I have mentioned briefly in a couple of my recent sermons that it is striking that in the book of Exodus only Yahweh has armies. We usually think of the story of the Exodus and think of the Egyptian armies chasing down the rag-tag nation of Hebrews scrambling out of Egypt. But this is not at all how God tells the story. There are “armies” in the book of Exodus, but Pharaoh does not have any. Pharaoh has “strength” and “might” and “chariots” and “fortresses,” but strictly speaking, he has no “armies.” Pharaoh has no “hosts.” Only the Lord God has hosts. Israel is the army of Yahweh (Ex. 6:26, 7:4, 12:17, 12:41, 12:51). And these armies of Yahweh are not at all pictured as retreating or scrambling in any sense. In fact, they are the conquering army of God; they plunder the Egyptians as they leave the land. Israel is the victorious army of Yahweh fresh out of battle, marching home with the spoils of their enemies. The Israelites themselves do not realize this as they see Pharaoh’s men riding after them, but the story remembers them this way.
This becomes important later in Ex. 30 where God strongly discourages the act of taking a census of all the fighting men. He discourages it with a tax on every eligible fighting male counted in a census. If this tax is not paid as a ransom-price for the census, a plague will fall on the people. Of course this is exactly what happens in 2 Samuel 24 with David’s sinful census of the armies of Israel.
The word for army/armies is TZAVA/TZAVAOT, and it only shows up one more time in the book of Exodus in chapter 38. There the verse is translated in the New King James: “He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (38:8). The “serving women” are actually “hosts” who “wage war” at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. This is a wonderful conclusion to the story of the Exodus. The Bride-People of God are the armies of Yahweh while living in Goshen, heeding the voice of Moses, keeping the Passover, and so forth. These armies march out of the decimated lands of Egypt as conquering armies. While the Passover makes the point most clearly, we know from the beginning of the story that it is the prayers/cries of Israel that have come up to Yahweh and cause him to destroy the enemies of Israel and deliver them from bondage. Finally, the Passover is a feast, an act of worship and devotion to Yahweh God which brings about the final blow to the land of Egypt and Pharaoh as the Angel of Death passes through the land. Thus, it is worship which is the warfare of the Bride-Hosts of Yahweh in the beginning, and it is through worship at the tabernacle of meeting that the Women-Hosts “wage war” at the end of the story.
We cannot state this too strongly in the modern context: As far as God is concerned, only the Christian Church has armies. The U.S. may have fortresses, North Korea may have nukes, and the Afghans may have suicide bombers, but we are the armies of Yahweh. We are the hosts of God. There are no other armies on the field of battle.
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