The Lord of Hosts
One of the greatest struggles in preparing a sermon is making the decision on what things to not include in the sermon. The goal is always to exposit the passage in a way that is faithful to that passage, communicates the main thing(s), makes Christ and the Gospel the pinnacle of the sermon, all in a way that is dependent on the Spirit of God to affect the hearts of the people listening. I like to include guys in my life who will be helpful in encouragement and critique of my sermons. Last week, a friend asked why I had not described why Haggai uses the title "Lord of hosts" throughout this book. I was glad for the question, and truth is, I had quite a bit of notes on the title "Lord of hosts," but consciously had to drop it for the sake of what seemed to be more important things in the text. However, I thought it may be helpful to share some of my notes that did not make it into the sermons from Haggai 1 and Haggai 2:1-9.
The phrase "Lord of Hosts" is used almost 300 times in the Old Testament alone (McKeown, NDBT, 256). The word "hosts" is typically synonymous with "Almighty." In fact, the phrase "Lord of hosts" is often translated "Lord Almighty." It is a name of the Lord that describes his absolute might, power, and sovereign rule over creation, as well as his providential involvement in his creation. Many times, it is tied uniquely to the his power, rule, and usage of the army of heavenly angels that protect his people.
Repetition in Haggai
Throughout Haggai, the "Lord of hosts" is used approximately 14 times. Repetition is typically a interpretive key to pay attention. So, why is Haggai using the Lord of hosts so often? As was mentioned in the sermon, the post-exilic people were facing persecution while rebuilding the Temple. The people of God were doubting that God's glory and presence were with them. What greater comfort to know that the Lord Almighty, the Lord of hosts, was with them? To see the people slowing down the progress of rebuilding the Temple in light of the Lord who has a myriad of angels at the ready, would move their eyes beyond the earthly trial and comfort them with the reality that their God is with them (2:4b; 2:5). Not only that, the Lord of hosts is the Almighty, giving proper grounds and motivation for the people to "Be strong" (3x in 2:4). God is calling his people to rely on Him rather than themselves.
Christ as the Lord of Hosts
One of the most prevalent passages where "Lord of hosts" is used is in 2 Samuel 6-7. King David calls the ark of God, the "ark of the Lord Almighty" making it clear that the Lord of hosts is with them. But in 2 Samuel 7, the chapter about the Lord making a covenant with David where one of his children will sit on the throne forever, the covenant is prefaced with "The Lord Almighty" (a.k.a. The Lord of hosts). All of this was pointing towards a King, as we saw in the first two sermons on Haggai, who is the Temple of God where the glory of God and the presence of God were united. Paul actually has this "Lord of hosts" language in mind in Philippians 2:9-11. After Jesus' incarnation and suffering on the cross, Paul writes,
"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Paul is referencing Isaiah 45:22-25, a passage about God as the Lord of hosts. Paul is ascribing the glory of God and the person of God to Jesus Christ. He is worthy of every knee bowing before him because he is the Lord of hosts. Every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Lord of hosts.
Why This Matters for Us?
We may not be called to rebuild the Temple. However, we are called to seek the first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). In a world that distracts us and tries to lure us into lesser pleasures than enjoying the glory of Christ, we are to trust in and rely on the power of the Lord of hosts. On the cross he revealed his great power by not calling his army of angels but used all his might to stay on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. He also raised in power and victory so that, in Him, we now are loved and protected by the Lord of hosts.