Hosanna: Please SAVE us!

SAVE! HOSANNA!- yasha. Verb. (Strong’s 3467)

Root: יָשַׁע (yasha), הוֹשַׁ֣ע  (ho’sha)

Sounds like: ho’shiah (save!)… ho’wo’shieni (save me!)… h’woshienu (save us!) 

Today is traditionally known as Palm Sunday. It is a memorial celebration honouring Yeshua’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of His final Passover week. Many of us remember waving paper palm branches in Sunday School and singing “Hosanna, hosanna in the highest”… but do we really know what hosanna means? Here’s the story:

Matthew 21:1-9 (see also Mark 11, Luke 19 & John 12)

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.

The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

syd-sujuaan- unsplash
Photo by Syd Sujuaan (unsplash.com)

So what does Hosanna mean? Hosanna is the English rendering of the Latin word osanna. In Aramaic it is osha’na and in Hebrew it is h’woshia. It is a verb meaning to save. The Hebrew word for salvation comes from the same root (yasha), and Jesus’ name in Hebrew (Yeshua) means “salvation”.

The closest connection to Hosanna, in the Tanakh, comes from Psalm 118, where we read two words… h’woshiah nah:

Psalm 118:22-26

The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is YHWH’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day which YHWH has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

O YHWH, do save [h’woshiah nah], we beseech You; O YHWH, we beseech You, do send prosperity!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of YHWH; We have blessed you from the house of YHWH.

H’woshiah nah… please save!

H’woshiah nah, means please save, although some translation say “do save” (such as the NASB, above), or “save now!” However, in modern Hebrew, the formal way to say “please” is still “nah”. With this in mind, when people shouted “Hosanna” to Yeshua as he entered Jerusalem through the East Gate, what they were really shouting was:

“To the Son of David, PLEASE SAVE us;

Blessed is He who comes in the name of YHWH;

PLEASE SAVE us, You in the highest!”

Save us!

If we were to track keywords throughout the Psalms, the verb meaning to save would rank near the very top of the list. The early Hebrew people needed saving… a lot! They were constantly attacked by enemies: the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Amalekites, the Edomites, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, to name a few. As a community, the Israelites constantly called on YHWH to save them, and in many instances He did save them from their enemies:

Psalm 44:7-8

But You have saved us [h’woshah-tanu] from our adversaries, and You have put to shame those who hate us.

In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Your name forever. Selah.

But it wasn’t just about saving them in the instant. There was a sense that God would save them long term…. that YHWH had a plan for them as a people. Psalm 28 is a song of King David. Feeling weighted down by the continual invasion of enemies, David cried out to YHWH for help:

Psalm 28:7-9

To You, O YHWH, I call; my rock, do not be deaf to me,
For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit.

Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help,
When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.

Do not drag me away with the wicked and with those who work iniquity,
Who speak peace with their neighbours, while evil is in their hearts.

Requite them according to their work and according to the evil of their practices;
Requite them according to the deeds of their hands; repay them their recompense.

Because they do not regard the works of the YHWH nor the deeds of His hands,
He will tear them down and not build them up.

Blessed be YHWH, because He has heard the voice of my supplication. YHWH is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.

Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him. YHWH is their strength, and He is a saving [yeshu’ot] defence to His anointed.

Save [h’woshiah] Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.

David, the shepherd boy who became YHWH’s anointed king over the people of Israel, called on God, the eternal King, to be their shepherd. David understood what kind of God this was… not a God who used power and control to puppet-master His people, but a God who would humbly lead them to eternal Salvation. This God, who personally shared His name, created them and He loved them… each and every one of them. And the Psalmist recognized it. It was because of YHWH’s lovingkindness that He wanted and needed to save His people:

Save me!

Psalm 31:14-16

But as for me, I trust in You, O YHWH, I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand;

Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.

Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; Save me [h’woshieni] in Your lovingkindness.

Being saved because of YHWH’s lovingkindess was a consistent theme in the Psalms. In Psalm 6 David hints that YHWH would rescue His people from death itself:

Psalm 6:4-5

Return, O YHWH, rescue my soul;

Save me [h’woshieni] because of Your lovingkindness.

For there is no mention of You in death; in Sheol who will give You thanks?

In death there would be no mention of God. There’s a horrific sense of finality there. Sheol is where we would be cut off from YHWH’s lovingkindness. But YHWH had a plan to rescue our soul from that terrible fate. YHWH would provide a redeemer.

The prophet Jeremiah put his complete trust in YHWH. If God saved him, he would be completely and eternally saved.

Jeremiah 17:13-14

O YHWH, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame.

Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even YHWH

Heal me, O YHWH, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved [h’woshieni w-iwa’sheya], for You are my praise.

Being saved, wasn’t always about being rescued from an enemy. Sometimes, in the depths of personal despair and depression, we become our own enemies.

Psalm 69:1-3

Save me [h’woshieni], O God, For the waters have threatened my life.

I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.

I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; my eyes fail while I wait for my God.

The Strength of God Alone

Over and over YHWH came to the rescue. He rescued us from others and he rescued us from ourselves. And over and over we forgot that God was our Saviour and we attributed our rescue to our own making. But there was a time in the Bible where God said, “no”… that was not going to happen this time: 

Judges 7:2-3

YHWH said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has saved [h’woshiah] me.’ Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.

Afterwards God whittled down the army to only 300, making sure that all glory for their victory over the Midianites would go to YHWH. There was no denying it… victory had nothing to do with human power and everything to do with the strength of God alone! 

Only YHWH can bring true redemption and deliverance. He redeemed the Israelites and saved them from the Midianites (and countless others), but He would do more than that. YHWH would save them from the finality of death… and He would accomplish that through a birth.

They Named Him “Salvation”

The angel who visited Joseph in a dream, told him to name the baby-to-come, “Salvation” because He would save the people from their sins. Yeshua’s [Jesus’] name literally meant “salvation” in Hebrew.

I named my oldest daughter Grace. There have been many times when I’ve called outisde, “Grace, time for dinner”. In much the same way (but centuries earlier), Mary would have called out to her son, “Salvation, come inside for dinner”. That seems like a silly thing to say, but it makes the point. Yeshua’s name described his life’s purpose. He was to be the Salvation of humanity:

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus [Salvation].

Many have been confused as to why He was given two names: Yeshua & Immanuel. Note that His parents were to name him Yeshua, but “they” (the rest of the world) would recognize Him as “God with us”. To this day Christians and Messianic Jews, around the world, consider Jesus to be an aspect of God who dwelt among the people of earth.

But He didn’t just live in the midst of humanity… He died amongst us. He died so we could truly live. In His final visit to Jerusalem, He entered humbly on a donkey. He was hailed as a King at the beginning of His visit, but He would die as a criminal at the end of His stay.

Yeshua (Jesus) came to save, but this was not the kind of salvation the people were expecting. This was to be the great Jewish King from the line of David. He would destroy the enemies; he would conquer the oppressive Roman occupation; he would reclaim Israel as the seat of YHWH and He would take His place on throne. How could this common man from the unimpressive town of Nazareth be the great Messiah? He couldn’t even save himself from Roman execution:

Matthew 27:38-43 (see also Mark 15)

At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; Let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

But Yeshua could not save himself because he was determined to save humanity. The moment He accepted His fate as the Passover Lamb, He relinquished his ability to save Himself. The only way to save humanity was to give up His own life… a part of God had to die to redeem humanity. That’s the kind of sacrificial love God has for His creation. We are all guilty but we don’t have to pay the price for it because Yeshua did it for us. His death became our freedom:

1 Timothy 1:12-17

I thank Messiah Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.

Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Messiah Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Messiah Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus the Messiah might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.

You were saved… but at a very great price. Respect your freedom, because, for a very small moment, it killed God… which then made Him (and You) stronger than ever!

Next week: Redeemed

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