An image of the color gold, with sparkly lights.

When applied to God, the term Elyon, meaning “Highest” or “Exalted One,” emphasizes that God is the highest in every realm of life. Originally given to the highest of the Canaanite gods, it was appropriated by the Hebrews as a title for Yahweh.

Emphasizing God’s transcendence, the name El Elyon (EL el-YOHN) is first used in relation to Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who was also called “priest of God Most High” and who blessed Abraham in the name of “God Most High” (Genesis 14:18–20). The passage in Daniel (4:19, 24-34) regarding the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream illustrates what happens when human beings forget who is highest in heaven and on earth. In Daniel, the Aramaic word Illaya is the equivalent of the Hebrew El Elyon and is translated as “God Most High.”

In the New Testament, Jesus is known as the Son of the Most High while the Holy Spirit is the power of the Most High. All who belong to Christ are revealed as sons and daughters of the Most High by imitating the Father in heaven. When you praise the Most High, you are worshiping the One whose power, mercy, and sovereignty cannot be matched.

Praying to El Elyon

Once upon a time in Babylon there lived a great king. One day King Nebuchadnezzar was strolling on the roof of his royal palace, congratulating himself on the splendor of his kingdom. “Look how great Babylon is! I built this royal palace by my own impressive power and for my glorious honor.”

Suddenly a voice from heaven thundered: “O King Nebuchadnezzar, you haven’t got a clue. Until you recognize who really is Most High around here, you are going to become like a wild animal, forced to eat grass like cattle.” And just like that, the king lost his mind. He left behind his royal throne along with all the royal perks and went out into the fields, living with the cattle. Imagine what it must have been like for the king’s subjects to see him roaming about on all fours chewing on weeds. The king’s insanity lasted for seven years, until he finally figured out who was who and what was what.

There is something so satisfying about seeing a proud man get his comeuppance, like watching a balloon deflate after being pricked by a pin. We could probably make our own list of high and mighty types who might benefit from similar treatment—evil dictators, greedy bankers, unscrupulous politicians. But what about us?

I sometimes wonder why so many of us, including myself, often exhibit so little robust faith. Maybe it’s because our instinct is to depend on ourselves more than we depend on God. And maybe it’s because we tend to place ourselves, rather than God on the throne. If we are honest, we will admit that our prayers are more about asking than praising, more about God doing our will than us doing God’s will.

Hard times can cure us of such habits, teaching us that we are weak indeed. Whether we are experiencing life as difficult or easy right now, let us ask God for a fresh revelation of who he is. Let us step down from thrones of our own making and bow before the Lord Most High, repenting of our tendency to make our needs, our desires, and our fears most high in our lives. Instead, let us pledge to serve the greatest of kings, El Elyon, the Most High God who loves us.

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