In this season we remember the birth of Jesus — God’s promise to the earth through the nation of Israel and the Hebrew culture. Yet, when we study the New Testament, which was written in Greek, we often miss some treasures that are only seen in a Hebrew context. The prophecies around the infant Jesus are one such example.
In biblical Hebrew, a name of a person or town was more than just a unique identifying title — it spoke of their calling or destiny. Moses means “drawn out” and was used by God to draw Israel out of Egypt. Elijah means “My God is Yah” and is known for his stand on Mt Carmel against the prophets of Baal. Jesus or His name in Hebrew, “Yeshua” means “salvation.” There is only one word in Hebrew language for salvation. It is pronounced “yeshua.”
In a way, with this understanding, we can see Jesus’ name (Yeshua) and character throughout the Old Testament. In these verses when you see the underlined word salvation say “Yeshua” and you may feel like you are reading the New Testament:
- “Oh, that the salvation (Yeshua) of Israel would come out of Zion!” (Ps 14:7)
- “Let those who love Your salvation (Yeshua) say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” (Ps 40:16)
- “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation (Yeshua) and sustain me with a willing spirit.” (Ps 51:12)
Although the New Testament isn’t written in Hebrew, it is still communicating a Jewish Rabbi’s teachings to His Jewish disciples from the Hebrew Scriptures while in the land of Israel. With that in mind, let’s consider a Hebrew perspective of the Christmas story — the name of Jesus.
In Luke 1, Mary is told by Gabriel to name her son Yeshua or “salvation.” Joseph was also told by an angel “and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21-22) Much like other Hebrew names, it was His calling and destiny from the beginning.
Later, as Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, gave birth to John his father Zacharias prophesied over his son that he will “give to His people the knowledge of salvation (Yeshua) by the forgiveness of their sins,” (Luke 1:77). Thirty years later John the Baptist would literally fulfill this as he was the one pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Although Zacharias might not have understood it, he was prophesying the actual name of the One through whom forgiveness would come.
Eight days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph met Simeon at the Temple who was told by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Lord’s Messiah. He proclaimed “For my eyes have seen Your salvation (Yeshua), Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32). It’s ironic that he would say “my eyes have seen “yeshua” while he was actually holding baby Yeshua. Perhaps this is why the very next verse says “And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.” Luke 2:33.
What a profound promise and confirmations. This is not simply the Christmas story — this is the person of Jesus (Yeshua). In this season, let’s embrace the core of who He is. Yeshua is salvation; To the Jew first, then to the Gentile.