God’s Great Name

I have blogged about this before, but the name of “Joshua” (Yĕhowshuwa`) in Hebrew literally means, “The LORD saves,” (two terms combined: יהוה, the proper name of God, and ישע, meaning “saves”). The name of our Lord, “Jesus,” in Greek is a transliteration of Joshua’s Hebrew name: Ἰησοῦ. In fact, if you look in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament transcribed sometime during the Intertestamental Period), you will see every time Joshua’s name is written in the Old Testament, it is written, “Ἰησοῦ” – the exact Name used in the Greek New Testament of our Lord Jesus. So Joshua and Jesus share a name. A name which means, “Yahweh (the God of the Bible) saves.”

This morning, I am contemplating the depth of this great name. Specifically with regard to two episodes in the Old Testament. The first of which is in Moses’ epilogue to God’s given law (known now as the “Mosaic Law”) as recorded in Exodus chapters 20-23:

“I am going to send an Angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to Him and listen to His voice. Do not defy Him, because He will not forgive your acts of rebellion, for My name is in Him. But if you will carefully obey Him and do everything I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. For my Angel will go before you and bring you to the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.” – Exodus 23:20-23 (HCSB)

All of the proper pronouns here are capitalized (as you will most likely find to be the case in whatever translation you may choose to study as well). Why? Because in the Old Testament, the “Angel of the LORD” most commonly and properly refers to Jesus. The appearances of this Angel would be what we call “Christophanies,” or appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament. Don’t get too hung up on the word “Angel,” because the word literally means, “Messenger,” (not necessarily a bright white created being with wings and a glorious singing voice). The “Messenger” in this text would be the one to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the promised land. Cross-referencing the book of Joshua, chapter 3 and verse 10, you will find the same people groups mentioned in the Exodus passage above – – – those are the people groups whom Joshua led the Israelites to destroy or disperse from the promised land during the great Conquest.

Furthermore, we can see that although Jesus was alluded to in this future endeavor (by the mention of “the Angel of the LORD”), Joshua was also alluded to. How can we know that? Verse 21: “My name is in Him.” Yĕhowshuwa`…  Ἰησοῦ…  the LORD saves.  So we kindof see a double meaning in this text (the Exodus 23:20-23 excerpt). Jesus would be the one to lead the Hebrews into the promised land and Joshua would also be the one to do the same. Jesus and Joshua. But it really wasn’t about an earthly figure anyway. It was about the LORD. Yahweh. Because it was the LORD who would do the saving, and it was the LORD who would do the wiping out and driving out (vs. 23, 30). And the figure who (and Who) would lead the charge for the LORD would do so only because God’s great Name was in him (and Him).

Which brings us to the next text I would like to evaluate this morning. You know the story of Joshua and the battle of Ai (Joshua ch. 7). Some of the Israelites had directly disobeyed God after defeating Jericho. God’s punishment for this “sin in the camp” was executed at the next battle (the Battle of Ai) in which the Israelites were slaughtered and ended up turning and fleeing in shame. This brings us to Joshua 7:8-9:

“What can I say, Lord, now that Israel has turned its back and run from its enemies? When the Canaanites and all who live in the land hear about this, they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. Then what will You do about Your great name?” (HCSB)

Many pastors and commentary-authors give Joshua a hard time about this little episode. But often when I read it, I can get a sense that his intentions were pure. His biggest concern wasn’t his own death or even the death of his people. But rather, the death of God’s great name. Joshua’s very name means, “Yahweh saves.” The name which (although he couldn’t have known it at the time) would be used for the Angel of the LORD thousands of years later when God became man and dwelt among us. The only name given under heaven by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12). The name of Joshua. The name of Jesus! Defeated. Degraded. Humiliated.

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Christian, I would like to remind you (and myself) this morning that God has a plan for your life. Joshua’s destiny to lead the Israelites into the promised land was established long before he knew it. God’s name was in him – and He had a task prepared ahead of time that he was to accomplish. So do you. God’s name is in you. You are a “Christian” – “Christ-like,” and “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them,” (Eph. 2:10).

It is difficult to remember, especially in the heat of battle or the disillusionment of controversy that we carry God’s name with us. Everything that we do, say, and think represents the LORD to the world around us. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that God’s name is within us and the Angel of the LORD is leading the way. He will accomplish the victory. We must remain obedient and faithful. If not, we run the potential of smearing His great name among the world around us.

I take comfort in the fact that before I can possibly see it coming, God has great things in store for me. He has wired me, saved me, created me, named me, formed me, shaped me, tested me, and molded me specifically so that I may accomplish the tasks He has set before me. His name is in me. And He goes before me. And it is all for the glory of His great name.

 

Grace and Peace,

Tony