Hosanna: A Radiant Expression of Salvation
Hosanna: A Radiant Expression of Salvation
The entrance of the Lord Jesus Christ to Jerusalem is mentioned in the Four Gospels (Matthew 21: 1-11 / Mark 11: 1-10 / Luke 19: 28-40 / John 12: 12-15), and perhaps the most prominent word that resonates in our minds on this feast is “Hosanna”. It is the word which the disciples of Jesus and the crowd were shouting, as mentioned in Matthew, Mark and John the Evangelists.
What is the secret of this word, what exactly does it mean and what importance does it have?
The Hebrew word "Hosanna” or “Hoshana", which means "O Lord, save."
This word is of Aramaic-Hebrew origin. As much as it is a cheer of enthusiasm, of welcome and joy, it deeply contains an exclamation of salvation, an invocation for salvation, for crossing from tribulations to the haven of safety. The person whom is called upon to fulfil this salvation is called the “Savior”.
In the Hebrew language, the word “Hosanna” is composed of the name of the Lord YHWH and the verb to save “sha-na”. It is a call for help and salvation: save us now. The Hebrew root of the salvation verb was used thoroughly in the Old Testament. 353 times were recorded in various forms.
This request for salvation may be made for a king, as it happened with the woman who bowed before the king and asked him for help (2 Samuel 4:14). As for its meaning, it is evident by addressing “Jehovah” so we read for example: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!
Our God is the God of salvation. (Psalms 68:19-20), and Jacob said to his sons: “For your salvation I waited, O Lord ” (Genesis 18:49), and also“5 “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.” (Psalms 12:5) “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. (Psalms 118:14).
The verb also indicates prosperity and divine care: “Although my house is not so with God,
Yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure.
For this is all my salvation and all my desire; will He not make it increase? (2 Samuel 23:5)
The verb that calls for help is very present in the Old Testament. For example we read: “O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.
(Psalms 30:2-3). “For He will deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also, and him who has no helper” (Psalms 72:12) “When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me.” (Jeremiah 8: 19- KJV 2000).
This verb appeared 72 times in the Old Testament, and it is remarkable that more than half of the times were in the singular form of the first person. Indeed, as our relationship with the Lord is a personal relationship in which we express the sincerity of our faith in him, and for this the Orthodox Church says in the Creed: “I believe in one God.”
The word “Hosanna” as it comes in the New Testament and specifically in the event of our topic here translates “save us”, or give us salvation, and it is exactly as it appeared in Psalm 118 “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 25: 118-26), and the Hebrew name of Jesus, which is Joshua, is a concise form of Yehoshua composed of two words “Jehovah”, meaning “the One who exists by Himself”, that is God, and “Shana”, the act of salvation, so that its full meaning means that God saves. He is the One who exists by Himself Who always saves.
This is what the Lord Jesus Christ said to the Jews about himself when they asked him who you are? He answered them: “From the beginning, I also did not speak to you ... and when you raise the Son of Man (that is, when you crucify Him), then you will understand that I am He” (John 26: 8-28), and in the same words the Lord Jesus assured them: “Truly, truly, I say to you: Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8: 58).
It is in the same sense that the high priest tore his clothes when Jesus said: “I am” (Mark 14:42).
Psalm 118 is recited in particular as a praise in celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles where people hold the branches and come to the Temple as to confirm that everyone who wants to enter the Temple must be righteous "Open to me the gates of righteousness", and they thank God because He saved them from the tribulations and distress that afflicted them, renewing their confidence in God. They considered that the tribulation is a discipline for their sins “a discipline that taught me the Lord and to death did not deliver me” (Psalm 118: 8).
The beauty of this psalm resides in particular is the verses that precede what the people chanted at the Lord's entry into Jerusalem, and the psalm talks about the cornerstone that the builders rejected and he became the head of the corner. In fact, Jesus cited this verse referring it to himself immediately after entering the city (Matthew 21: 42). The most beautiful is the verse that immediately follows and it is a resurrection verse par excellence: “This is the day that the Lord has made. We rejoice and be glad in it ”(Psalm 24:11).
The cornerstone was to connect the two main walls of the temple. Initially, the builders found a large stone that they believed did not apply to the required sizes, and they disregarded it, but later it they found out that it is the required stone; in the same way Jesus linked and fulfilled in his person the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Lord intended to enter Jerusalem on the feast of tabernacles to give the full meaning of the feast.
The Feast of Tabernacles comes after Yom Kippour, which is the Feast of Atonement for Sins. The Hebrews used to rejoice that they had become pure and stayed in tabernacles for a week (Leviticus 23).
The duration of this feast was a week, and an eighth "holy day" was added to it. In the morning sacrifice, they carried palm branches, myrtle branches, a “lulav”, and fruit in their hands and circled around the altar in the temple once a day, seven times on the seventh day. (2 Maccabees 6: 10-7).
If we consider the verses of Psalm 118, we have a clearer idea of how rich the “Hosanna” chanted in this feast is:
A stone the builders refused Hath become head of a corner. 23 From Jehovah hath this been, It [is] wonderful in our eyes, 24 This [is] the day Jehovah hath made, We rejoice and are glad in it. 25 I beseech Thee, O Jehovah, save, I pray Thee, I beseech Thee, O Jehovah, prosper, I pray Thee. 26 Blessed [is] he who is coming in the name of Jehovah (Psalms 118:22-29).
With the Lord Jesus, “Hosanna” becomes a cheer of victory over death.
Professor Habib Lavant
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