TENDER AND POWERFUL
The following blog post was written by one of our very own alumni, Dr. Rye Bell.
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I am part of a group known as baby boomers. Born in the early 50″s, my generation spent a great deal of time attempting to dismantle absolutes and the need to respect authority throughout the 1960′s. By the mid-seventies there was still a strong influence from that past decade. However, the Vietnam War had ended and life just seemed a bit lighter as the overwhelming anti-government agenda was beginning to subside. It seemed as though things were settling down. The ‘flower-children’ had all but vanished and a more conservative mindset appeared to be taking hold.
My college campus was much like any other. But, just about a block off of Cumberland Avenue (the ‘main strip’ of shops and restaurants) was an old three-story brick home that had been converted into a ‘gathering place’ for the students to enjoy Christian fellowship and meet others that desired to grow in their faith.
Every Sunday morning we held a church service right in that building and on Sunday evenings we came back together sharing our praises and our needs so we could pray for one-another.
The spiritual growth in my life during those days set a firm foundation that placed my feet on the solid ground of Jesus Christ that has lasted a lifetime. It was on the campus of the University of Tennessee that I discovered what it means to fall in love with my Saviour.
I admit to being one of those obnoxious VOLS fans that proudly wears the orange and white every chance I get. I cheer for their sports teams and still attend a home football game whenever possible.
It’s true I love UT, but not for the reasons that most other people love their alma mater. The love I have for that school is mainly generated from the memories of times spent in that old three-story brick house called The Christian Student Fellowship. I am so very thankful to God that He placed the ministry of the CSF and its leadership in my life. It was there that I learned what it means to be a part of the body of Christ and how to pursue a God that loves me so deeply.
One Friday evening a group of the students from the CSF went to another gathering place for young Christian college students. Several times a year this place would sponsor a concert that was set up in that structure’s garage. With the band or performer(s) in the garage, the small crowd of usually just 20 to 30 people would gather in the back yard and attend what was a very small, intimate and fun worship concert.
That evening a young girl was there. She simply sat on a stool and sang while playing an acoustic guitar. She played for about 30 minutes and most of the tunes she played I had never heard before. However, one of her songs intrigued me and caused me to do some research late that evening as to what she was singing about. All I knew was she kept saying: El Shaddai.
In my research later that evening I found this unusual word in the passage of Genesis 17:1. It was there that the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God [El Shaddai]; walk before Me and be blameless.”
The more I looked into this interesting way that God had introduced Himself to Abram the more I discovered about this descriptive name.
The Septuagint and other early translations usually translate El Shaddai as “God Almighty.” However, in the Septuagint translation of Psalm 91:1 Shaddai is translated ‘the God of heaven.” And, again in the Genesis passage 17:1 God introduces Himself to Abram as the ‘God who suffices’ by using this name.
This name actually carries what appears to be two opposite and even opposing ideas of meaning. The name El Shaddai means the powerful One, but it also means the tender One.
There is a Hebrew word ‘shad’ that is used as a base in this name of God. The word shad means breast, that which is tender to nourish. What a beautiful picture of our Creator that personally listens to me, hears my cries and comforts me as a child at his mother’s breast.
This tender, loving God who is my comfort and security is also omnipotent, yes indeed all-powerful. While the breast is tender to those that are hurting and in need, the chest is a picture of power and of might. This tender and loving God also possesses awesome power to protect and deliver in the midst of life’s circumstances, problems and attacks. This tender breast is also my powerful shield.
This powerfully tender God asks me to trust Him, to obey Him. This powerfully tender God not only forgives my sin but, has the power to deliver me from any oppression that sin might try to bring.
His name, Almighty God, El Shaddai, reveals that He alone can and does meet all of my needs. As I learn to press into my tender and powerful Creator I discover His comfort in my hour of need. I discover that by His power He has cleansed me through the blood of Jesus Christ delivering me from sin and the sting of eternal death. His tender love motivates Him to unleash His power over sin and death for whosoever will come and place their faith in the name of Jesus.
El Shaddai. He is my comfort and my victory. He is my grace and my defender. He is tender to hold me and powerful to deliver me.
That evening a young girl sang out truth to her God. As she led this small gathering from that garage stage in worship I was introduced to El Shaddai. He came to me tenderly and powerfully bearing His perfect love for me, just as He had come to Abram so many, many years ago.
Genesis 17:1 – 8