Theme: “Lord Sabaoth His Name”
In this week’s lessons on Psalm 46, on which Luther’s great hymn is based, we are reminded that our complete confidence and trust rests in the Lord, who promises to be with his people forever.
Scripture: Psalm 46:1-11
The conclusion and proper application of this psalm is the response which has already appeared following stanza two (v. 7) and now appears a second and final time in verse 11: “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Who is he, this God who is his people’s refuge? The answer is given in the two names of God in this refrain.
First, he is “the LORD Almighty.” The words are literally “the LORD of Hosts (Jehovah Sabaoth).” “Hosts” refers to the armies of Israel, on the one hand, and to the angelic armies of God, on the other. This makes the name especially apt in this psalm, since the psalm is based on an historical deliverance of the people from earthly armies but also looks forward to a final deliverance when God will subdue the hostile forces of rebellious man forever. It is a particularly striking name in this psalm because the name Jehovah does not occur much in this second book of the psalms; the name is usually Elohim.
We have a wonderful insight into the power of God’s hosts in the story of Elisha at Dothan. The city of Dothan had been surrounded by the armies of Ben-Hadad of Syria in an attempt to capture Elisha, and they were discovered early in the morning by Elisha’s young servant. When he saw the soldiers and chariots positioned around the city he rushed back inside and cried out to Elisha, saying, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” Elisha prayed that God would open the eyes of his servant to see the heavenly hosts protecting him, and when God did, the servant saw that the hills were filled with horses and chariots of fire around Elijah. Elijah reminded his servant that “those who are with us are greater than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he,Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same,And he must win the battle.
Second, this God is also the God of Jacob. Jacob was the third of the three Jewish patriarchs and the least outstanding of the three. He was a schemer, as his name implies. It took him a lifetime to learn to trust God. Yet the God of Abraham was his God no less than he was the God of Abraham. The great Bible expositor Alexander Maclaren has a wonderful study of these two names in which he concludes, “The God of Jacob is the Lord of hosts. More wondrous still, the Lord of hosts is the God of Jacob.”5
This is your God, too, if you have come to him through faith in Jesus Christ. And if he is your God, then he is with you at all times, which is what this important couplet says.
On the day he died, John Wesley had already nearly lost his voice and could be understood only with difficulty. But at the last with all the strength he could summon, Wesley suddenly called out: “The best of all is, God is with us.” Then, raising his hand slightly and waving it in triumph, he exclaimed again with thrilling effect: “The best of all is, God is with us.” Is the Lord Almighty with you? Is the God of Jacob your refuge, as he was for Martin Luther and John Wesley? Make sure that he is. The storms of life will come, and the greatest storm of all will be the Final Judgment. Make Christ your refuge now, while there is still time.
Explain the significance of the two names for God found in verse 11.
Read Psalm 46 and note how God is described. How does the Lord act because of who he is?
Application: Can you testify with confidence that the Lord is with you? Is he truly your refuge and stronghold? Praise him for his power and faithfulness. And also pray for those who need to know him in a saving way.
For Further Study: To learn more about the faithfulness of God in his abiding presence with his people, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “God with Us.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
5Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol. 3, The Psalms, Isaiah 1-48 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), part 1, p. 345.