LORD, Help Us!
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Psalm 84:1-3 ESV
There’s that helpless feeling again as I see the news. There is much evil in the world, even in our leaders in the government and the church. The bad guys seem to be getting stronger, while the good guys seem to be getting weaker.
Surely, Elkanah felt that sense of helplessness as he looked at Israel. Israel had entered the Promised Land, but its leaders, including the priests, weren’t walking as God had called them to walk. Israel’s enemies were getting stronger while Israel was getting weaker.
Eli, the first prophet since Moses’s death, had been leading the people. But he’d had no prophetic word, and he’d allowed his evil sons to officiate as priests at Shiloh, the place where the tabernacle had been set up after the Israelites entered the land.
Elkanah was a Levite and should have been among the priests who ministered (1 Samuel 1:1-30).
But at least he faithfully traveled to Shiloh every year to worship, pray, and sacrifice to Jehovah-Sabaoth. This name for God, also translated “the LORD of Hosts” and “the LORD Almighty” hadn’t been used before. The Hebrew word tsaba’ meant “a host of an organized army, a host of angels, the host of the heavens: sun, moon, and stars, or all of the whole creation.”* (Don’t confuse tsaba’ with Sabbath, which is the seventh day.)
Elkanah prayed to the All-powerful One who controlled everything, including all the armies on earth and in heaven. His wife Hannah also prayed to Jehovah-Sabaoth. Her feeling of helplessness came from her barrenness and the animosity of Elkanah’s other wife, Penninah. She had given Elkanah sons and daughters, so she taunted Hannah. But Hannah believed that Jehovah-Sabaoth controlled even her body—specifically her womb. She promised Him that if He gave her a son, she’d dedicate him to the Lord’s service for the rest of his life.
Jehovah-Sabaoth answered both sets of prayers. Samuel, the child born to Hannah, became a prophet who heard the word of the Lord at a young age and served Israel until they crowned their first king.
Where do you feel helpless? Pray as Elkanah and Hannah did to the LORD of Hosts, the One who controls a tiny nation, a tiny seed in a woman’s womb, and you in your helplessness.
The people of Israel did not understand who the Lord of Hosts was. How did they misuse the name and the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Samuel 4:1-18? How did the Philistines react?
Read 1 Samuel 17:1-45. How did David use this name for God? How was David small and weak compared to his enemy physically? How was David strong spiritually? How are you strong as you pray to Jehovah-Sabaoth?
Jehovah-Sabaoth is used most often by the prophets of Israel. How does Malachi 6:1-3 use it? Contrast the way the Lord of Hosts will treat the wicked with the way He’ll treat the ones who revere this name.
Nancy J. Baker
This devotion is part of a series on the Names of God.