Sunday, April 17, 2011

What a Savior!

Happy Palm Sunday!

I got to be part of something historic last night, as Walnut Hill led our second worship night in the Connecticut Valley, which is also the site of our third campus (launching November 2011). What I've loved about these nights of celebration and preparation is that we have been looking back to how God has worked in New England in the past, even as we seek to be His vessels in what He's up to now. In that spirit, the Walnut Hill worship and arts community has arranged ten hymns originating from New England, setting them to modern music. The hymn resurgence has come to Walnut Hill--needless to say, I am over the moon!

Last night, the team played "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners," aptly timed for Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week. This hymn was only slightly familiar to me when I re-discovered it on Matthew Smith's (from Indelible Grace) EP several years ago. Love it!!

As I think about this hymn and humanity's (my own) need for a Savior, I'm reminded of the Jewish celebration of Simchat Torah, in which Jews celebrate God's giving them His Word. Messianic Jews understand this gift in a really beautiful way, linking it to the coming of Jesus, the Word who has come to dwell within us (i.e. to be written on our hearts as in Jeremiah 31:33). You can read more about this understanding here.

Even non-Messianic Jews say something interesting on Simchat Torah, though. As the Torah scrolls are danced through the aisles, Jewish worshipers cry out "Ana Adonai, hoshia na!" which means, "Oh Lord, save us!" The volative verb hoshia stems from the root yeshua (meaning "salvation."), the Jewish name for Jesus. Wow!

And this is obviously the same Hebrew word from which we derive the Greek Hosanna!

In effect, the people who welcomed Jesus on that first Palm Sunday were enacting a Simchat Torah celebration, declaring Jesus the very Word of God, the hope and salvation of all humanity.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

O LORD, save us...Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
Psalm 118:25-26

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