Have you ever wondered about the significance of the name “Lord of Hosts” used to refer to God in the Bible? This name, Adonai Tzva’ot, appears 235 times in the scriptures, with the first mention in the story of Hannah and Elkanah. But what does it truly mean when we call God the “Lord of Armies”?
Understanding the Meaning of “Army”
Before delving into the meaning behind this name, let’s first grasp the concept of an army. In English, we use the term “army” to describe a collective group working together towards a common purpose. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for army, “Tza-va,” shares this flexible meaning. Merriam-Webster provides various definitions, including a large organized body of armed personnel trained for war, a great multitude, or a body of persons organized to advance a cause.
The Plural Nature of Armies
When we refer to God as the “Lord of Armies,” the term used in Hebrew is “Tza-va-ot,” which denotes multiple armies. While this name may sound military in nature, it encompasses much more than that.
Armies of Angels
Some translations interpret this phrase as the “Lord of the Angel Armies.” This portrayal is beautifully captured in the story of Elisha in 2 Kings chapter 6. Elisha and his servant found themselves surrounded by the vast Syrian army, causing fear and despair. However, Elisha knew that they were not alone. He prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened, and suddenly, they saw the hills teeming with horses and chariots of fire—angelic warriors ready to fight on their behalf.
The Strength in Faith
This story highlights several crucial points. Firstly, it emphasizes the numerical superiority of the resources at God’s disposal. “Those who are with us are MORE than those who are with them.” In spiritual battles, this truth remains steadfast. Additionally, faith and doubt are mirrored through the sight and blindness of Elisha and his servant. Elisha possessed unwavering faith, while his servant had to witness the unseen warriors to believe. Furthermore, this account portrays true strength and victory. Despite having their enemies at their mercy, Elisha and the king of Israel chose compassion over destruction, hosting a feast for their adversaries. Through this act of kindness, the trouble ceased.
Whose Side is God On?
We often desire harsh judgement against those who oppose us and forget that the battle belongs to the Lord. In Joshua 5:13-15, Joshua encountered a man with a drawn sword, who identified himself as the commander of the army of the Lord. When asked if he was on their side or their enemies’, the commander responded with “Neither.” God does not take sides; He calls us to join His side. Yeshua commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, knowing that they are ultimately up against God and His plans.
The Lord of Hosts: Creator and Conductor
The term צבא (Tzva’ot) is often translated as “host” rather than “army,” suggesting not only a multitude of armies but also a vast number or multitude in general. We encounter this term initially in the creation account, describing the completion of the heavens and the earth and all the “host” within them. This word choice implies that every atom, every molecule, is working together toward a purpose, much like an army. Hannah, a barren woman, invokes this aspect of God’s personhood when she calls Him the “Lord of Armies.” She understands that her hope rests in the One who can create something out of nothing, commanding every cell and atom to align with His will.
By calling our Heavenly Father the “Lord of Hosts,” we acknowledge the myriad armies of angels at His disposal and His role as a mighty warrior. However, we must also recognize that He orchestrates the beautiful symphony of creation. Every atom, every molecule, moves in accordance with His purposes and obeys His commands. He sustains everything by the power of His word.
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