This name of God is intriguing. It only appears by itself one time in scripture. However, it appears many other times represented by the letters YHWH, typically pronounced Yahweh. When you see the word LORD used in all capital letters it is the name Adonai.
This name of God is considered divine. Israel would not even speak the name in order to give it reverence. In Exodus 6:3 God states, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD (Adonai) I did not make myself known to them.”
God chose to withhold an aspect of His nature until this exchange with Moses. God knew that Israel would need an intimate connection with their Creator in order to trust Him as they were led from slavery to a new life in Canaan, the Promised Land.
It reminds me of names that spouses will give to one another. When they become “one” in marriage the bond between them is unique. Many times they call each other by names that only they know. These names are never used in public. They are reserved only for their intimate relationship.
LORD, or Adonai, was a name that God revealed to Israel to give them intimate insight into His character and nature. He would be their LORD. David declared, “The LORD is my Shepherd…” and “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name …”
Later in the book of Exodus Moses and God have this exchange:
Exodus 33:15-19 (ESV)
15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.
16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”
18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”
19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
God showed Moses, and through him, Israel, all of God’s goodness and proclaimed His name, Adonai, before them. God was saying to them, “I AM Sovereign. I AM LORD.” A sovereign is a supreme leader. In a monarchy it is the king! God is saying that in His kingdom He is the King.
Here is one last thought on this. In the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelations) one of the churches to which letters were written is Pergamos. The word Pergamos comes from a root word that means castle or tower. That sounds like a place where a king would dwell. One of the promises made to this church was this: Revelation 2:17 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Isn’t that something? Not only does God have a name reserved for us (Adonai), He also has given us a name that He will reveal to us that no one else knows. He loves us so much!