You Shall Call His Name Jesus

Bible Reading: Matthew 1

Matthew 1:20-21, “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

What’s in a name?  Generally, the term “name,” as it is used in Scripture, represents not just one’s identity, but the total person—their character, authority, rank, power, etc.  And names were frequently given by God not merely to identify a person, but to identify them in their office or specific role in relationship to God.

The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name “Joshua.”  It was a common name up to the second century.  The term itself means “Jehovah saves.”  That’s the meaning of the name.  It is a name which expresses Christ’s humanity.  Now if we are going to appreciate the meaning of His name, “Jehovah saves,” we need to do a little background study.

The name “Jehovah” occurs over 6000 times and in every period of biblical Hebrew.  Because it was written without vowels, there is some debate regarding its exact pronunciation.  Sometimes you will hear it as “Jehovah” and sometimes as “Yahweh.”  It is the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses.  Exodus 3:13-14, “Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”  And God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.”  The NASB has a note regarding this expression, “I am,” which says: “Related to the name of God, YHWH, rendered LORD, which is derived from the verb HAYAH, to be.”  So that’s where “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” comes from.  The name speaks to God’s self-existence and, therefore, His identity as our Creator God. 

Now, Jehovah hears of the troubles of Israel, enslaved in Egypt as they were.  And He sends forth Moses as a deliverer.  And through God’s mighty hand the people are redeemed from Egypt.  They responded by singing a song to the Lord. Exodus 15:2 records this part of their response, “The Lord (Jehovah) is my strength and song and He has become by salvation.”  Jehovah, the self-existent One (the creator), is also our Savior.  He has worked to redeem us from slavery in Egypt and to set us free to serve Him.

As God had chosen His people.  And worked to bring them into the promised land, He prescribed to them certain laws regarding the temple, the priesthood, and sacrifices, etc.  And these all are a part of His plan and pointed to His future provision of a redeemer, the Messiah of Israel.  The phrase, “The Lord has become my salvation,” speaks to all of this.  The phrase is repeated elsewhere: For example, in Psalm 18:2, “The Lord (Jehovah) is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer” and in Isaiah 12:2, “For the Lord God (Jehovah) is my strength and song, and He has become by salvation.”

Remember that the name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves.”  And the name Jehovah is the name by which God disclosed Himself to His people.  A Name which speaks to His self-existence and therefore His identity as the Creator.  And we should note that Jesus repeatedly used that expression, “I Am,” in referring to Himself.  In fact, on one occasion—during his arrest—He asked the arresting mob, “Whom do you seek?”  They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.”  And then Jesus said, “I am” (John 18:5).  The English text adds the word “He” in italics, but it’s not in the original.  He said literally “I Am.”  And do you know what happened when Jesus the Nazarene—who was purposing to go the cross to die for our sins—said “I Am” to that group of people?  “Where therefore He said to them, ‘I Am,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” 

But when Jesus was born, we are told something about His name that is very important.  We read of it in Matthew 1:18-23.  The angel’s instructions were explicit.  The baby was to be given a particular name.  A name which was in keeping with His particular office and purpose.  Jesus means “Jehovah saves.” Embodied in that name is the nature and character of God.  The types and prophecies of the Old Testament.  The purposed work of Jesus in dying in the cross.  The finished work of Jesus.  His death, resurrection, and ascension.  And His return.  In the beginning of our Bible, we read of the One who would come and bruise the head of Satan.  In the end of our Bible, we read about the Lamb who was slain and who purchased for God men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  And central to it all is this truth which we read about in Matthew 1:21: the virgin born Son came into the world to save sinners.

I’ve said before that you could summarize the message of the Bible in four words — “Man sins; God saves.”  And the name “Jesus” embodies these truths — “Jehovah saves.”  The main message of the entirety of your Bible is summed up in that one word—that one name—Jesus.  So, keep that in mind as you think of the baby in the manger.  The One who CREATED all things was once laid in a CRADLE.  Later He died on a CROSS.  But one day, He will be CROWNED with glory and honor as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Indeed, He possesses “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9), and is fully deserving of our heartfelt worship!


Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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