I thought it a bit surprising, if not embarrassing.
A lady had commented that it was too bad that the editors of The Lutheran Hymnal didn’t have spell-check available to them. When I raised my eyebrow in question, she bemoaned the fact that in the Sanctus (p.26), Sabbath had been misspelled. Turned out that she had never heard that Sabaoth was a quite different word, and “Lord of Sabaoth” means Lord of Hosts, or Lord of Armies.
This lady had seen a misspelled word; another man saw with closed eyes. 2 Kings 6 brings us the account of a Syrian invasion of Israel. Elisha was God’s prophet at the scene, whose hearing was so good that he heard the inner war-council of the Syrians and so trumpeted a warning. The Syrian king then sent his army to “get” Elisha. The enemy came by night and with many horses and chariots surrounded the city of Dothan.
When Elisha’s man-servant saw in the dawn mist the besieging force, he cried out in panic, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” To his human eyes the situation was most precarious. But Elisha replied, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha then prayed that his servant’s eyes be opened to the real situation, and he then saw what the prophet saw: “. . . the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17). Indeed, the Lord of Armies was on site in full battle array.
Centuries later Jesus pointed out what Elisha saw—that there were at His disposal many legions of heavenly angels (Matthew 26:52-54). The Lord of Armies surely is not bound or restricted by conditions or centuries. A secondary or tertiary theme of the Lutheran Reformation was the defending, protecting Lord of Sabaoth. Martin Luther saw and trusted, and so confidently penned:
“. . . But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Of Sabaoth Lord, And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.” [TLH: #262, v.2]
When Luther incurred the wrath of the pope for his Gospel teaching, the Lord of Hosts provided German princes and electors to protect him. When after the Diet of Worms Luther was in danger of arrest and assassination, others of God’s soldiers “kidnapped” him and kept him safe at Wartburg. When the whole of Europe faced the invading Turks from the East, the Lord of Sabaoth made sure His Reformation child was not killed in infancy. Indeed, the Lord of Armies was ever on the scene!
Are we like the servant who did not see and was afraid? Or do we know, can we see the great Lord of Armies? It all starts by seeing Christ Jesus as Savior and trusting what He already has done for us. Our great enemy is Satan, who brought sin into this world. We were helpless before his deceitful power, and desperately needed a Valiant One. And so “. . . for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ), and thus rescue and protect us.
Islamic terrorists and armies are again marching, threatening, and slaughtering. We are tempted to cry, “Alas, alas! What shall we do?” Such a cry is of baseless alarm, for “the Angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). Various evils are like Syrian raiding parties out to get us. Yet our mighty Sabaoth Lord reassures us that the heavenly Father “. . . shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). False prophets and the forces of evil threaten the faith of the very elect of God on earth. But the Lord of Hosts is with His people. He is “. . . our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”(Psalm 46:1).
Today we see by faith; in heavenly glory by sight. Then will we see with resurrected eyes, not only the glorious, triumphant Lamb of God, but also the angelic armies of heaven (Revelation19:14), mounted and serving Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. With all fear removed, we will perfectly understand then what we should know now—that those with us are more than those against us.
David Fuerstenau is pastor of Holy Truth Lutheran Church in Ketchikan, Alaska.