Yahweh Sabaoth: The Lord of Hosts
Dr. Alexi George
The Need of God’s People
God placed the people of Israel in a strategic land. They are located on a “land bridge” that connects three continents. This is useful for them as they have direct, unhindered access to many nations. They are endowed with this special privilege that many nations do not have.
Their positioning made it easy for them to relate with people of many nations. These relationships were useful in trade as the people of different continents transported their wares directly through their land, and allowed for trade without traveling much at all. Personal and military alliances were also possible because of this convenient connection with various nations.
All of these features were an important part of God’s ultimate plan for them as a nation. God had told Abraham that through his descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Thus, God placed them in a situation where they could have direct relationships with many nations. In fact, they didn’t have to go anywhere, as the nations came to them. We don’t know if they saw their positioning as an advantage, but nevertheless, in hindsight, we can perceive it as such.
Unfortunately, this unique land feature also caused problems for them. The Israelites were vulnerable to attack from all directions. They had to be ready and vigilant all the time and from all directions. They never knew from which direction their enemies would strike. Even their western border was a problem as the Philistines were still residing there as a constant threat to their peace.
Numerous times, they were attacked by surrounding nations. But this trend began even as the people journeyed to the promised land from Egypt. They were attacked and taken advantage of during their travels. So this trend was not something they acquired only because of their positioning. Rather it was something they experienced throughout their history.
In the midst of all of these great nations surrounding them with vast armies, the Israelites were quite helpless. But as they trusted in Yahweh their God, He became their deliverer. In each circumstance where they faced a situation that was impossible, God was there for them.
Development of the Concept
Israel understood God as the one who was the Lord of all the hosts of heaven. He had the necessary access to free the people from the hands of their enemies. The Hebrew word sabaoth carries the meaning of “armies” or “hosts” that were at God’s disposal. The term Yahweh Sabaoth or Jehovah Sabaoth gave a clear indication that Yahweh, Israel’s God, is the one who is clearly in control of all the armies of heaven and earth. This put the nation of Israel at a clear advantage over all the other nations.
The understanding of God as the King over all the resources of heaven and earth was clearly important for God’s people. This understanding developed as God communicated confidence to His people. Although they were small and weak, He wanted to instill in them an unwavering confidence. This confidence was not a blind faith and hopefulness. It was a real and established reality in the one who controls everything in heaven and on earth.
The neighbouring countries all had their powerful armies, but Israel had access to God’s complete power and authority. This put them at a great advantage even though their military was not comparable to those of other nations. Quite often, the only army they had was a group of men who had the desire to help their nation, but were too fearful to step out into battle. This resulted in numerous failures and attacks from neighboring nations. But God wanted them to trust in Him as their protector.
One example of this is when God directed Gideon to reduce an army of 32,000 men down to just 300. God said that there were too many people. He doesn’t need that many. All the fearful men were allowed to go home, and then through other tests, the numbers were reduced to 300 (Jud 7). God was clearly showing the people that He was truly the God of the armies of Israel. Finally, the enemies were defeated in an unconventional way. These 300 men must have had a true faith and trust in God as the Lord of Hosts.
God’s Unlimited Resources
When God fought for His people, he used all the resources of heaven and earth. This included the inhabitants of heaven, the celestial bodies, and the armies on earth. When the “Commander of the army of the Lord” appeared to Joshua, he was emboldened to stand up and fight to take the land they once thought they couldn’t conquer (Jos 5:13ff). When they moved forward in their own plan, they failed. But when they moved forward under the command of God and in His way, they had success.
The heavenly bodies were a part of the entire host of heaven. They were under the complete control of God. Their services were used by God to benefit the people of Israel. The Sun, Moon, and stars were under the control God, and he directed them according to His plan. As Yahweh Sabaoth, there was nothing that was not under His ultimate and complete control.
God’s Authority in the Old Testament
God’s authority over the heavenly bodies is clearly expressed in both Old Testament. During a crucial time of war, God controlled the movement of the Sun and the Moon in favor of Joshua and his military (Jos 10:13). He also did this for Hezekiah to affirm what God promised regarding the extension of his life (Is 38:8). There were also other instances where nature was clearly under the control of God to do according to His wish.
Although the term Jehovah Sabaoth is not directly used in some of these instances, it is a clear representation of that reality. Since God is the king over all the heavenly hosts, he has total control over nature. We see the same impact of this when the Red Sea was parted, and again, the Jordan river responds, as well as the situation with Elisha parting the waters. These are all indications of God being the authority over all the hosts in heaven and earth.
New Testament Examples
Jesus demonstrated this in his ministry as he healed the sick, raised the dead, walked on water, turned the water into wine, and performed other miracles that involved the elements of nature. He was clearly presenting the fact that God is the authority over all creation.
We also see that the angels came and ministered to Jesus after He was tempted by the devil (Matt 4:11). Even in the garden of Gethsemane, an angel from heaven came to minister to Jesus (Lk 22:43). These are just some examples, but throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, we see the role of angels used for various purposes. They served Jesus and did important tasks at crucial times. All the angels of heaven were together a powerful host/army that was directly under the command of God.
In the book of Acts and elsewhere, the New Testament clearly shows how God’s power was available to His people to do mighty acts. The only reason they were able to perform these acts was because their God was clearly the authority over all the Hosts of Heaven and Earth. The New Testament believers understood this and responded in this manner. They saw the results in their life and ministry on a daily basis.
The concept of God as the supreme authority and King gives a clear connotation of Him as the Lord of Hosts. This reality has overtones of the Kingdom of God. The concept of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God was clearly taught by Jesus. But it originated in the Old Testament concept of Yahweh Sabaoth, as the ultimate authority over everything. Thus Psalm 103:19-22 states:
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
There is nothing that does not come under the complete control of God’s dominion and authority. Jesus clearly stated that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him (Matt 28:18). He authorized his disciples to do mighty acts and supernatural demonstrations of God’s power. All of this was done because their God was Jehovah Sabaoth.
Our Turn Now
We as modern day believers have the same access to our God as Yahweh Sabaoth. We need not live in fear of circumstances or our enemies. We have all of the authority of heaven and earth given to us. We need to move forward in faith. I am convinced that God wants to use us to reach out to bless our communities by using all the powerful and unlimited resources of Heaven.
We are to use those resources to minister God’s love to the community. Through powerful demonstrations of God’s power on earth, they will see that our God is truly Yahweh Sabaoth. He is powerful enough to help them in their times of need. He is worthy of respect. He is the only one they need to give their lives under total submission.