El Elyon. While some Hebrew words are harsh and sticky, this one just rolls smoothly off the tongue. The definition is equally user-friendly for a Hebrew word. El means god and Elyon means highest or most high so the combination El Elyon simply means God Most High.
In Genesis 14:18-20, El Elyon is first introduced by a most intriguing Biblical character: Melchizedek. This Melchizedek person has confounded Bible scholars for centuries, but shadowy character that he was, he gave us this name or title of our God. Melchizedek, identified as a priest of God Most High, said to Abram: Blessed be Abram of El Elyon (God Most High), Elohim (Creator) of heaven and earth.
By attributing Abram’s victory over four pagan kings to this El Elyon (Genesis 14:20), Melchizedek identified this God Most High as a God of great power, a God involved in the affairs of mankind, a God holding sway even over life and death. El Elyon and Elohim are one and the same; every aspect of creation belongs to Elohim, and as El Elyon He presides over it. He reigns from on high like a king, a sovereign if you will, over all.
Throughout Scripture we find verses that speak of the sovereignty of God and just what He rules over. This list includes: fertility (1 Samuel 1:5-6), life and death, wealth, the strength of kings, foundations of the earth, the saints and the wicked alike (1 Samuel 2:6-10), light and darkness, prosperity and disaster (Isaiah 45:7), His purposes and plans, (Isaiah 46:9-11), time and the seasons, kings, secrets, wisdom (Daniel 2:20-23), and more. Only the highest God could rule over all this, over all, and often this God can seem a bit too high. Too far out of earshot. Too distant to see the struggles of His weary creation.
Sometimes when I seek answers from this Most High God, the heavens are stoically quiet. El Elyon, in the fashion of a true sovereign, seems quite content to not explain Himself. And according to Isaiah 55:8-9, perhaps it would make very little difference even if He did.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
I am coming to wonder as I continue this long walk of faith, that even if He would condescend to explain His purposes and plans to me, would I understand them anyway? How could I? My mind is so very small and my thoughts woefully low. Despite this painful reality, He wants me to know His high thoughts, even if I don't understand them. He reveals His high ways in verses six and seven just before He explains that they are nothing like mine:
“Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.”
These are His high thoughts and ways. Mercy. Forgiveness. And thus my thoughts and ways are proven often to be far from His. I don’t always forgive generously. I hold on to hurts, gnawing on the bones of the past. I don’t always show mercy. Sometimes I want a pound of flesh because my flesh demands it. Low thoughts. Low ways.
But the psalmist rejoiced that El Elyon’s ways are higher still. Psalm 78:35 says: “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.”
Only the highest God can redeem. Only the highest God would think to redeem. Only El Elyon shows mercy to an undeserving people. Only the Most High God will forgive generously. High thoughts. High ways.
And when God Most High came to dwell among us, He made Himself low. He humbled Himself and became one of us, taking on flesh. Leaving the splendor of heaven, He subjected Himself to the ridicule of the religious leaders. God Most High lowered Himself to wash the filthy feet of His disciples while they argued over who was the greatest among them. Betrayed by one friend, abandoned by the others, falsely accused, wrongly convicted, tortured for sport, the Most High God endured a lowly criminal’s death and all the shame that went with it.
These were the ways and thoughts so much higher than mine. Thoughts of redemption and a willingness to pay what it would cost. Ways of mercy and forgiveness given so very generously.
God Most High became very low indeed. But how else could He ever have reached us?