The Lord of Hosts

I am a clumsy white woman in my early 40s living in the suburbs of southeast Texas. Suffice it to say, I have NO BUSINESS dancing, but when I hear music, something comes over me. I can’t help it. My mind says, “Be still, body!” But my body retorts, “Shut up, mind!” To my family’s great shame, I give in to impulse and get jiggy with it. If you’ve ever seen Elaine Benes on Seinfeld dance, you’ve seen me. If you haven’t, you can get a pretty good idea by watching this video of my youngest offspring doing what his DNA dictates.

If you invite the Scotts to your party and the music is thumping, believe me when I tell you, this is what WILL happen. Boone and I have no chill, and it has never crossed either of our minds that we might not be great dancers. We feel what we feel.

I attended a small Baptist university, and traditionally, Baptists don’t sanction dancing because, well, I don’t really know why. I think maybe a long time ago they thought people who danced might accidentally have sex.


All I know is we didn’t have dances on campus. We had “foot functions” off campus. Every year, the school-wide Christmas party was a square dance in a big barn. I loved it so much because of all dance formats, square dancing is one where I shine! My square dance training goes back to first grade PE with Mr. Ezel whose careful coaching taught me how to grapevine like the wind. You can take the girl out of the cafegymnatorium, but you can’t take the cafegymnatorium out of the girl. Square dancing is in my soul. What makes it such a fantastic dance format is that nothing in square dancing is left up to personal interpretation. A caller stands facing the dancers on the floor and yells commands into a microphone like “Weave the ring!”, “Do si do!” or “Pass through, separate, and go home!” While it lacks the subdued elegance of the Victorian era social dances, it’s the same sort of orderly congregational choreography. Unlike the chaos of the dance floor at a club, in a square dance, everyone does the required action at the right time on beat at the command of the caller of the dance. If you’ve never seen several hundred people square dancing, you’re missing a spectacle.

There’s a divine name of God that’s probably one of my favorites. It’s Yahweh Sabaoth (pronounced sah-bah-OAT). The word sabaoth is most often translated as hosts, great multitude, or armies. It’s a word that doesn’t have an exact analogous word in English, so this name is often translated as either LORD of Armies, LORD of Angel Armies, LORD of the Hosts of Heaven, or LORD of Hosts. Regardless of how it is translated, the word sabaoth implies a great number (stars in the sky, for example), and while most often it does imply something army-ish, it doesn’t always. I could use a similar turn of phrase when I say that Jenn, my friend who has nine children, feeds an army. She has many children, but they aren’t a group arrayed for battle, though Jenn might take a different view.

When we studied this name with our seven-year-old son, we used the name LORD of Armies, because we know our audience. However, sometimes, “the LORD of Armies” can seem strange in the contexts where we find it. There’s no better example of this than the place where it is first mentioned in 1 Samuel 1.

To set the background, Hannah is a woman who is married to a man who has two wives. Hannah is unable to have children, while the other wife has many. Hannah is her husband’s favorite, but her life is made miserable by the other wife who taunts her barrenness. She is so grieved that she does the only thing she knows to do—Hannah takes her plea to God with tears and snot.

“Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to Yahweh and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, “LORD of Armies, if you will take notice of your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give your servant a son, I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.”

1 Samuel 1:10-11

It seems strange to me that a woman pleading for a son would appeal to Yahweh Sabaoth, the LORD of Armies. Even if the translation “LORD of Hosts” is substituted, it still feels weird enough to merit meditation. There must be something more to this word, sabaoth, than meets the eye.

Here are just a few things the Bible calls sabaoth:

  1. everything in the heavens (sun, moon, stars)

  2. armies

  3. all of creation

  4. the nation of Israel

  5. angels

  6. those who served in the tabernacle

What in the world do these things have in common that they could be called by the same term?

They all have a precise prescribed pattern, ritual, or path they must follow. They are gathered or summoned by one who has authority over them. They do not determine their own way, but rather depend on the one who has the grand plan in mind, who sees the whole picture.

Like college kids at a foot function, they obey the commands of the caller who has in view all the moving parts and directs the dance where it should go.

At the command of Yahweh Sabaoth, the planets hold to their orbits. The wind goes where it is sent. The oceans rage or rest at his gesture. What He commands is accomplished. Like a noble king mounted for war, He leads his people into battle. There is no challenge that he does not meet ahead of them. There is no weapon or defense his army ever lacks. All of his thoughts are strategic. All of his plans succeed. He is only ever victorious. There is no spoil of war that he will not distribute to those in his triumphal procession.

As a general summons his troops, Yahweh Sabaoth gathers the stars to make a galaxy, gathers slaves to make a nation, gathers people to make a Church, gathers dust to make a man.

Is it any wonder that Hannah cried out to Yahweh Sabaoth for relief from a constant assault of taunts and the grief of empty arms? Who better to ask for her heart’s desire than the One whose command is always done?

I don’t mind telling you that at this very minute, we in our family are appealing to the LORD of Hosts. We have some hard battles, some tender needs. We find ourselves perplexed and pressed down, so, like Hannah who through tears called on Yahweh Sabaoth, we are making our own tearful requests to him, because He’s the only One who not only has the power but the authority to manipulate all circumstances for our good and His great glory.

We hold to this eternal promise:

“Yahweh Sabaoth is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” Psalm 46:7