The Savior is called the “Lord of Hosts” 245 times in the Old Testament, 54 times in the book of Isaiah alone. This title also appears 52 times in the Book of Mormon, mostly in passages quoted from Isaiah or Malachi, but Nephi, Jacob, and Samuel the Lamanite all use the term. What does it mean, and why is it an appropriate title for the Savior?
The Hebrew word for “hosts” is ts’vaót (צבאות), sometimes rendered in English as “sabaoth.” (See Romans 9:29, James 5:4, D&C 88:2.) It refers to armies, or large numbers of people organized to achieve a common goal.
In the first chapter of the Book of Mormon, Nephi describes a vision in which his father saw “God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels” (1 Nephi 1:8). The Apostle Paul later described the “city of the living God” as being filled with “an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22). (See also D&C 76:67, D&C 138:12).
At important points in their journey to the promised land, Nephi received assistance or training from angels of God (1 Nephi 1:19-21, 1 Nephi 11-14, 2 Nephi 4:24). Several times, he reproved his brothers by reminding them that they had seen an angel (1 Nephi 4:3, 1 Nephi 7:10, 1 Nephi 17:45). Unlike the servant of Elisha, Nephi didn’t need his eyes opened to know that “they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16-17). He knew that angels minister to people, providing assistance and instruction (1 Nephi 11:30).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught that angels may be ministering to us even when we are not aware of it:
Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times….
I ask everyone within the sound of my voice to take heart, be filled with faith, and remember the Lord has said He “would fight [our] battles, [our] children’s battles, and [the battles of our] children’s children” (D&C 98:37) (“The Ministry of Angels,” General Conference, October 2008).
Today, I will remember the significance of the title “Lord of Hosts.” I will remember that the Savior not only has the power to save us, but that He presides over vast armies of angels who provide assistance and guidance to us when we need their help.