I’ve been doing my Old Testament daily Bible readings in a new translation this year and one of the things that took me off guard was the appearance of “Lord of armies” as a name for God. It first appears in 1 Samuel 1:3. The NIV renders it “Lord Almighty.” The ESV translates it “Lord of hosts” – and I was used to those, but not “Lord of armies.” Notice that it is not “Lord of the Army,” as in Israel’s army, but Lord of “Armies.” God is the Lord of all armies. The title has special relevance in the prophets because Israel was looking to the army to rescue her; if not her own army, then the army of Egypt, or Syria.
Interestingly, the title, while ubiquitous in Isaiah and Jeremiah (half of all its uses are in those two books), does not occur at all in Ezekiel or Daniel. And why? Because in captivity, Israel had ceased to be a sovereign nation. She had no army, and lacked the political muscle to call on another nation to help her. The term was irrelevant for God.
Ezekiel however chronicles a vastly different situation for Israel. Some of them are living yet in Canaan, believing their brethren in captivity have gotten what they deserve. Those in captivity are hoping their brethren in Canaan will mount a force and come rescue them. The world of both groups has collapsed. Their times are unprecedented. Neither group is looking to God who is called in Ezekiel the “Sovereign Lord” (NIV) or “Lord God” (KJV, ESV). Ezekiel uses that name some 210 times for God out of 293 in the whole Old Testament.
By using that particular name for God, Ezekiel’s message to a bedraggled Israel was the same as it is for us. Whatever is going on, for whatever reason, God is in control. He rules. Only he rules. Put your hope in him because as sovereign, He is the only hope there is.