by Mark Robinson
When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and promised him, “And she [Mary] shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21, the impact of naming the Messiah, Jesus, is missed by most students of the Bible.
As is customary in the Jewish community, the Son born to Mary was named Jesus at His circumcision ceremony, Luke 2:21. I received my own Hebrew name, ywlh lakym, Mikhael ha Levi (Michael the Levite), at my circumcision ceremony. My given English name is Mark.
Jesus’ name in Hebrew is ewsy, Y’shua. Y’shua literally means salvation. Throughout the earlier Scriptures (known as the Old Testament by Christians and by Jewish people as the Tenach or Hebrew Scriptures), the Hebrew word for salvation, y’shua, or its derivatives, is oftentimes a concept and not a name. It would be wrong, though, to understand the word salvation when used in the Hebrew Scriptures to always speak of a concept. It is most definitely used as a name on occasion.
Perhaps the clearest evidence of this is seen in the writings of the prophet Isaiah. First, consider Isaiah 40:10:
“Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.”
The context of this verse is the promise of comfort to the Jewish people, Isaiah 40:1-2.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.”
Israel receiving “double” for her sins is not twice what she deserved. The word means “an equitable payment.” Allan MacRae suggests, “The solution to the difficulty lies in recognition that the Hebrew word used here, one of several that are commonly translated ‘double,’ can properly be considered as similar to the English word ‘double’ when used to represent a person who looks so much like another that it is difficult to distinguish them. Each of them is the ‘double’ of the other, but neither is to be considered as equal to twice the other. It might be clearer to render it ‘equivalent,’ ‘counterpart,’ or ‘substitute.’ The equivalent for the sin of all believers has been paid. No man could pay this penalty; only the divine Servant of the Lord could do it.”1 Israel has received an equitable payment for all her sins. This payment was made by Messiah Jesus when He died for the sins of Israel and the world, Isaiah 53. True comfort offered to Jewish people is the knowledge of their Messiah Jesus who died for their sins so they could be pardoned by God.
In Isaiah 40:3-9, the prophet says that a way is to be made for the LORD and to cry out. The question is asked, “What shall I cry?” The answer is that everything is like grass and flowers, and withers and dies, except for the word of God – which is eternal. The eternal word of God, the Bible, is mankind’s only source of spiritual truth. Through it comes the knowledge of God’s provision for sin and salvation.
In verse nine the people are told “Behold your God!” The people are to look at their God, who brings salvation. Which brings us to the statement of verse 10 that He is coming and “his reward is with him, and his work before him.”
Twenty-two chapters later, chapter 62, the theme of redemption and the future Messianic kingdom are expanded. In verse 11 we have virtually the same language as Isaiah 40:10b.
“Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.” Isaiah 62:11
The wording in Isaiah 62:11 parallels Isaiah 40:10.
“Behold the LORD God will come…behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.”
“Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.”
In Isaiah 40 it is the LORD God coming, bringing a reward, and having his work before Him. In chapter 62, it is salvation, Y’shua, coming, and having His reward with Him and His work before Him. Salvation in Isaiah 62:11 is clearly a person – “his reward is with him, and his work before him.” Salvation is coming! Y’shua is coming! Jesus is coming!
And, Y’shua who is coming, is the LORD God Himself! His work? Paying the penalty for the sins of Jew and Gentile as Isaiah 53 so clearly details. His reward? Eternal life and a home in heaven!
- McRae, Alan, Gospel in Isaiah, Moody Press, 1977, page 42