The Lord of Hosts
There are several places in the Old Testament where it says “the Lord of hosts”. What does this title for God mean? Is it connected to the communion hosts we use at mass that become Jesus’ body?
You’d be surprised how many people have asked this question. It might seem a little random, but it’s actually pretty common.
This might surprise you but the title Lord of hosts is used over 200 times in the Old Testament. Lemme give you a couple of quick examples:
“Then David said to the Philistine (Goliath), “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” - 1 Sam 17:45
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” - Isa. 9:6-7
Again, there are hundreds more references. What’s cool about these two events is that they take place about 250 years apart, but Isaiah’s refers back to David (1 Sam verse) and points ahead to Christ in his prophecy.
The title “Lord of hosts” says several things about the nature of God and about His creation. It emphasized God’s ultimate power over the whole universe and every living creature. The phrase “host of heaven” refers to every living thing, even angelic, celestial beings. In other words, God is not just creator of the earth and everyone on it, but Creator of every living thing; all creatures and all of creation are subject to the power of God. We, in turn, as His creation exist to love and to serve His purpose(s).
The title is a statement not only of God’s ultimate power but also of our subjection to that power. No one stands before God, except by His power, mercy and grace. We can only approach Him out of His love for us, out of Christ’s sacrifice for us and out of the boldness and advocacy of the Spirit in us (Heb. 4:16).
The word “host” had multiple meanings back then, just as it does now. Look in a dictionary and you’ll probably find four or five definitions for it. The Latin root word can be hospes (where we get “hospitality”) which is someone who invites in and cares for, like the host of a party. The Latin hostis (where we get the term hostile) refers to a “stranger” or “enemy”, as in “God is the conqueror of enemies” (like in battle). Both of these meanings are used in the Old Testament.
Something really cool in my opinion, though, is that there is another derivative where we get the term “host”, the Latin hostia means “victim” and it is the word we use for the bread that is consecrated and transubstantiated into the Eucharistic Body of Christ. In the Mass we have the re-presentation (not the re-sacrifice) of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, as the victim slain for our sins.
While this last translation is not the original, literal meaning from the Old Testament references, it is a beautiful insight into the prophecies uttered so many thousands of years ago, regarding Jesus Christ as the Lord and the Messiah. Remember, prophecy is not about “future seeing” or fortune telling, it is God sharing His heart and His Words through people at specific points in time, words that are true in that present time and true for all eternity.
If you’d like to read more places that it refers to God as “the Lord of hosts”, you can check out a concordance and it will list every single reference. You might want to spend some time in the Psalms (46, 84) and in throughout Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and Malachi.
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