They were calling out to each other, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven's Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!" --Isaiah 6:3 NLT
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Other translations call God the Lord Almighty or the Lord of Hosts. The Hebrew says Yahweh Sabaoth.
There are times when knowing God as faithfully compassionate, deeply loving and constantly present gives me comfort. My favorite perspective of God, though, is this one from Isaiah, Yahweh Sabaoth, God Almighty. I like it best because it reminds me that God is in charge, that God truly reigns over all of heaven and earth, and that God is powerful enough to handle whatever needs handling. If I have to walk through the shadows of death or a dark alley in a sketchy part of town, this is the God I want holding my hand and watching over me.
Sabaoth is a word that I recognize from choir music. It separates the casual choir singer from the serious veteran who knows how to pronounce it without having to be coached. Seeing it in Hebrew helps me remember that it sounds like this: tsa-bah-oat. In English the T is silent, I suppose. I never really knew what it meant until today. It sounds like some kind of healthy breakfast cereal…saba-oat.
In the older Bible translations, Yahweh Sabaoth is the Lord of Hosts. I never really knew what “hosts” meant until today, either. The dictionary says a host is someone who receives guests, but also notes that the archaic meaning is a multitude or a large army. If you put those two together, it means you’d better have a really big house or a good relationship with the nearest hotel to house a multitude of guests! I suppose that fits God, too. Jesus tells the disciples that his father’s house has many rooms and he’s gone to prepare a place for us there (John 14:2). So heaven is a really big place, with lots of room to host a multitude of guests, which is good since there’s already a whole army of angels there, and all the people who have already died and gone to heaven, and many more to come.
The translation of Sabaoth to “Heaven’s Armies” surprised me the first time I saw it, but the Hebrew root tsaba is a word whose meaning is firmly war-related. I think this just broadens our picture of God. Even though Sabaoth is a word that speaks of power, there’s also a sense of God as the perfect host, always welcoming, always prepared to meet a guest’s needs, always with room enough for everyone. An all-powerful host is the best kind of host, because he can not only house us, but can also keep us safe.That’s a really big God. No wonder the angels said that the whole earth is filled with his glory. The whole earth is big, but God is bigger. Sabaoth is the heavenly host, referring not just to angels but also to the stars in the sky:
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. --Isaiah 40:26
He is Lord of the heavens and Lord of the earth, ruling over the entire universe, and yet he knows me so well that he knows how many hairs are on my head (Luke 12:7, Matthew 10:30).