The term is used 235 times in the Bible and has perhaps an Old Testament ring to it. Or does it? Did the Lord of heaven’s armies close shop when the Carpenter from Nazareth stepped onto the world stage of Salvation History? At the time Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested – “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled” – He calmly said to sword-yielding Peter, “Are you not aware that I can call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” A Roman legion numbered 6,000 soldiers. Hebrews 12:22 mentions “myriads” of angels and connects their presence with Christ’s church. Paul instructs believers to “put on the full armor of God to stand against the devil’s schemes,” then gives us a hint what goes on behind the scenes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11-12).
There is a saying that “the devil is in the details,” and some might archly add, “…and also in the chaotic September 29 presidential debate that shocked many segments of the American public." Presumptuous sin is odious to God and my rush to judgment was checked by the panicked cry of Elisha’s servant, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” My brief devotional reading from 2 Kings 6:15-17 at breakfast was a beneficial eye-opener, thanks to the prophet’s reply and prayer. “Don’t be afraid…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.” What if we trusted the Lord of Hosts more as the perils of toxic politics and disastrous divisions press in on us? What if He opened our eyes to resolutely and expectantly look up to Him, rather than to the pessimist within ourselves or to the power-hungry in politics everywhere?
Interestingly, the first time the term “LORD of Hosts” occurs in Scripture, it comes from Hannah’s lips as she pleads with Him for a son (1 Samuel 1:11). So intense is her passionate cry that the priest chides her for being drunk. Her Magnificat in 1 Samuel 2 offers a gentle rebuke, “Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed.” More importantly, however, are all the components of Hannah’s prayer that should be part of our “personal God profile.”
For me, the most sobering, yet liberating “LORD of Hosts” illustration is found in Joshua 6:13-15. “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and…a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ He said, ‘No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.’ And Joshua fell on his face…and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’ The captain of the LORD’s host said… ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Should we thus stand our ground?