God of Power (Jehovah Sabaoth)

Amos 4:13

March 13, 2005 | Brian Bill

I have never served in the service or gone off to war but I certainly got into skirmishes with my sisters when I was growing up!  I celebrated a birthday milestone this past week and my siblings sent me cards that show the war is not over.  Let me read three of them to you.  

Happy Birthday to a brother who was always there to take me by the hand…and then bend my wrist backward until my fingers touched my arm.  [Mary added: “Its okay, I’m over it now!”]

Even when someone irritates…you, you can still love them.  Brothers teach us that.

Brother, celebrate your birthday like you’re a kid again.  In your room.  No supper.  No TV.  Just sitting and thinking about what you’ve done.  [Jean added: “Explain this one to your girls.”  Our girls asked me about this but I can’t remember a specific situation, because I was put in isolation all the time!]

Actually, one of my sisters sent me a nice card that was very meaningful.  When I was telling one of my other sisters on the phone that my youngest sister sent me “a card from the heart,” she immediately said, “Don’t let it go to your head…It’s probably because she couldn’t find the other kind!”

It strikes me that a number of you have served in the armed forces, or have a family member serving right now.  If so, would you please stand so we can extend our appreciation to you?  Thank you for your service to our country, and to those who have family members serving, thank you for your sacrifice.  I was reminded of your dedication this week at my Kiwanis meeting when the speaker, who is a National Guard recruiter, was asked to describe the benefits of joining the service.  The person asking the question was wondering about the free tuition and other compensation.  Without hesitation, he said that the best benefit is the chance to serve our country and spread freedom around the world.

I’ve been reading a book called, “A Table in the Presence” by Carey Cash, a chaplain for the U.S. Marines.  In this dramatic account, his Battalion experienced God’s presence and power in an amazing way during the war in Iraq.  When they were up against the wall, God came through for them time and time again.  Listen to what he writes: “During the long weeks in the Kuwaiti desert, we had often talked about God’s protection and had prayed for it in every service.  We had asked God for courage and quiet resolve in the face of the enemy…for six weeks, many of us had looked to God for grace and help in our time of need, and God had graciously responded.  He had calmed our fears, breathed hope and confidence into our souls, and readied us for the fight.” 

The name of God that we are studying today is Jehovah Sabaoth, which at its root, refers to a captain or general who commands a mighty army.  It’s used over 270 times in the Bible.  By the way, the King James translates this name as “LORD of Hosts” while the NIV uses “LORD Almighty.”  We’ve already described the name Jehovah as the self-existent one who is personal, present, powerful, and the ultimate promise-keeper.  The word Sabaoth can refer to one of four large groups, or a large quantity of hosts:

  • A huge congregation
  • An immense army
  • Celestial bodies – stars (see Isaiah 34:4)
  • Innumerable angelic beings (see Luke 2:13)

The Lord Almighty has all the hosts of heaven ready to do His work.  Psalm 24:10 asks the question: “Who is he, this King of glory?  The LORD Almighty [Jehovah Sabaoth] — he is the King of glory.”  God is the king and commander over every army, both spiritual and earthly, and He mobilizes them to accomplish His purposes.  Amos 4:13 describes this name of God in greater detail: “He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth–the LORD God Almighty [Jehovah Sabaoth] is his name.” When we truly understand this name for God we will never view Him the same again.  He has unlimited power, unbridled might and untarnished glory.  He is impossible to describe and incredible to imagine.

Charles Spurgeon once preached: “The Lord of Hosts…is on our side as our August Ally; woe unto those who fight against Him, for they shall flee like smoke before the wind when He gives the word to scatter them.”  The name Jehovah Sabaoth is used when God’s people are in deep weeds, or as my friend Ray likes to say, “When you’re hip-deep in alligators and there’s no way to drain the swamp.”  Kay Arthur refers to this as God’s name for man’s extremity.  We could say it this way: God goes to battle when our backs are up against the wall.  Chaplain Carey Cash captures this idea when he quotes a prayer from a grandmother in Mississippi.  She prayed three things for our troops as they moved across Iraq (Page 68).

  1. Confusion among the generals of Saddam’s army.
  2. Salvation for many.
  3. Legions of warring angels with drawn swords to go before you as you make your approach.
He goes to battle when our backs are against the wall

That last request is directly related to the name Jehovah Sabaoth.  The Holy One is the commander of the hosts of heaven.  We’re going to look at four biblical illustrations this morning to help us get a better picture of this name, and to help us learn to call Him by this name when we are at the end our ropes.  We affirm that the battle belongs to the Lord.  He goes to battle when our backs are against the wall.

1. When you feel oppressed (1 Samuel 1:11). 

The first instance of Jehovah Sabaoth is found in 1 Samuel 1:3, where we read that Elkanah, who was married to Hannah and Peninnah, went up from his town every year to “worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty [Jehovah Sabaoth] at Shiloh.”  This shows us something about this man’s devout spirituality.  When the whole culture was headed south spiritually, Elkanah swam against the tide of apathy, and took his family to worship.  I believe one of the reasons he went to the Lord of Hosts for help was because his two wives were battling each other.  Peninnah had children but Hannah was barren and bothered by the whole ordeal.  In that culture barrenness was thought to be a sign of God’s displeasure.

Verse 6 describes the character and personality of Penninah: “…her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.”  She couldn’t just be thankful that she had children but felt the need to needle and harass Hannah.  The word “provoke” literally means, “To cause her thunder.”  She’s trying to get Hannah to blow her top!  The word “irritate” refers to being stirred up inwardly.  Verse 7 says that Peninnah provoked Hannah so much that she wept and would not eat.  Have you ever been so sad that you couldn’t even eat?

Hannah’s back was up against the wall and she needed God to do battle for her.   She was bitter and broken and took her requests to Jehovah Sabaoth.  In verse 11, she makes a vow saying, “O LORD Almighty [Jehovah Sabaoth], if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life…” She needed God to unleash the armies of heaven because she was at the end of her rope.  And God heard her request and gave her a son named Samuel.  Incidentally, one reason I think God answered her prayer is because this mother knew that Israel needed a godly man like Samuel and she was willing to give him back to the Lord for His purposes and plans.  She had the right motives and God honored that.

Are you oppressed by someone right now or maybe depressed about a situation like Hannah was?  If so, call out to Jehovah Sabaoth.  God goes to battle when our backs are against the wall.

2. When you feel overwhelmed (1 Samuel 17:45). 

God also unleashes the armies of heaven when we are overwhelmed, when the problems in front of us seem so huge and so big that we want to run the other way.  Please turn in your Bible to 1 Samuel 17 where we read the account of David and Goliath.  We don’t have time to dig into the depths of this amazing passage so I’ll just skim over the surface.  The Philistines were the arch enemies of Israel and had gathered for war in the Valley of Elah to take on God’s people.  The Philistines had a champion named Goliath who was two feet taller than Shaquille O’Neal.  He was decked out in body armor that weighed 125 pounds and was armed with a javelin, a spear and a shield bearer.  This mammoth of a man challenged the Israelites to a smackdown fight as he belched out blasphemies against God.

David’s job was to take some bread and some cheese (he must have been from Wisconsin) to the commander of the unit and to also check on how his older brothers were doing.  When David was there he heard Goliath shout his usual defiance.  This taunting had been going on twice a day for forty days.  Each time the Israelites heard his voice, “they all ran away from him in great fear” (verse 24).  This reminds me of an “Adventures in Odyssey” episode that our family has listened to several times.  The setting is a snowball fight that broke out over some warm chocolate chip cookies.  Alex, the commander of this ragtag army asks a question to the younger and smaller squad, “Are we warriors or are we wimps?”  To which they reply in a very high voice, “We are wimps, sir!” That’s precisely how the Israelites were acting.  They should have been warriors but they were wimps.

David then asked the question that should have been asked long ago in verse 26: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  David’s older brother became enraged and basically told David to go back to his cheese curds and shepherding.  But then Saul, the King of Israel, heard about David’s courageous candor and sent for him. In verse 32, David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”  Saul tries to dismiss David’s bravado but David reminds Saul how he had killed a lion and a bear.  He had been up against the wall before and had seen God go to battle for him.  Notice verse 37: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  Saul then told David to go for it and tried to give him his armor, but since it didn’t fit, David discarded it.  He picked up what he was used to – his staff, his slingshot, and then found five smooth stones and went off in search of the giant.

When Goliath came closer to David and saw that he was just a boy, he despised him and said in verse 43: “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?”  After teasing him, he called out a curse on David and declared that he would feed him to the birds and the beasts.  I love David’s response in verse 45.  Listen carefully for the name Jehovah Sabaoth: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, [Jehovah Sabaoth] the God of the armies [Sabaoth] of Israel, whom you have defied.” David then describes in great detail what he will do to Goliath and declares in verse 47: “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

In David’s eyes, God was the giant and Goliath was just a goon.  God’s powerful presence was more real to David than Goliath was to the wimpy warriors.  He was so confident in Jehovah Sabaoth as the commander of the armies of heaven that the Bible says that “he ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.”  And with one stone from his sling, he slayed the giant.  That reminds me of Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”

Here are seven principles from this encounter that will help us when we feel overwhelmed.

  • It’s inevitable that we will face giants like anxiety, fear, doubt, animosity, intimidating people and enemies.  
  • Measure the giants you face against the greatness of God, not yourself.  To David, the giant was an opportunity to know God better, not an obstacle to his faith.
  • Don’t try to fight the giants with someone else’s solution.  Saul’s armor didn’t help David.  Look to God alone for your armor.
  • Don’t run away from your problems; instead ask Jehovah Sabaoth to go to battle for you.
  • Verbalize your confidence in God.  Say it out loud.  It will help the words become real for you.
  • Remember who you are.  David had just been anointed by Samuel in the previous chapter and therefore knew his position and his purpose.  Do you?  
  • Remember who God is.  He is the Commander of the awesome armies of heaven and will go to battle for believers who reach out to Him in faith.

God goes to battle when our backs are against the wall.   And He unleashes his holy host when we feel oppressed and overwhelmed.  He also goes to war when we feel outnumbered.

3. When you feel outnumbered (2 Kings 6:16-17). 

Have you ever felt stuck?  When you sense that you can’t fight or flee from your problems, when you feel alone against a multitude of people or problems, it’s easy to want to give up.  Turn in your Bible to 2 Kings 6 where we read of an unforgettable encounter.  The prophet Elisha, not to be confused with Elijah, had managed to enrage the King of Aram.  When this king determined that Elisha was in a town called Dothan, he mobilized his army, complete with horses and chariots to surround the city and set up an ambush to annihilate Elisha.

When Elisha’s servant got up early the next morning to pick up the paper, he looked up and saw a mighty army encircling the city.  He panicked and woke Elisha up, exclaiming in verse 15: “O my lord, what shall we do?”  This servant had some vision problems.  His physical eyes worked fine but he was in need of some spiritual spectacles.  He saw the danger but couldn’t see the deliverance.  In verse 16, Elisha says, “Don’t be afraid…Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  I picture the servant looking around and wondering what Elisha was talking about.  

When words alone couldn’t calm his quaking heart, verse 17 tells us that Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  The servant’s fear had filleted his faith and so God had to give him spiritual eyes to see the invisible infantry: “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.” Chariots are symbols of God’s power (Psalm 68:17) and “chariots of fire” communicate the dreadful and destructive power of God to incinerate His enemies.  The servant thought he and Elisha were greatly outnumbered but in actuality, the armies of the Almighty God were arrayed against the enemy.  Friend, never forget that when you are standing next to Jehovah Sabaoth, you are in the majority, no matter what is against you. 

Allow the truth of Romans 8:31 to comfort you when you feel outnumbered: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  We need spiritual eyes to see that the spirit world is more real than this world.  One of most unusual fish God created is a fish called “Four Eyes,” which makes its home in Central and South America.  His large, bulging eyes are so situated on his head that he can spend his time cruising along the water with only the upper half of each eye above the surface.  The upper and lower parts of each eye have separate corneas and retinas.  The top half has a water lens, which amounts to a set of bifocals, giving him the ability to see in both the upper and lower world.  Each eye is divided into an aerial and an aquatic part, enabling him to see what’s in the world above and in the water below.  This fish is very hard to catch because it can see fisherman and birds coming from above and predators from below.

That’s the kind of discerning vision we should have as Christians.  We need to have our eyes fixed around us; at the same time, we should always be looking up to see the spiritual battle that is taking place, as Paul said in Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  The commander of the armies of heaven has mobilized the angelic host to do battle in the heavenly realms.  Because of that, we can echo the words of David in Psalm 3:6: “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.” 

4. When you feel impoverished (Haggai 1:4-11). 

The final passage I’d like to draw your attention to is found in the first chapter of the Book of Haggai.  God’s people have returned from captivity and they’re excited to be back in the Promiseland.  But instead of putting God first, they are busy building up their own lives.  God is not happy with this.  Look at verse 4: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”  God’s temple has been ignored and God’s holy name profaned by the way they are living.

In verses 5-6, God refers to himself by the name Jehovah Sabaoth: “Now this is what the LORD Almighty [Jehovah Sabaoth] says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.  You have planted much, but have harvested little.  You eat, but never have enough.  You drink, but never have your fill.  You put on clothes, but are not warm.  You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” God is saying that because the people have not put Him first, they are impoverished.  In verse 7, He refers to himself as Jehovah Sabaoth again and tells them to get to work on His house.  In verse 9, Jehovah Sabaoth says that He has dashed their expectations and blown away what they have held on to so tightly.  Why?  “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”  

he will also marshal his troops against us if we are not putting Him first in our lives

Friend, the God of the angel armies will go to battle for you when your back is up against the wall, when you’re feeling oppressed, overwhelmed and outnumbered.  But he will also marshal his troops against us if we are not putting Him first in our lives.  He does this because He loves us.  He does this to get our attention.  He does this for His glory and for our ultimate good.  If it seems like what you’ve been chasing has just vaporized before your eyes, if you make money only to find it flowing through holes in your pocket, if you feel like you never have enough, the Lord Almighty may be knocking out the props in your life to get your attention.  And until you admit that you are impoverished apart from Him, things will not get better.

Surrendering to the Commander

Allow me to come back to the book, “A Table in the Presence.”  When Chaplain Carey Cash first met a young marine named Jeff Guthrie, he was without purpose and direction.  He had been through some very difficult years and had turned into a complainer.  Having been estranged from his family for over eight years, he tried everything he could do to be happy.  Now he was in the Marines and was reeling from a very close call when his life could have ended.  This tough guy was on the verge of tears, and sitting down on the grass in front of Guthrie, the Chaplain asked what was wrong.

“Sir…I’m, I’m just so sorry,” he said, tears welling up in his tired eyes.  The Chaplain had no idea what he was talking about and so he asked, “Sorry for what, Guthrie?”  The young Marine replied, “It’s just what I’ve done in my life.  All I can think about is that I’ve just been through the worst experience of my life, and yet, God protected me through it all.  But why did He do it?  How could He do it after all the things—the bad things—I’ve done?  I don’t know what else to say, what else to feel.  I’m just so sorry.”

The chaplain describes the scene for the reader: “By now the tears are streaming down his face.  Guthrie’s fellow Marines, all twenty of them who are seated around the same ramp, stopped everything.  They were listening intently, watching everything.  He and I could feel their gaze, but it didn’t matter.  He was overcome…He had just come through the most frightening experience of his life and perhaps one of the single worst firefights of the entire war.  Like many others, he was uninjured, unscathed, and unharmed.  And the only thing he could think about was his sinfulness…I was looking into the face of a man who, for the first time in life, was truly encountering the power of God.  ‘Jeff,’ I said gently.  ‘Do you realize that God sent his Son, Jesus, for no other purpose than for forgiving all those things you or I have ever done wrong in life?”

The Chaplain and Jeff Guthrie then bowed in prayer as this Marine surrendered His life to the Commander of the Armies of Heaven and received the gift of forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life.  Twenty watching Marines stared in disbelief as Lance Corporal Jeff Guthrie asked the Lord Jesus to come into his life, right on the lawn of Saddam Hussein’s Presidential Palace.  The next morning was Palm Sunday.  In Saddam Hussein’s palace, in the courtroom of one of the century’s most notorious villains, Jeff Guthrie was baptized.  Carey Cash writes: “There before our eyes, the courts of evil had become nothing less than the courts of the Lord.  A place that had been known for the presence of darkness and treachery had become a place of the presence of God…If God can deliver an isolated, cut-off battalion of U.S. Marines surrounded by enemies in the belly of the beast, can He not deliver us from the enemies that assail us in our daily lives?”

God goes to battle when your back is up against the wall.  The Commander of the Hosts of Heaven wants you to call on His Name – Jehovah Sabaoth when you are:

  • Oppressed
  • Overwhelmed
  • Outnumbered 
  • Impoverishe

If you’re ready, would you pray this prayer with me?  “Lord Jesus, for too long I’ve kept you out of my life.  At times I’ve been oppressed, overwhelmed, outnumbered and I am spiritually impoverished   I admit that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself.  I repent of my sins by changing my mind about the way I’ve been living.  I believe and gratefully receive your pardon.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth.  With all my heart I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day.  Thank you for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life.  I open my heart to you right now and receive you into my life.  Amen.”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?