Word Study: Hosanna

CC BY, UmmZ, Flickr
CC BY, UmmZ, Flickr

We know the term “hosanna” from the New Testament when it was shouted in acclamation of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on the colt. The people were quoting Psalm 118:25-26 (ESV): “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.”

Hosanna properly means to save, or to be saved or delivered (hosan-), beseechingly or now (-na). It is a prayer for rescue. With time, however, the word changed from a strong plea for help to praise for its arrival—and this is the context in which it is made of Jesus, the Messiah, entering Jerusalem.

Implications of Hosanna

We all understand the basic meaning of this expression because we cry out for God’s help regularly. Life gets tough, Satan is deviously wicked, and we are frail individuals. We call to him because he is El Elyon, the Most High God, the strongest One of all.

But there are two other connotations of hosanna, one already mentioned: hosanna as an ovation for long-awaited deliverance.

It is the difference between “God, help!” and “Look! God is moving!” Don’t you love it when you notice God acting on your behalf or rescuing someone you love?

Still, in this same subtext, there is a deeper acknowledgement: God is the only one able to save. It’s worshipful—“God, you’ve got the power. If this thing is to be done, you will do it.” Often God has to prove to us that he is far bigger than what we’ve made him out to be.

Job said, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5)—or we knew of God’s great power to deliver in other’s lives but had never experienced it for ourselves, not until he allowed us to be wedged in just to prove he could pull us out. Thus, we cry, “Hosanna!”

I Need Thee

The final connotation of hosanna is implied: our essential need for God. C.S. Lewis correctly observes:

“God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there” (from Mere Christianity).

I really need God and I’m thankful I comprehend this because many people don’t, including some Christians. Our creature comforts, social connections, and money can make us less dependent on him.

Ecclesiastes 12 is also worth pointing out. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come…” (v. 1). Our need for God is deeper than mere rescue; nevertheless, it is best to know him well before we ever need it. No one learns CPR in the moment of crisis.

Our need for God acknowledges that he knows what’s best for us.

Keep hosanna in mind when you pray and when you praise. Keep it at the heart of you.

Childhood Salvation: Netting Them Early

Does this photo take your breath away?
CC BY-NC, plousia, Flickr

Today is special. In fact, this entry is special because I deviate from protocol. I try to compose in a way that removes time stamps—recently I…yesterday was…last year…or simply today. But this day, August 3rd, is especially meaningful to me. It is the day in my history when I became fully assured of my salvation. In a sense, it is my spiritual birthday, although I frown on dating salvation.

Please indulge me for a moment of reflection. My father died before I turned five years-old. Faith was very important to my mother, and she kept all five of her children—ages 17 to 3—in church. I joke that I was born on the front pew! But God gripped my heart from the dawning of cognizance in me. I still remember my brother and me deciding to go forward to receive Christ.

From that moment, I identified with all-things-Jesus. I admired my pastor and knew that I wanted to do what he did. I preached fervently around the house, on the front and back porches…the old car in the backyard, and in the schoolyard at recess. I drew crowds in the neighborhood and a tearful drunk to the front door of my home. I earned a moniker as the “Kid Preacher” that still remains.

I walked conscientious of my faith as I grew up. But as I approached my teen years, I became troubled, not knowing if I was truly saved. I couldn’t stand it any longer one Sunday. I sat on the back pew after the morning service deliberating. I asked a church buddy sitting next to me, “Do you wanna go get saved?” He said no, but my heart was fixed.

I met my pastor descending the podium, just after 3 p.m. (yes, church was long back then!), and we asked God to come in. My pastor was elated and returned to the mic and announced what had just occurred. I couldn’t contain my emotions. I recall Deacon Brown, Mother Lewis, Sister Fitzgerald, and Sister Patterson, all now in Heaven, gathered around me sharing the love of God.

See why this day means so much to me?

Children Matter To God

I reflect on this moment to express a concern, also. Now in my heart, I know that I entered the kingdom when I was about five, but because my church placed little emphasis on childhood salvation, I had no assurance and encountered doubt at 12, unnecessarily so. Today I say that August 3rd was the day I “became assured” or became a “student of the Word” because my spiritual discipline did become thereafter what it continues to be today. But I don’t want any kid to have to experience the uncertainty that I did.

Churches and leaders must see that children mean just as much to God as the drug addict in the alley or the spiritualist across seas. Their salvation is incredibly important because they are not only sinners by default, but they also have not yet had to deal with temptation and vice. We work from an advantage when as loving and godly parents and leaders we teach kids at their level about a benevolent heavenly Father, his expectations of them, and how to be devoted to him.

This is not brainwashing, as some argue. We believe it is spiritually necessary, but it is also what any parent of any religion or value-system traditionally (and naturally) does, which is disclose or instill the principles by which they themselves live. It doesn’t negate the fact that a time will come, as we all know, sooner or later, when that person will decide for themselves whether they will abide by their foundational knowledge or go a different way.

We teach Christian principals because they come from God and because we know that they are tremendously valuable in their essence. And we had better know that if we don’t turn people’s attention to God early, especially as kids, the forecast gets murkier. We will pray easier if we pray earlier.

This certainly doesn’t negate the power of God to save at any period of life. But if the Holy Spirit does the hard work by bringing souls to life—any soul, we must assist him by being the life support team conscientious about its mission. For some of us, however, this simply boils down to what we believe about the necessity and efficacy of childhood salvation.

Churches need to see their outreach programs beginning at knee-high level…well ankle-biter. Most churches won’t have the budget for major children’s facilities, the glitziest productions, and paid staff, but I didn’t have that either. I only had a conviction in my heart, and this is the basic that’s important: Gospel.

We must affirm childhood salvation. This is a ministry of stooping that we’ll be happy about in the long-run. Yes, Jesus loves the little children.