And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Matthew 21:9, ESV
Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!!
We all sing along! We know the words; we love the melody—but do we know what we are actually singing? This is not an English word. We are singing in Greek. This word requires some backstory.
The Triumphal Entry refers to the time when Jesus entered Jerusalem during the season of Passover (this is in Spring). This event was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9, that the King would arrive soon, humbly riding on the back of a colt. This is the moment where everyone finally got it! Jesus is not just a teacher or a healer or a prophet. He is the savior of humanity! He had come to save the people. So, despite his humble entry on a young horse that had never been ridden before, the people treated him like a king! It says in Matthew 21:8 “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (ESV). They covered the ground on which he walked, like a first century red carpet, exalting the King of Israel (and the universe).
Obviously Hosanna is an exclamation of highest praise, but what does this word truly mean? The people sang Hosanna to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:9, ESV).
By this time in history Hosanna had become just that, praise to God! It was often sung during significant Jewish festivals like Passover, so it is befitting at this time (Steck). But there’s more to it than that. The origin of Hosanna is Hebrew hôsî-âh-nā meaning “Oh save us now!” or “Please save!” (Strong & Thayer). Psalm 118:25 uses the Hebrew hôsî-âh-nā, but when it is translated into English, it reads, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!” (ESV). Over time, it became more often used as an exclamation of praise in gratitude for being saved, rather than a request to be saved.
When we sing Hosanna, we are singing, God, praise you for saving me! Thank you for grace and for your Son! You deserve all of the praise, oh King! Lord of my salvation! But we are also singing, Lord, our world is desperate! Please, save this world, save these people! We are simultaneously thanking him deeply and pleading with him intensely. What other word could pack such a significant exchange with God? And it’s only seven letters long. It’s easy to spend ten, fifteen, or thirty minutes coming up with ways to thank God and plea for the salvation of the world. But here, in God’s word, he has given us a singular word to accomplish this. Sometimes we don’t quite have the words, but this here is one that we can whisper in our desperation and pain without needing further explanation. Hosanna… Save us.
Jesus instructs us with these words on prayer: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words,” (Matthew 6:7, ESV). What better way is there to pray so deeply and emotionally unto God without heaping up words? Join me not only in whispering Hosanna but shouting it to the King of kings! HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST! Lord save us! Lord you have saved us! We thank you so deeply for our salvation!! Praise to the King!!
Steck, J. H. (n.d.). Hosanna - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology Online. Retrieved from http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/hosanna.html
Strong, J., & Thayer, J.H. (n.d.). Strong's Greek: 5614. ὡσαννά (hósanna) -- save, we pray. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/greek/5614.htm
Devotional written by Daniel Christy. Graphic designed by Heather Christy.