I am God Almighty;
walk before me, and be blameless.
Genesis 17:1 (ESV)
“I am El Shaddai!” With this name God made Himself known to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Gen 28:3; 35:11). Later, He introduced Himself to Moses with His name Jehovah (Ex 6:3). We therefore find the name El Shaddai a number of times in the book of Genesis, but rarely later in the Old Testament.
What is the meaning of this name? The name El Shaddai emphasises the power of God. Therefore, most Bibles translate this name as God Almighty. But it is not His power, as such, that is the focus here. God introduces Himself with this name only to those with whom He has a covenant-relationship. In such a relationship this name is nearly like a promise, namely that God, according to His wisdom and goodness, will use His power for their benefit and that His power will always be sufficient!
Why did God choose to reveal Himself to Abraham using this name? Abraham had received the breath-taking promise that he will become a people as numerous as the dust of the earth and will receive all the land of Canaan (Gen 17:8). But how much of this promise had he seen fulfilled so far? None of it! Abraham was already ninety-nine years old and his wife Sarah was ninety! Humanly speaking there was no hope for Sarah to bear a son anymore. The powers of nature were insufficient for this promise to become a reality. Why should Abraham continue to trust the Lord? Because God is El Shaddai, whose power is sufficient to fulfil His promise to His dear covenant people!
How could we apply this name to ourselves today? As Christians we are people of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. In His ministry we face challenges that so often go beyond our own capacities and resources. Because God is our El Shaddai, He will take care of all our problems. His power and His grace will always be sufficient.
The covenant is mutual! God gave Abraham two commands. The first one is, walk before me! This refers to his relationship with God. Abraham shall make God His greatest joy. He shall look at His power, love and faithfulness and shall trust Him. The second command says, be blameless! This refers to his conduct. Abraham should live a pure and upright life. Justification is followed by sanctification. To constantly remind ourselves that God is El Shaddai, the mighty and all-sufficient One, is actually a great help to walking uprightly with Him.