(by Heather Marshall)
Did you know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is on your side?
Yahweh Tsebaōth (also written Sabaōth) is the name of God that describes God as the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. The Hebrew root word tsaba means “a gathering of people” and is often used in the Bible to describe armies preparing for war. When joined with the name of God in Yahweh Tsebaōth, it reveres Him as commanding hosts of angelic armies who gather in His name and serve Him. In fact, all of creation is subject to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
“LORD of Hosts,” “God of Armies,” and “the Lord Almighty” are versions of this same name. It is a name that appears frequently in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Malachi where almost half the verses contain this name in some form.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is a name that reminds us of the power and faithfulness of a God who fights on our behalf.
The first time that this name of God is used in the Bible is in 1 Samuel 1 where Elkanah and his wives Hannah and Peninnah traveled to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to “the LORD of Heaven’s Armies” at the tabernacle. It is there that Hannah (who was childless and desperately wanted to become a mother) prayed this prayer, “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you” (1 Samuel 1:11).
Hannah was in deep sorrow over her barrenness and she expressed this freely to the Lord. God showed His faithfulness to Hannah and answered her prayer in an awesome way. “The LORD remembered her plea, and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I asked the LORD for him’” (1 Samuel 1:19-20).
Samuel became a mighty prophet for God and was instrumental in ushering in the kings of Israel through the lineage of David.
Prior to becoming king of Israel, David was secure in the love of God and rested in the truth that the LORD of Heaven’s Armies was on his side. In his pre-fight verbal sparring with Goliath he states, “You come to me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies- the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45).
Before even reaching into his shepherd’s bag to throw the first stone, David was confident that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies would give him and the nation of Israel victory over their enemies.
David had previously experienced God fighting on his behalf when he was a shepherd boy in the field with his flock. He could recount that experience, saying, “The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). David’s assessment was correct. The Lord was faithful and David defeated Goliath through God’s strength and the Philistines fled because their champion was dead.
When we put our faith in this God who David and Hannah trusted, we too can be confident in the LORD of Heaven’s Armies working on our behalf. Whether it is an intimate problem like Hannah’s, or the threat of an enemy like David experienced, Psalm 46:7 promises “The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.”
In the days of the prophet Malachi, the people of Israel were living in a way that demonstrated that they did not wholeheartedly value the presence of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Their hearts were calloused. They were showing outward expressions of worship but their hearts were not really in it. They needed a reminder of who the LORD of Heaven’s Armies truly was.
Perhaps this is one reason that Malachi mentions this name of God in so many of the verses in this small book. Thankfully, there was a remnant of people during this time who were truly seeking to please God. Malachi 3:16 tells us, “Those who feared (the LORD) always thought about the honor of His name.”
It seems as though thinking about the honor of the name of God played a key role in helping these people have hearts that were in a posture of true worship. Those who always thought about His name were the ones who remained faithful.
Let’s be encouraged to join with the faithful who meditate on the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. He is the One who could have called thousands of angels to rescue Him from His impending death on the cross (Matthew 26:53), but did not, so that He could save us from our sins and make us part of His family.
He is the One who has always been and will always be on our side. “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
May the words of the song “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” by Chris Tomlin bring encouragement to us as we praise the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.