day of the Lord shall come as a destruction from the Almighty." Isa. 13:6; Joel 1:15.) The Lamb first comes as the Looser of the Seals. He who had been the Pourer out of His own blood from the beginning, for He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 5:9; 13:8), begins by giving forth His Word in opening the Seals, that is the mystery of God (Rom. 16:25, 26; Eph. 3:4, 5). These are judgments to the world (Rev. 6:1-17). But there is still sorer judgment when the Breath of God goes forth through the Trumpets, and smites a "third part" of the earth, and the sea, and rivers, and sun, and all things of this world (Rev. 8:2-9:21). (Note: Compare this "third part" with what St. Paul says of man's nature, "spirit, soul, and body," in 1 Thess. 5:23.) Lastly we have the final pouring out of the Golden Vials of the true temple, which smites, not a "third part" only, but the whole creature or creation. In these is filled up the wrath of God (Rev. 15:1; 16:1-21).
And yet, as William Law said long ago, "the Love that brought forth the existence of all things changes not through the fall of its creatures, but is continually at work to bring back all fallen nature and creatures. All that passes for a time between God and His fallen creature is but one and the same thing, working for one and the same end; and though this is called 'wrath,' and that called 'punishment,' 'curse,' and 'death,' it is all from the beginning to the end nothing but the work of the first creating Love, and means nothing else, and does nothing else, but those works of purifying fire, which must and alone can burn away all that dark evil, which separates the creature from its first-created union with God. God's providence, from the fall to the restitution of all things, is doing the same thing as when He said to the dark chaos of fallen nature, 'Let there be light.' He still says, and will continue saying, the same thing, till there is no evil of darkness left in nature and creature. God creating, God illuminating, God sanctifying, God threatening and punishing, God forgiving and redeeming, are all but one and the same essential, immutable, never-ceasing working of the Divine Nature. That in God, which illuminates and glorifies saints and angels in heaven, is that same working of the Divine Nature, which wounds, pains, punishes, and purifies, sinners upon earth. And every number of destroyed sinners, whether thrown by Noah's flood or Sodom's brimstone into the terrible furnace of a life insensible of anything but new forms of misery until the judgment day, must through the all-working, all-redeeming love of God, which never ceases, come at last to know that they had lost and have found again such a God of love as this." (Note: Law's Address to the Clergy, pp. 171, 172.) The end is a "new creation," where "there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor pain" (Rev. 21:4, 5); where "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb shall be the glory and the light" for ever (Rev. 21:22-24).
Such is "El Shaddai," "God Almighty," who works His will in His elect by giving Himself to them, that they may give themselves to Him, and then by Him be blessed to others, in and by that circumcision or self-judgment, which makes them vessels, through which He can minister His own fulness. In a word, like Christ, they are made sacramental,—pledges of what God can do in man, and means by which others may receive the same blessing. God, by the sacrifice of Himself, has made them partakers of His nature. They, as His sons and daughters, make others partakers of the same nature. Their separation to Him fits them for their work; as He says, "Come out, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:17, 18). (Note: The only place in the New Testament where the name "Almighty" occurs, except in the Apocalypse.) Thus they also become "breasted" and "pourers forth." In them is fulfilled the promise to Jerusalem, that "those who love her may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that they may milk out and be delighted with the abundance of her glory" (Isa. 66:10, 11). Out of their belly flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). By faith they minister the Spirit and work miracles (Gal. 3:5).
If all this is seen we may better understand why the Church makes such use of this name, "Almighty," and begins so many of her prayers with the words, "Almighty and most merciful Father," or "Almighty God." (Note: See the Prayer Book generally, and specially the Communion Service.) For by this name she claims His Spirit, confessing that He gives all, while by the same name she reminds her children, how, in His very gifts, those who eat and drink unworthily may eat and drink their own judgment. As we call upon this name let us remember all its rich and solemn import, and by grace be made, not only, like old Adam, "living souls," but, like Christ our Lord, "quickening spirits" also to all around us (1 Cor. 15:45).
Shall we not bless God for this name revealed to men of faith? Shall we not "abide under the shadow of the Almighty"?
Table of Contents Chapter 4 Home The Writings of Andrew Jukes