Joshua 5:1, 10-15, Hosts, or armies (9/24/13)
If you consult an actual dictionary, not just an on-line dictionary or (shudder) a spell-checker, you will find that English has two different words, derived from completely different Latin words, that are spelled and pronounced “host.” One means, as you know, “a person who entertains guests.” The other means “an army” or “a great multitude.”
In many English translations, God is called the “LORD of hosts.” We know that the hosts in question are armies, because the Hebrew has “LORD of armies.” This title is used several hundred times, and God is apparently alone in many cases. Sometimes God’s army is present, however. When the host is God’s army, it appears that the soldiers are usually angels of some kind. Sometimes the host is the army of Israel or another nation; those armies are not made up of angels. Read carefully.
Depending on your translation, you may see either “host” or “army.” Host = army.
2 Chronicles 18:1-27, Hosts, or armies (9/25/13)
I mainly put this passage in because Micaiah talks in vss. 18-21 about the LORD sitting among the heavenly host. It’s an interesting story with some funny points, however, and I think you’ll appreciate it more if I give you some background.
King Jehoshaphat of the southern kingdom, Judah, was a worshipper of God. King Ahab of the northern kingdom, Israel, had been married in his youth to a Philistine princess, Jezebel, who introduced the worship of Baal into Israel. Ahab worshipped both Baal and God; however, even his worship of God wasn’t pure, because the northern kingdom worshipped God at shrines that had idols (golden calves). Jezebel was running a pogrom against the prophets of God, so Jehoshaphat asked a reasonable question, “Isn't there a prophet of the LORD left here that we could talk to?”
Well, there was one, Micaiah, but Ahab didn’t like him because he was always bringing bad news! Really? If I worship other gods and use visible idols to represent the invisible God, I’ll get bad news from God’s prophet?? How amazing!
Micaiah was a true prophet, however, who said that Ahab would not return. Ahab was killed in the battle, and since he had ordered that the prophet be kept in prison until his return, that’s the last we hear of Micaiah.
Isaiah 13:1-13, Hosts, or armies (9/26/13)
Normally “the Day of the LORD” refers to the day of judgment at the end of time. We would not be surprised to see an army of angels on that day. The passage from the prophetic book of Isaiah has something of an “end-times” feel about it, but actually Isaiah’s message is about the end of Babylon – the Babylonian captors of the Israelites are now to be defeated in their own turn by the Medes and Persians. Verse 4 tells us that God, the LORD of the heavenly armies, is mustering up a human army from a faraway land for the battle. God doesn’t use his angelic armies to fight wars on earth; instead, he uses the historical process to bring about his will. In this case, he used the armies of the Medes and Persians to defeat the Babylonians who held the Israelites in captivity; somewhat later, the Medes and Persians sent the Israelites back to their homeland.
Psalm 24:1-10; Ps. 103:1, 13-22, Hosts, or armies (9/27/13)
You already know that the psalms are songs, and they are written in poetry. The thing about Hebrew poetry is that much of it is written in couplets, and in one type of couplet, the parallel lines present the same information in different words.
In Psalm 24, verses 7 and 9 are the same, and verses 8 and 10 start out the same. “The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!” presents essentially the same information as “The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!” The LORD of hosts is strong and mighty in battle, partly because he leads hosts, or armies.
Who makes up the hosts? In Psalm 103:20-22, “O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word” is parallel to “all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will.” So it sure looks to me as if some of the hosts are made up of angels.
2 Samuel 6:1-15, The LORD of Hosts (9/30/13)
This week is a bit of an aside to our study of angels, because it’s really about a particular title for God: the LORD of hosts. We saw last week that God’s hosts, or armies, appear to made up of angels much of the time. God has a stern side that must impose judgment; my impression is that “LORD of hosts” is a title often used to refer to this aspect of God’s personality. This week we’ll read some scriptures that show you where my idea comes from, and you can decide what you think about it.
Pastor Craig made the point in this morning’s sermon that God is not only our loving father, but also our dangerous God. In vs. 2, we see that the LORD of hosts sits enthroned upon the cherubim
that are on the lid of the ark of the covenant. As God’s throne, the ark was much too holy and dangerous to be touched by just anybody – Numbers 4 tells us that even the Levites were not allowed to see it or touch it. It isn’t completely clear to me that Uzzah was being punished for the error of touching the ark. I could be wrong, but it looks to me as though Uzzah died for the same reason that you die if you touch a high-voltage power line: too much power, too little caution.
Isaiah 1:1-26, The LORD of Hosts (10/1/13)
Ah. I see why I think that “LORD of hosts” is a title associated with God’s justice. This name for God occurs 244 times, but only 23 of these are found outside the books of the prophets. God just about never sends us a prophet when we are doing righteousness. We normally get prophets when we are, as a society, being even more sinful than usual. In Isaiah’s vision, the LORD, and presumably his hosts, have visited God’s wrath on Jerusalem and Judah.
This short passage has most of the elements we expect to see in pre-Exilic prophecy
– a list of sins, a threat of punishment, a call to repentance, and a promise of reconciliation.
Jeremiah 50:20-28, The LORD of Hosts (10/2/13)
God sent prophets to speak to nations other than Israel and Judah. Babylon was particularly destructive when it invaded Judah – razing the city of Jerusalem, looting the Temple, killing most of the people and deporting the rest – and Judah was not the only nation that suffered from Babylon’s excesses. The prophet Jeremiah, among others, delivered a message to Babylon from the LORD of hosts.
By the way, we never hear of the ark of the covenant again after Babylon invaded Judah, so many scholars think it was taken back to Babylon and, presumably, melted down. Other scholars think it was hidden, a la
Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nobody knows, so your guess is as good as anybody’s.
Amos 4:1-13, The LORD of Hosts (10/3/13)
There are few biblical sentences filled with as much foreboding as “Prepare to meet your God.” It’s even worse that this message comes from the LORD of hosts – God is bringing his entire army to the meeting! Now, I’m perfectly okay with the idea of meeting my God, but I’d prefer that it be by advance appointment. I’d prefer not to get this message right in the middle of a long program of sinning.
Amos was one of the early prophets, and he was preaching to a society, the kingdom of Israel (= Samaria), that was in the middle of a program of sinning. Bethel and Gilgal were the sites of shrines reputedly to God, but really to idolatrous images that represented God. A wealthy society, Israel treated the poor badly, even to the point of selling poor people into slavery to pay small debts, e.g., the price of a pair of sandals. Worst of all, Israel did not heed the warning of earlier reprimands from God. Now it was time for the reckoning: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
Zechariah 1:7-17, The LORD of Hosts (10/4/13)
As we saw earlier in the week, the nation of Judah was punished by the LORD of hosts for their sins through the agency of Babylon. After the Jews had seen the error of their ways, God allowed the Babylonians to be defeated by the King Cyrus of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus ended the captivity (although not the vassalage) of the Jews in Babylon and sent them back to Judea with what remained of the old temple’s accoutrements. King Darius came later, and God’s message to Zechariah came early in the reign of Darius.
The most common description of God in the Bible is that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” We see that clearly in today’s passage, where the LORD of hosts promises that the cities of Judah will again overflow with prosperity, and that he will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.
More on Angels
Gabriel and Michael
Cherubim and Seraphim
Armies of Angels and the LORD of Hosts
Angels say “Fear Not!”
Guardian and Ministering Angels
Angel of the Lord - "The" or "An"?
Angels not in the Bible
Final Tidbits about Angels
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