God’s name is sacred among orthodox Jews. The most important of God’s names is YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah). To protect it, it was read aloud as Adonai (The Lord). This name, along with the title Elohim, is frequently combined with other words to form the compound names we’re familiar with:
- Yahweh Jireh (the Lord my provider)
- Yahweh Rapha (the Lord my healer)
- Yahweh Shalom (the Lord my peace)
These names help us to understand key elements of God’s nature, the sum total of which is God himself. Each compound name is used about 30 times in Scripture - each of them uniquely focuses on an aspect of human need and the divine answer to that need (peace, healing, provision).
Yet there is one compound name that occurs much more frequently - occurring about 290 times by itself. This name is Yahweh or Elohim paired with the Hebrew word ‘tzevaot’, translated ‘hosts’ or ‘armies’. In English this becomes Lord Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts.
The Revelation of the Divine Name
From the sheer number of references alone we can see that ‘the Lord of Hosts’ is the revelation of the divine name that the Lord most frequently demonstrated to humanity in the Bible. Lord Sabaoth is a revelation of God in the form of a divine warrior.
Angelic warriors (that's what the word 'Hosts' refers to) are not the creatures we sometimes think they are. They are shown to be fierce spirits with awesome power - so much so that when they appear in Scripture, he often had to tell the people around him not to be afraid. Their number - “ten thousand times ten thousand” (Daniel 7:10) is entirely at God’s disposal and cannot be defeated.
The supernatural power of angels is evident in their ability to:
- Strike men blind (Genesis 19:11, 2 Kings 6:18)
- Call down fire from heaven (Genesis 19:13, 21-25)
- Move stones weighing many tons (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:4)
- Unfasten iron chains (Acts 12:7-11)
- Open locked prison cells (Acts 5:19)
- Kill rulers (Acts 12:23)
- Sweep through army encampments with plague and death (1 Samuel 24:15-16, 2 Chronicles 32:21, Isaiah 37:36)
- Release various calamities in the book of Revelation
In view of all this, the angelic hosts are seen as a real and present threat to evil and the agents of justice, righteousness, truth and salvation. Justice is always at heart of God’s righteous warfare.
As we observe his attributes, we can see the Lord’s priorities, methods and his purpose for humanity. We can also see that he is looking for a rulership-minded people who are willing to contend in love, humility, prayer and fasting for the breaking down of demonic strongholds.
The Divine Warrior King
Elisha’s assistant was given a literal sighting of God’s heavenly army. As human armies with horses and chariots encircled Dothan, Elisha says to his servant:
2 Kings 6:16-17 “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that 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.”
This is not the first revelation of God as a warrior. The first came when Pharaoh’s army was destroyed in the Red Sea. Safe on the far shore, Moses and the people sang a song:
Exodus 15:1-6 “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.”
From this great song of praise, we realise:
- God wants us to know him as a warrior.
- This warrior was looking for a fight.
- God’s triumph is on behalf of his people.
- God receives praise and recognition as a result of his victory.
- Other nations and gods should fear him.
This God inspires terror in the heart of his enemies. But we have to ask ourselves how much fear the church inspires today. Do world leaders dread the prayers and actions of the living army of God? Do principalities and powers tremble in anticipation of our activities? If the Lord of Hosts is our leader, why not?
Dean Briggs, in ‘Ekklesia Rising’ states:
“I propose it is because we pose no real threat. We take no ground, we yield it. We exist in a static, perpetually defensive posture, surrendered to political correctness, feeling slightly embarrassed and at a loss to explain the ways of a Divine Warrior to our culture of ‘peace’.”
The people of Israel didn’t have that problem. They saw themselves as a tribe of warriors. Many times they are described as ‘men of war’, ‘valiant men’, ‘valiant warriors’ and man ‘arrayed for battle’. The Exodus was seen as an act of war by God upon a corrupt human king and a depraved system of slavery. As such, the Exodus shaped this new nation’s identity and their conquest of Canaan. In the same way, that same God must inform our concept of his identity - and therefore our identity.
The activity of Christ involves victory and dominion - the Messiah was regarded as a human king and Jesus is King of kings. So God’s warring activity is inextricably connected to his kingship.
Psalm 24:8, 10 “Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. . . Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory.”
War, Peace and Justice
God is committed to restorative justice for all who are under the oppression of Satan, suffering in a fallen world. Spiritual authority is the product of a humble heart. Dominion does not mean to behave domineeringly. We need God’s power, but he doesn’t need our at all!
David told Goliath:
1 Samuel 17:47 “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
He deferred to the source of his victory - the Lord of Hosts.
So a loving God wages war! How can this be? It is crucial that we understand God in his totality. He is not schizophrenic - one moment warring, the other loving. Dean Briggs again:
“The virtues of love and mercy by which He extends salvation to sinners, tenderly cares for the weak and broken, and delivers the oppressed are the same motivating passions which stir Him to wrath and war against His enemies, those who defile purity, obstruct justice, and oppress the weak. He is humanity’s ultimate ally in that he is committed to destroy everything that his harmful to our lives. His warfare is an expression of covenantal love.”
God does not go to war because he enjoys violence, but because he delights in justice. So he is totally committed to removing barriers to love, defilements of sin, and every last evidence of Satan’s rule. The Lord of Host’s zeal is most evident in his care for the downtrodden:
Jeremiah 7:3-7 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.”
Jesus quoted from this passage when cleansing the Temple. His anger was that of the Lord Sabaoth because he is the incarnation of the Lord of Hosts.
In the incarnation, Jesus gave us more insight into the Divine Warrior. As the baby lay in the manger, the hosts of heaven appear in the skies over Bethlehem. But this time, unlike with Elisha at Dothan when the angels struck people blind - he now gives us sight. God’s justice is revealed with mercy and good news - the angel army speak of peace among men with whom he is pleased (Luke 2:14).
Isaiah prophesied the increase of his government promises an unending increase of peace. For this reason we must take care how we treat the weak and underprivileged around us. The Lord of Hosts comes to defend those with no reputation, nor rights and no recourse to achieve their own justice.
James 5:4 “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts.”
The principle revelation of the Lord of Hosts is not that he goes to war, but why and for whom. He is not motivated by the prospect of more war, but of paradise restored.
Psalm 46:7, 9-10 “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. . . He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth’.”
If you read the entire Psalm you will see several dynamics regarding the protection and strength the Lord of Hosts gives to his people:
- He is a refuge who is present to help us in our troubles.
- There is no need to fear, in spite of major upheavals and uncertainty.
- Instead, joy and gladness flow to those who understand God’s righteous strength.
- He is not distant, but dwells in our midst. Since he helps us, we will not be moved.
- The nations rage against God’s sovereign support for his people.
- Ultimately, since the Lord of Hosts is with us, we can be at peace.
In every generation Jesus gathers his Ekklesia to enforce and expand the outworking of his victory in practical terms. We are meant to achieve this with weapons of prayer, fasting, repentance, worship, confession, servanthood, sacrifice and truth. Nothing less than this will fulfil what Jesus asked us to pray in The Lord's Prayer - "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."