The word “host” in this context means army or organized group. So this term for God is most often used in a military context. It is used 486 times in scripture and most often has to do with warfare, armies or fighting. Jehovah Sabaoth is the Lord of Hosts and has a heavenly army to work on our behalf.
One of the first times that it is used in scripture though is in 1 Samuel chapter 1. I love the tenderness of this story. There is a woman named Hannah and she is married to a man named Elkanah who had another wife as well, Peninnah. Now Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. So when the three would travel to Shiloh to worship and bring sacrifices, Elkanah would give portions to Peninnah to sacrifice for her and her children, Hannah would get a double portion because Elkanah loved her, even though she had no children. But Peninnah would taunt and make fun of Hannah because she had no children. This happened year after year and Hannah would be heartbroken all over again and reduced to tears. Elkanah could not understand, he would try to comfort her and probably in his own way let her know he loved her with or without children but poor Hannah was desperate.
So one time while in Shiloh after they had worshipped, after Peninnah had taunted and after they had eaten Hannah went to the temple and she prayed and she wept and she cried out to God.
“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.’” 1 Samuel 1:10-11
When Hannah cried to the Lord of Hosts, she was crying for the God of the armies. She had probably prayed a prayer for a child many times before but this time she was crying out in desperation. She needed the God of Angel armies to fight on her behalf this time.
Have you ever gotten so to the end of your rope that you didn’t know what else to pray? This is when to pray to Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Hosts. Hannah was desperate, she was at the end of herself on this matter. She was already heartbroken and she was dealing with Elkanah’s other wife who rubbed it in, and her husband didn’t understand. She knew that her only hope was in God alone. This is when the spiritual warfare comes in and when she knew she needed to know our commander in chief – Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Hosts.