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The previous thought in this series was ‘Jehovah Shalom’ – the LORD is peace, which occurs only once in the whole Bible. This week’s thought, Jehovah Sabaoth – the LORD of hosts, occurs over three hundred times. This is camouflaged in the NIV, where it is translated ‘the LORD Almighty’, which makes it difficult to distinguish from God Almighty – El Shaddai.  If you are using the NIV the key is to look for the name ‘LORD’ before the added ‘Almighty’. Where you read ‘LORD Almighty’, re-translate as ‘the LORD of hosts’. In addition, the NIV ‘LORD God Almighty’ is frequently a translation of Jehovah El Sabaoth - ‘the LORD the God of hosts’.

Absent from the books of Moses, ‘the LORD of hosts’ is found first in 1Samuel. This is how the desolate, childless Hannah addressed God in her prayer for a son [1Samuel 1:11]. It is in this name that the young David took up Goliath’s arrogant challenge:

‘You come against me with sword and speak and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty (= the LORD of hosts), the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied’ [1Samuel 17:45].

While occurring several times in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, and more in the Psalms, this name becomes very frequent in the prophets – including about sixty times in Isaiah, over eighty times in Jeremiah, and dominates Zechariah and Malachi.

What does it mean? We might be tempted to understand it solely as a reference to all the human armies which God has at his disposal and command to execute his judgement on the nations. But it is far more than that. We catch glimpses of what it means from these scriptures:

‘When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those that are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha’ [2Kings 6:15-17].

‘Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing on his right and on his left”’ [2Chronicles 18:18].

‘You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you’ [Nehemiah 9:6].

‘Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel’ [Luke 2:13].

‘Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?’ [Matthew 26:53].

However, the Old Testament uses this name, Jehovah-Sabaoth, without any reference to these angelic hosts. It is a name that is used to convey the awesome unlimited power and authority of God to set the standard, to judge and to save. As the LORD of hosts he is not a God who can be ignored or trifled with; he is a God who must be taken into account. The greatest intensity of the prophetic use of this name is in the context of God’s judgement. Within this context is also the saving of a remnant in and through the judgement. The LORD of Hosts is the God who judges, and the LORD of hosts is the God who saves. This is seen in cameo in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah, confronted by a powerful, overwhelming vision of the LORD of hosts, is acutely aware of his sinfulness and of the judgement it incurs. And there in the context of expected judgement unexpected grace and forgiveness are provided.

Thus the Scripture states:

‘The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge’ [Psalm 46:7 KJV]

‘Turn to us again O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved’ [Psalm 80:7 KJV]

‘Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like Gomorrah’ [Isaiah 1:9, KJV].

When we come to the New Testament we do not find any divine name equivalent to ‘the LORD of hosts’; but we do find the Lord Jesus Christ, the I AM, descending from heaven with his powerful angels [2Thessalonians 1:7; Matthew 16:27; 25:31]; we do see the angels actively involved as the Lord Jesus Christ executes the final judgement [Matthew 13:41,42,49; 24:31]; we do hear the angels rejoicing over our human salvation in Christ [Luke 15:10; Hebrews 12:22,23]; and we do find innumerable angels giving glory and honour to Jesus Christ [Revelation 5:11-13].

The all-encompassing power and authority of the LORD of hosts … Jehovah Sabaoth …is thus attributed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Of him the apostles wrote:

‘(God) raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come’ [Ephesians 1:20,21].

‘For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him’ [Colossians 1:16].

‘… Christ, who is the head over every power and authority’ [Colossians 2:10].

‘And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him”’ [Hebrews 1:6].

Jesus Christ: Jehovah Sabaoth: the LORD of hosts.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013