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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am service, 2002-07-21

Text: Genesis 14:18-22; Daniel 4:34,35

It is a joy and privilege once again to be able to bring the Word of God to all of you. We continue this morning with our series of messages on the names of God. Thus far we have already studied the name El Olam, which is the Everlasting God (This name expresses His eternal nature and unchangeableness), and El Roi, which is the God who sees me (a name that expresses His omniscience and His watchful care over those He loves). Today we look at a name of God that expresses His divine authority - El Elyon, the Most High God! 

I. The Meaning of This Name 

This name is found 49 times in the Bible, and it occurs either as God Most High, the Lord Most high, the Most High God (Gen 14) or simply the Most High (Dan 4) or the Highest. The main thing that it expresses is the supremacy of God over all. There is none higher or superior to Him. In this world we are familiar with levels of authority found in companies, organisations and governments. We see people trying to climb up the corporate ladder to reach the topmost positions. We see politicians running for elections for the highest posts in government. We see kingdoms and nations vying to become superpowers with economic or military power. 

The name El Elyon designates God as being way above every position of authority in heaven and in earth, higher than the greatest monarchs who have ruled mighty empires in the past, and higher than the most powerful politicians and presidents of the today's world. How comforting it is to know that in our troubled world the Most High God is still ruling and overruling all things. Despite the threat of war and terrorism, we know that God is at the helm, in full control of all the events. Rulers may propose whatever they wish, but the Most High God will dispose, according to His sovereign will which will prevail. The name El Elyon is therefore a name that speaks of God's supreme exaltation above all earthly authrity. E.g. Psalm 47:2 'For the LORD most high is terrible [i.e. awesome]; He is a great King over all the earth.' 

The name El Elyon also describes the Lord Jesus Christ in His exalted state as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to whom 'every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' (Philippians 2:10,11). 

Jesus Himself said, 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.' (Matthew 28:18). And it may not be long now, before we see Jesus Christ returning to earth to subdue all authority and establish His worldwide rule. Revelation 11:15 speaks of that blessed era with these words 'The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.' And so the name El Elyon looks forward to the establishment of this future reign of God over all the world. However, there have already been many manifestations of God's supremacy and authority over all in the past. 

II. The Manifestations of God's Supremacy Over All Rulers 

A. Giving Abraham Victory Over the Most Powerful Kings of His Time 

The very first time that this name of God appears, is in Genesis 14 - the account of Abraham�s victory over the invading forces of powerful kings who came from the east. Let us turn to this chapter and read the first two verses 'And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations; That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.' 

This conflict of four kings against five came about as a result of the rejection of the authority of former confederacy of kings by the latter group. The five kings in the west were under the power of the four eastern kings for 12 years. Then they rebelled against their overlords (v.4), prompting the outraged kings to come against them. This brought about a war which would be considered in those days to be a world war. All this took place about 4000 years ago, and it shows that world politics then was no different from what it is today - We had two world wars within the last century! The outcome of it was the re-establishment of supremacy by the four eastern kings. They were the clear victors in the conflict, basking in their supremacy and might. With such obvious political supremacy that these powerful kings enjoyed, who would dare to challenge them now? 

Only one man - Abraham! Abraham was the most unlikely candidate of all. He was not a king at all, nor even a man of war. He was a shepherd with no experienced soldiers nor special powerful weapons to boast of. All he had was 318 servants who helped him in his work of shepherding the sheep, whom he now armed with ordinary weapons - probably swords, spears and bows - which he carried just to defend himself and his flock against thieves and robbers. Abraham had no ambitous plans or desires to subdue the kings under his control or take over territories to build an empire for himself. All he had was a strong love his nephew Lot, who had been caught and taken by them as a prisoner of war in the conflict, and a strong faith that God will give him the victory over them. 

Abraham's attempt to do battle with the four kings may have seemed quite futile and even suicidal to the people who were living then. How could he, such a 'small fry' hope to win against these powerful kings? He was like David the shepherd boy attempting to defeat the giant Goliath with only a sling, and that was exactly what he achieved in the end. They were soundly defeated by Abraham and had to surrender their loot and prisoners to Abraham. They returned back to the east empty-handed. Look at vv.15-16 'And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.' 

How was Abraham able to accomplish this impossible feat of gaining such a great victory over the four powerful kings of the east? It is only because the Most High God who is greater than all earthly kings is able to subdue them all. This is brought out by the congratulatory words that were given to him by another king (Melchizedek), in vv.19,20 'Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.' Abraham won the war because the Most High God, the one who reigns supreme over all, granted him the victory. This truth is also reflected in the words that Abraham himself spoke in v.22 'I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth' 

And so what we learn from this very first mention of God by this name, El Elyon, is His awesome superiority over all, even over the most powerful kings of the earth. This truth of God's supremacy was restated again about 15 hundred years later, in the time of Daniel. And it is interesting to note that the king who was humbled this time by the Most High God, El Elyon was also from the east, just like those who were humbled by the Most High God in Abraham's time. In fact he was one of the greatest Eastern kings in antiquity - Nebuchadnezzar the great king of Babylon. 

B. Humbling Nebuchadnezzar for His Great Pride 

Let me tell you a little about Nebuchadnezzar to reveal the great stature that this king acquired in the 6th and 7th centuries BC. This king began his illustrious career as the military commander of his father's army. Through careful planning, good strategy and military prowess, he brought an end to the Assyrian empire even though the Assyrian forces were joined by those of Egypt to oppose him. His swift conquests brought Syria and Israel under Babylonian rule. At the prime of his life, Nebuchadnezzar had built up a mighty empire that stretched across the whole Middle east - it was the greatest empire in the world at that time. He built up his capital the city of Babylon to become the premier city of the world! 

A German archaeologist named Robert Koldewey excavated the site of Babylon about a hundred years ago (1899-1917) and he was absolutely amazed by the splendour of this ancient city. It was protected by a system of great double walls, the outer line extending 10 miles around. The double walls were each 8 m thick with 12 m between, and a total of 260 towers 50 m apart. The city was excellently irrigated, with well-designed 3-4 storey buildings. The city was dominated by a seven-storey tower, 90 m high, known as the Tower of Babylon. Nearly 60 million fired bricks were used to construct this huge tower. In the northeast corner of the palace was a vaulted structure called the 'Hanging gardens of Babylon' which was about 110 m high. It had a hydraulic chain pump that could pump water all the way to the top so that it cascaded down from terrace to terrace to water the plants and trees of the hanging gardens. This became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. 

With such great and highly acclaimed accomplishments of building and conquest behind him, king Nebuchadnezzar was tempted to think very highly of himself. And one day, while he viewed the whole city of Babylon from his palace he said, 'Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?' This is recorded in Daniel 4:30. And immediately the judgment came from God. Let us read vv. 31-32 'While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.' 

What we want to note are the words spoken by God about the purpose for this judgment on Nebuchadnezzar 'until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.' This really brings out the truth that God is the ultimate supreme ruler of all nations, and every king and ruler in the world, even the greatest among all rulers, receives his right to rule from Him alone and must be subject to Him. Every government that has power in the world, can only do be in power because the Most High God grants it the right to exercise authority for a time. None can stay is power longer than the Most High God permits. When that government's time is up, the Most High God replaces it with another one through various means. The outcome of all every war, revolution, and coup-de-tat is decided by Him. The result of every nation's general election or presidential election is determined by Him.

This explains the rise and fall of every kingdom, every regime and empire that this world has seen from the beginning until now. They all received their alloted time of rule from the Most High God. Because of this no one can ever legitimately say, 'I am now in authority by my own superior strength and wisdom.' King Nebuchadnezzar did just that - and look what happened to him. The next thing he knew, he was eating grass and behaving like an animal running around naked in his palace gardens! (v.33) We can imagine the king now being ruled by animal instincts, roaming around his palace gardens on his hands and knees, eating grass together with the wild asses, all covered with dirt and moisture and growling at anyone who tried to approach him. Nobody could even come near enough to trim his hair or cut his nails for him for seven years! What a pitiful sight he was. Was this pathetic creature really Nebuchadnezzar the great, that powerful emperor who had conquered the world? It is interesting to note that in the records of Babylon that were kept during Nebuchadnezzar's lifetime there is a period of time of at least 4 years when his name is strangely absent from the records. 

Despite the awful condition that befell Nebuchadnezzar, the Most High God was actually very gracious to him. In Acts 12:21-23 there was another king who committed the same sin of self-glory as Nebuchadnezzar but was not as fortunate as he was: 'And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.' God could have easily taken Nebuchadnezzar's life like he did to Herod, or He could have made his degraded condition a permanent one with no hope of recovery. But He showed grace upon grace to this Babylonian king, so that the account ends happily with his restoration to power. 

One day at the end of the seven years the king realised how degraded he had become and as he looked up to heaven, his sanity returned to him, and he became king again. The climax of this whole account in Daniel 4 is found in the wonderful description of El Elyon, the Most High God that came from the mouth of the restored king Nebuchadnezzar in v.34,35 'And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?' 

When you read this, don't you feel like falling on your knees before the Most High God right now and saying to Him, 'O Lord, how great Thou art!' Dearly beloved, what we have learned about the Most High God today must elicit the same response from us. And your response should include several things: 

III. The Merits of Knowing These Things 

A. Humility 

Firstly, this name teaches us humility. The name El Elyon denies man any right to glory in all his achievements. For when we come before the Most High God, we become keenly aware of how lowly we are. In the words of King Nebuchadnezzar, all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing.' Whatever power or position we may hold now, we must acknowledge this before El Elyon: We are nothing. But there are many men who love to believe that they are something. And there are many popular self-help books that are no help at all, because they promote such thinking. They teach us to think that we are really something, that we have full ability to achieve anything we want and can become all that we aspire to be in this life. They call it self-esteem. 

Dearly beloved, whenever high and worldly thoughts like these captivate your imagination, please remind yourself that God must always be El Elyon to you - the Most High God! Humble yourself before Him, and don't let pride lift you up. If anyone should praise you, give God the full credit He deserves for anything that you achieve. Have this mindset - that God must increase and we must decrease (cf. John 3:30). 

B. Unquestioning Submission 

The second response that this name of God requires of us is full submission. We realise that we must submit ourselves fully to His authority over us. Whatever the Most High God requires of us, we must do it without question. In the words of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:35 'none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?' To question what He does, is to challenge His authority. 

There are times when we cannot understand why God allows certain things to happen in our lives. We believe that all things are supposed to work together for good. But when things go wrong we wonder: What good can there be in losing one's job? What good can there be in delaying our deliverance? What good can there be in allowing us to fail? Dear friends, let us not question God like this. Let us not ask, 'What doest Thou?' 'Lord, why do you do this?' But let us accept that these things are all ordained for us by the supreme authority of the Most High God, and submit ourselves to it. During the years that Nebuchadnezzar was stricken with the strange condition that made him behave like an animal, there was absolutely nothing he could do but to accept his humiliating condition. 

And in the end this acceptance led him even to bless and praise God for all He had done. One might think that he might have felt resentment against God for bringing him down and making him suffer for seven years. But what he said in v.34 shows his submission to God's will 'I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever.' Dearly beloved, let us commit ourselves this day to even bless and praise the Most High God whatever His will for us may be. Let us stop saying 'What doest Thou?' but say 'Blessed be El Elyon, the Most High God' 

Now besides humility and submission, there is one more thing in our response to knowing the Most High God, and that is: 

C. Hope 

For King Nebuchadnezzar, that hope was realised at the end of the seven years. According to v.34, it was the moment when he lifted up his eyes unto heaven that his understanding returned unto him. Let us also lift up our eyes unto heaven, where God is, since He is the source of all our hopes. And so, dearly beloved, whenever you find no hope at all in this world, look up to God and hope in Him. 

And there is one very precious hope that we have from knowing that our Lord in the Most High God. This is the hope that because God reigns over all, we shall one day have the privilege of reigning with Him! Daniel 7:27 speaks of this blessed time in the future 'And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.' What a privilege we have to be called the saints of the Most High God. 

Since we have this hope of reigning with Him, let us gladly humble ourselves now under His authority, and submit ourselves most willingly to His will for each of us. May the Lord help us to do these things.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25