I’m the kind of person who gets a little emotional or sentimental sometimes. I’m not always that way, but when I do fall into a sentimental state of mind, I fall pretty hard. One of the things that tends to be a catalyst for me falling into it is music. Whenever I hear a particular song, and it just happens to move me at that particular time, I fall into that sentimental mind frame, and I can stay there for hours. And quite honestly, I like it! I feel more in touch with myself, and more importantly, more in touch with God, when my thoughts and my emotions all come together and agree on how I’m feeling.
This morning, I started listening to some praise and worship music at work, and I listened to a song called Hosanna, by Hillsong. Watch the video below (or if that doesn’t work, click on the word Hosanna to be taken to YouTube, where you can watch the video and hear the song yourself).
I’m not sure what it was about the song that got me. Maybe it was the melodic tune in minor keys, or maybe it was the pure voice of the singer, or maybe it was the God-inspired lyrics. I don’t know, but whatever it was, I couldn’t get enough. I listened to it over and over – at least 10 or 12 times. And I’m still listening to it this afternoon. I’m worshiping in my office!!!
I got to thinking, though, that it may not be a good thing that I am singing along with a song whose title and main lyric is a word whose meaning I don’t fully understand. I mean, I have no doubt that it is a song of praise, based on the other lyrics in the song, but how satisfying do I think it must be to God, who knows my every thought, to know that I’m singing words to Him that I don’t even know the definition of. Sure, He knows my motives are pure, but how much more pleasing it must be to hear me sing words that I know and understand, and therefore, fully mean when I say them! My daughter could tell me she loves me in French, and although I might know what she is saying, if I know that she doesn’t know what she’s saying, I’m not going to take her words to heart. How could she mean words whose meaning she didn’t even know? I’m not saying that she shouldn’t use those words, or that she shouldn’t speak in other languages. I only mean that perhaps it would be best if she learned what they meant prior to saying them. The same goes for me in this situation – I need a little help understanding what Hosanna means before I keep singing it to God.
So I did a quick word study on hosanna. I knew that it was a term shouted by the crowds as Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, a week before His resurrection (see Matthew 21:9,15; Mark 11:9-10; John 12:13). And by the context, I can tell it was a term of praise. After some study, it turns out that hosanna is a very unique word. I like how John Piper explains it:
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.**
This Hebrew phrase, hoshiya na, is only found in one place in the Old Testament – Psalm 118:25:
LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success!
The first part is translated from the phrase hoshiya na – it is a plea for help, like someone yelling “save me!!” Piper goes on to explain:
But something happened to that phrase, hoshiya na. The meaning changed over the years. In the psalm [118:25] 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!”**
The term hosanna, then, has moved from a plea for help to a term of praise. Instead of saying “save me!!” you are saying “I’m saved!” And when you look at the context of the crowds shouting hosanna on the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem, you can see what they meant. When they said “Hosanna to the Son of David!,” they were saying “The Son of David (a messianic phrase, by the way) is our salvation!” And in the song Hosanna that started this whole topic of study for me, you can see what she means when she sings “I see the King of Glory, coming on the clouds with fire! Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest!” What else can we say when we imagine Jesus arriving, coming in all His glory, triumphant and powerful? We can say Hosanna! We are saved!
**Quoted from John Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/hosanna