Vol. IX, May 2003
"Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Hosts, Is With Us"
Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!
In Psalm 34 we asked God for help through the holy angels. Now, Psalm 46the next one which makes reference to the angelsseems to reflect that we can really trust in God. "Come, consider the wonders of Yahweh, the astounding deeds He has done on the earth; He puts an end to wars...", etc. (46:8ff.). Therefore, "Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts, is [really] with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge" (vv. 7,11).
1. The Psalms are prayers.
With this evident affirmation, we are confronted with the constant rule of the Psalms: they constantly look to God. The Psalmist relates everything to God, and so comes by this exercise to a very rich comprehension of God! This again points to the fact, that the Psalms are prayers. All the memories, all the narrations of the past turn into prayer.
a) The name of God is "the God of Hosts".
"Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts" is one of the frequent titles or names of God in the Old Testament. It is cited 260 times according to one scholar, 285 times according to another (cf. Theol. Dictionary of the OT [German edition], 6, 876-892). Though used less in the historical books, it is found very frequently in the prophets. "It is the most sublime and magnificent proper name of God" (ibid., 692). Every day at Holy Mass we call upon God by this name, uniting ourselves with the holy angels when we sing: "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus SabaothLord God of hosts", as it was formerly translated.
b) What is the meaning of this name?
This name expresses something of the grandeur of God. Of course, God has no need of an army as a human king stands in need of one. His kingdom is based on His omnipotence; His voice has a creative power to which the Psalmist refers, saying: "when He raises His voice the earth crumbles away" (v. 6). No creature, neither the highest nor the least, nor even the greatest multitude can add anything to Him. Rather, they represent in some way His immense richness and His proper dignity. As the power of a human king is manifested by the extension of His property, by the people under his government, and by the number and quality of his army, so also Gods kingship and His very dignity can be manifested and glorified by His army. Parente observes correctly, "the terms Hosts, Army, do not necessarily give the idea of a warlike preparation for military strife; they rather imply a well-ordered and well-organized multitude of heavenly spirits, most powerful and ever ready to obey God, the king of heaven, the Lord of Hosts" (P. Parente, Beyond Space, Tan 1973, 69). The "acies ordinata" (Cant 6:4) is rather a sign of quality; of His holiness, order and perfection; of the holy angels "as it were grouped together in society...divided into orders and grades" (John Paul II, General Audience, Aug., 6th, 1986, n°3).
c) Gods work leads to praise.
The reference, then, to the heavenly hosts in this Psalm refers, on the one hand, to the marvelous work God has done for man in the past. On the other hand, it reflects God Himself Who worked these wonders more perfectly, thus leading man to praise and adore his Lord and God. The reflection on the experience of life ends in the song of praise, "Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts, [Who really] is with us, the God of Jacob...our refuge"! It becomes a song of admiration which invites us to broaden our glance to take in all the hosts of God and all that belongs to Him. It is a song of thanksgiving, of trust and confidence; an expression of peace and the testimony of the Psalmists life. He, "Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts", He is the Lord of the universe; to Him all is submitted and all obeys His command.
2. What does He charge the angels to do?
"God of hosts" is not just an empty title. It certainly reveals something about the nature of the ministries with which He has charged the holy angels in His creation and in the history of salvation. There must be a reason why the Holy Spirit inspired the holy authors to give God this title. We do well to ask ourselves each time, why God is called "God of hosts" in this particular passage of Scripture? What is He speaking about? When and for what tasks does He charge the angels? Does it implicitly mean that in these cases God acts through the angels, His army? That would reveal something of what they are in His eyes! Only an examination of each case would give us an answer. That, of course, surpasses the scope of our present reflection.
a) The holy angels are also with us and are our refuge.
Here, the Psalmist says concretely, "The God of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge". We believe, of course, that God is present everywhere. However, we also believe that we have a particular angel who is also always with us: "From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care" (CCC 336). Besides him, many other angels surround us: the Guardian Angels of other persons or of the community we are with, the angels who take care of the place where we are, or of the nation in which we live (cf. Mariana de San Miguel, El Santo Ángel Custodio de la Nación Mexicana, Ed. Minos, México, 2002, 60-75). So we can say, God is with us, He Himself, and again through and with His angels.
He is also our refuge. Everywhere and at all times we can take our refuge in God, Who is with us as the omnipotent Father. But we also recently reflected about His angels who encamp around those who fear Him and rescue them (cf. Ps 34:7; Circ. IX, 3; Ex 23:20-22; Ps 91:9,11, etc.). "There is nothing in the world, not even a small herb, over which an angel has not been placed", maintains a rabbinic saying. We know this from the Book of Revelation and from the later developed theology that there is, for example, "the angel in charge of the fire" (cf. 14:18) and many others who have influence in all the different parts of the earth. So we can say the omnipotent God is our refuge; yet, He also offers this to us through His servants, His angels, or as "the God of hosts".
b) In general, one may state the following concerning the angels.
The holy angels recognize that all they are and have is from God, and, therefore, they are willingly there where He wants us to be: that is, where He is (cf Jn 12:26; 14:3; 17:24). They dispose all they are and have to His holy Will. That is the reason, first of all, for the fact that we may not even be able to distinguish if God Himself is acting directly or if He is working through His host. Secondly, it is the reason for "the order and harmony of the created world" (CCC 341) and the "solidarity among all creatures" (CCC 344; cf. also 340-342; cf. Circ. IX, 1). For they act in all occasions according to the will of God, and the will of God directs all things through them.
Furthermore, the angels are sufficiently numerous in order to be everywhere for man: "There were ten thousand times ten thousand of them and thousands upon thousands" (Rev 5:12; cf. 2 Kings 6:16), and "are they not all ministering spirits, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" (Heb 1:14).
All this contributes to deepen our trust in "Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts" and to become aware of the moral inseparability of the holy angels and God. We can better understand the angels transparency and their union with the Will of God, and so are able to comprehend more deeply the presence of God wherever they are present.
3. "Man, come, consider, be still and acknowledge that I am God."
The Psalm starts: "God is both refuge and strength for us, a help always ready in trouble; so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil...There is a river whose streams bring joy to Gods city, it sanctifies the dwelling of the Most High. God is in the city, it cannot fall...Yahweh Sabaoth [the God of hosts] is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge."
The world is not abandoned to itself. God sends His angels, His angelic army, into it. "God is...for us"; "Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts, is with us"! This is a great testimony that touches upon our personal destiny and that of the entire world! It is an answer to the question: When, finally, shall order and peace be established in the world? The answer is: When all creatures have chosen Him to be their Lord, have acknowledged Him as the "God of hosts"; when all embrace His command over them; and when His holy will reigns gently over the whole world.
This should begin with each individual. The Psalmist tells us with all clarity: "Come, consider the wonders of Yahweh, the astounding deeds He has done on the earth; He puts an end to wars over the whole wide world. He breaks the bow; He snaps the spear; shields He burns in the fire. Be still and acknowledge that I am God, supreme over nations, supreme over the world" (vv. 8-10). Bow down your intellect and believe, incline your will and adore, and start a new life with God. Have God in your midst and trust in Him. The God of hosts wants to be your God, too! You are called to form one society with the holy angels. In this way you shall reach your goal! Is this an obligation or an invitation of charity? A duty or the chance of a lifetime?
4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!
God is great and powerful; "God is our strength!" God is near us and loves us! And what a joy! How wonderful it is to believe in the angels as the army of God. What confidence arises in us when we imagine their countless numbers with God, each one a servant of God and for His sake "with us" also!
The angels are vastly more intelligent and vastly more powerful than we are! They would have much more reason for vanity and vainglory than we, but they bow themselves and submit themselves to God as their king. They allow Him to command over them! How much more should we men so do!
Let "Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts" be in our midst and be our refuge! Let us believe in Him; let us bow our mind and reason down before Him. Let us kneel before Him with our will and love Him. Let Him be our God, and may we be part of His hosts!
Your face, Yahweh, I seek; do not turn away from me.
Never leave me, never forsake me, God, my Saviour...
This I believe: I shall see the goodness of Yahweh,
In the land of the living! (Ps 27:9.13)