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What Does it Mean That God Is "Lord of Hosts"?

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What Does it Mean That God Is "Lord of Hosts"?

They had comfort in knowing that regardless of who the enemy was or the situation they faced, God was fighting for them.

Throughout the Bible, there are different names that are used to describe God. These different names give us insight into who God is and help us understand different aspects of his character. For example, God is known as Jehovah Rapha, which means "the God who heals". Another name for God is El Shaddai, which means "the God who is more than enough". As you can see, each name has a specific meaning, which was true of most names in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Among the names of God, you find in the Bible is Lord of Hosts. I want you to consider: what does it mean that God is Lord of Hosts, and what does that tell us about his character? 

Why is God called "Lord of Hosts"?

The name Lord of Hosts, or some variant of it, appears 284 times in the Old Testament. The term in Hebrew is Jehovah Sabaoth. This idea of hosts positions God in a light that I don’t know if we often think of him in, which is in a military light. God is the leader of heaven’s armies. However, this term has can be translated differently depending on which translation of Scripture you use. Let me give you an example using Psalm 46:7:

"The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge." - (NKJV)

"The Lord of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." - (CEB)

"The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." - (NIV)

"The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress." - (NLT)

While the translations may define this word a little differently, there is one consistency among them. They all point to God’s power and authority. Whether you call him Lord of Hosts, Lord of Heaven’s Armies, or Lord Almighty, they all paint a picture of an all-powerful God.

What is a host? (In this context)

A host is an old term that was used to describe an army. Here is how the Oxford Reference defines host: “Derived from the Latin hostis, the term “host” evolved, designating originally an armed expedition against an enemy, then the army itself, and finally, by extension, the obligation to serve in arms.” 

The first designation of this word leaps off the page to me because it is an armed expedition against an enemy. Again, we don’t often think of God in the sense of a general leading an armed brigade, but that is one aspect of who God is. He is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies or the Lord of Hosts. Let’s carry it to another logical but greater conclusion. One of the definitions of Lord of Hosts used in some translations is Lord Almighty. By this, you could even say he is Lord of All. This means if you aligned all the powers of the earth, and add in all of Satan’s power, they are still no match for the Lord of All, the one who is Lord Almighty or Lord of Hosts.

What does the Lord of Hosts do? 

When you use this term, we think of a God who fights on behalf of those who are his own. Remember he is leading an armed expedition against an enemy. In an Old Testament context, we see God in this position as Lord of Hosts every time he fights for Israel. When God was on their side, they were invincible. When God lifted his hand of support, they were totally vulnerable.

When the Israelites were leaving Egypt, the Egyptian army pursued them, and the Israelites were fearful they would overtake them. That is, until the Lord of Hosts stepped in telling the Israelites he would fight for them: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” - Exodus 14:13-14 

Israel was in a difficult place, but they had the Lord of Hosts on their side. They had comfort in knowing that regardless of who the enemy was or the situation they faced, God was fighting for them. Not only was this important as they were leaving Egypt, but this was equally important as they entered the promised land because they would have to fight enemies there. Israel had an assurance of knowing that the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the Lord Almighty, was on their side and no enemy would be too great for them to overcome.

What does it mean for us?

As you step into the New Testament, God is still the Lord of Hosts because God never changes. The good news is that God still fights for you. Consider this verse in Romans: "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Romans 8:31

We have the same assurance that the Israelites did. It does not matter what situation in life you find yourself in. God is for you. Since God is for you and he is the Lord of Hosts, there is no one who can ever overcome you if God is on your side.

One necessary requirement.

I do need to offer one word of caution here. Disobedience and sin can cancel out God’s protection. If you remember after the Israelites defeated mighty Jericho, they were defeated by little old Ai. The reason was because of disobedience, which is sin. While it is true God is for us, if you harbor sin in your life God may withhold his protection and covering until you come to a place of repentance. As you walk with God, remember this simple truth: obedience is the place of invincibility; disobedience is the place of vulnerability.

Is this a good name for God?

The name Lord of Hosts is a good name for God because it gives us more understanding of who he is. It reminds us that God is our defender and we don’t have to defend ourselves. In the gospel of John, Jesus makes this statement: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” - John 10:27-30

The truth found in these verses in John is possible because God is the Lord of Hosts. You could even imply from these verses that someone, mainly Satan, may try to snatch you out of his hand, but this too is not possible. Remember, God will fight for you, and when the enemy comes, God will not allow him to overtake you. 

God is the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the Lord Almighty. This picture of the military God should give you peace knowing that God is watching over you. He is the God that provides, and he is also the God who protects. I encourage you to remember that in your present situation and I want to leave you with one verse that puts this view of God in perfect perspective:

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." - Psalm 91:11-12

As the Lord of Hosts, God is undoubtedly watching over you.

 Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ArtyFree

Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit