While reading in Numbers, I came across the leadership transition from Moses to Joshua in chapter 27. I found the wording and significance of the passage really interesting, knowing how scripture is selectively worded by the Spirit of God. When the Lord instructs Moses that he is about to die – not being able to see the Promised Land, Moses’ first response is not one of self-pity or bitterness. Rather, Moses understands completely how he robbed God of glory and holiness in the Meribah Incident (Exodus 17).
The passage shows Moses’ heart for the people of Israel. He asks in verses 16-17:
“Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”
The successor for spiritual leadership of the people is chosen, and it turns out that he is Moses’ assistant, Joshua. In Hebrew his name is Yeshua. Is it a strange coincidence that many years later, Jesus’ Hebrew name is also Yeshua?
How we got Jesus from Yeshua
There’s a great, detailed article here about the finer points of our name for the Messiah, but the short story is simply a combination of translation and transliteration. The “J” sound was originally a “Y” sound; the “e” was an “eh” not an “ee;” the “u” should be “uh;” and the final “s” is added because in Greek, male names ended in “s.”
So get this… Jesus in Matthew 9.36 also has a great burden for the Jews:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
It was important for Israel to be led by someone whom was also led. So God’s instructions to Moses in the Numbers 27 passage were:
“So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.'” (Numbers 27.18)
Powerfully, in one of Jesus’ first recorded messages in the New Testament, He was in His hometown of Nazareth and chose to read from Isaiah 61. Here is how it starts:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me..” (Luke 4.18)
So, Yeshua in the New Testament is an anointed leader to be a shepherd for the people God will give Him. Yeshua in the Old Testament was the same. They had different ministries, were different people, but the same name.
What’s in a name? Though extremely common among Hebrew men, the name “Yeshua” has supreme significance for the ultimate submission of all peoples:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2.9-11)