Friday, December 23, 2011

You Shall Call His Name Salvation

The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for the child she carried was conceived of the Holy Spirit. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

The connection between the name of Jesus and what it means is not apparent in our English translations. Even the explanatory comment in this verse does not explain much for us in English. “Jesus” is how the name comes over to us from the Greek name “Iesous” (phonetically, Yay-soos). In turn, “Iesous” was the Greek rendering for the Hebrew name “Yeshua,” and it is the Hebrew name that we want to focus on here, because even in Greek, the explanatory comment is not very helpful.

So the angel said, “You shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins,” but the connection is still not clear. We need to remember, however, that the angel did not speak to Joseph in English. Joseph probably did know Greek as a matter of his occupation. He was a “carpenter,” a builder, perhaps a stone mason, who was probably involved in the building projects at nearby Sepphoris, which was a prosperous city for commerce. But Greek was not his primary language. He was a Jew in Judea, so his first language was most likely Hebrew, or else its cousin language, Aramaic.

In Hebrew, the word for “save” is yasha. The noun related to this is yeshuah, which means “salvation.”As a name, yeshuah becomes Yeshua. So the name of Jesus means “Salvation.” The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call His name Salvation (Yeshua), for He will save (yasha) His people from their sins.”

Now the connection is clear. But what does it mean that Yeshua will save His people from their sins? Notice that this concerns His people, that is, Israel. And remember that one of the divisions Matthew presents in the genealogy of Jesus has to do with the Babylonian captivity. “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17; see The Christmas Story and the Story of Deliverance). The prophet Ezekiel speaks concerning this captivity:
Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds; to Me their way was like the uncleanness of a woman in her customary impurity. Therefore I poured out My fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it. So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds. When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name — when they said of them, “These are the people of the LORD, and yet they have gone out of His land.” But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. (Ezekiel 36:17-21)
Israel was sent into exile, scattered among the nations, because they had defiled the land by their bloodshed and idolatry, and profaned the name of the LORD. But God promised that He would sanctify His name again among the nations. “‘And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘when I am hallowed in you before their eyes’” (Ezekiel 36:23). He would sanctify His name by delivering Israel, and here is how He would do it.
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
God promised He would cleanse Israel from all her filthiness and all her idolatry, by which she had defiled the land and profaned the name of the LORD. In other words, He would save her from her sins. What is more, He would give her a new heart and would put His own Spirit within her (think of Pentecost, in Acts 2), so that she would walk in His ways. And so she would be restored.

The Son born of Mary would be called Yeshua — Salvation! — because He would save His people from their sins. What was immediately in view here was Israel, Jesus’ own people. But as we see from the Ezekiel passage, by this salvation the LORD would cause His name to be sanctified among the nations. The salvation Jesus brought to Israel would become salvation for the whole world, and indeed, at the end of the book of Matthew, we find the disciples being sent out to declare Jesus to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20; see The Christmas Story is Not Just for Jews).



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.