Hosanna

One of the most biblically sound pastors I know John Piper who's mission is "to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples, through Jesus Christ" shares a thought about the words we sing and what they mean. This was said before a service one sunday morning.  This was in 1983... its 2010 and God is still the same all powerful God. He is still moving hearts with music... Here's what he said.

"I know one of the concerns of the children's music ministry is that the children understand what they are singing and that they mean it. And I share that concern for our people. In a moment the choir will sing a song called, "Hosanna, Hosanna!" And after that we all will sing a song which begins: "Hosanna in the highest!" So I want to give a little lesson in Greek and Hebrew to make sure we all know what the New Testament means when it says in three different places, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Mt. 21:9,15), or "Hosanna in the highest!" (Mk. 11:9,10), or simply, "Hosanna!" (John 12:13).

You all know that the New Testament was first written in Greek and the Old Testament was first written in Hebrew. Wherever the word "hosanna" occurs in the New Testament do you know what the Greek word is? Right! It's "hosanna." All the English translators did was use English letters (h-o-s-a-n-n-a) to make the sound of a Greek word.

But if you look in a Greek dictionary to find what it means, you know what you find? You find that it is really not originally a Greek word after all. The men who wrote the New Testament in Greek did the same thing to a Hebrew word that our English translators did to the Greek word: they just used Greek letters to make the sound of a Hebrew phrase. I know this sounds sort of complicated. But it's really not. Our English word "hosanna" comes from a Greek word "hosanna" which comes from a Hebrew phrase hoshiya na.

And that Hebrew phrase is found one solitary place in the whole Old Testament, Psalm 118:25, where it means, "Save, please!" It is a cry to God for help. Like when somebody pushes out off the diving board before you can swim and you come up hollering: "Help, save me" … "Hoshiya na!"

But something happened to that phrase, hoshiya na. The meaning changed over the years. In the psalm it was immediately followed by the exclamation: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" The cry for help, hoshiya na, was answered almost before it came out of the psalmist's mouth. And over the centuries the phrase hoshiya na stopped being a cry for help in the ordinary language of the Jews. Instead it became a shout of hope and exultation. It used to mean, "Save, please!" But gradually it came to mean, "Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!" It used to be what you would say when you fell off the diving board. But it came to be what you would say when you see the lifeguard coming to save you! It is the bubbling over of a heart that sees hope and joy and salvation on the way and can't keep it in.

So "Hosanna!" means, "Hooray for salvation! It's coming! It's here! Salvation! Salvation!"

And "Hosanna to the Son of David!" means, "The Son of David is our salvation! Hooray for the king! Salvation belongs to the king!"

And "Hosanna in the highest!" means, "Let all the angels in heaven join the song of praise. Salvation! Salvation! Let the highest heaven sing the song!"

- John Piper

          I was inspired when I read this to always be very intentional when I sing and when I lead others in song. There is such truth in the words we sing and when we begin to play on the emotions of people it is important that we are saturated in the word of God and not of our own words. It's easy to fall into the trap but I pray I would press forth and begin to be more fierce for the Lord than ever especially when leading worship.

-Ashley

Leave a comment

    Add comment