Make It A Hearty Hallelujah!

Mar 14, 2012 No Comments by

By Ron Ross, March 2012 (for preaching/teaching email ron@ronross.org)
‘Praise the Lord’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Amen’ – these words are common in Christian conversation but sometimes their familiarity takes away from the original meaning. In years gone by, for thousands of years actually, believers exclaimed ‘Hallelujah!’ which was in fact two words joined together to pack a punch of praise.

Hallelujah means “Praise God!” It was created from the Hebrew words ‘hallel’ a verb meaning ‘praise’ and ‘Yah’ (the abbreviated Hebrew name of God – short for Yahweh.)

There is significance to the word ‘hallelujah’ which for some, may have lost its impact through the years.

During the 3rd to 5th centuries, the Talmudic period, the words ‘hallel’ and ‘Yah’ were expressed separately. The combined ‘hallelujah’ expression was emphasized prominently in Psalms 146-150. Each psalm opens and closes with ‘hallelujah’ meaning, ‘praise the Lord’

The New Ungers Bible Handbook suggests that in these psalms ‘hallelujah’ was used as a religious cry, probably used to encourage audience participation.

“Later, ‘hallelujah’ became a stereotyped cry of joy; the Jews of Alexandria sang it after being saved from annihilations by the Egyptians (3 Macc. 7:13) and it introduces the angelic praise of God in Rev. 19: 1-8,” they report.

The latinized version is spelled ‘alleluia’ and it always suggests everything we have, worships. Augustine wrote, “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!”

The exclamation ‘hallelujah’ became an important part of Christian liturgy, and is just one of many Hebrew contributions we eagerly and often mindlessly embrace.

It most likely made its greatest international impact when Handel wrote ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’ for his epic classic, ‘Messiah.’

What Handel experienced during the time he wrote ‘Messiah’ sums up the impact we should all seek.

He withdrew for twenty-three days so he could be totally immersed in his music. The Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations said, Handel described his feelings when he wrote the Hallelujah Chorus. Handel said, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”

Many of us can testify that his experience is shared with us during the moving presentation of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Halal is the primary Hebrew root word for praise and ‘hallelujah’ builds from that base. It means ‘to be clear, to shine, to boast, show, to rave, celebrate, to be clamorously foolish.’ How about that? When we praise God, do we come near to that original meaning?

How great does our enthusiasm and joy shine? How boastful are we about God and His mighty power and love? Are we prepared to rave about Him or do we prefer to boast and rave about our footie team or sports or movie stars? Are we happy to be seen as fools for Christ?
How ‘clamorously foolish’ do we get when we surrender ourselves to praise Him?

Our faith would be a profound and radical thing if we could just enter into a Hallelujah reality-check.

Halal conveys quite an extensive meaning. First it relies on what lamps and stars do. They shine and display light.
In this sense it appears in Job and Isaiah. Job 31:26 speaks of the shining sun and the moon’s splendor as ‘halal.’

Isaiah warns the loss of this radiance comes as judgment from the Lord Himself.

Isaiah 13:10-11 “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.”

The loss of ‘halal’ indicates a terrible judgment. Has that illuminating presence gone because we have found other gods? Is fear of man now the preference for us? Hallelujah means God is our reality. We can have no other gods before Him.

Fools for Christ

When He is our first and only God, it follows that we show Him, reveal Him, speak about Him and testify to His truth even when those around us think we’re being weird or strange. We are by the world’s standards ‘fools for Christ’ a condition Paul wrote about.

1 Cor. 4:10 “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.”

How willing are we to be bold for the Lord, when our unsaved family and friends look on our faith as a sign of weakness?

They feel strong and distinguished and our simple trust in the Lord is maybe despised, or at least looked upon with disdain. Most unbelievers feel insecure when confronted by the vitality of genuine faith.

When we proclaim, ‘Hallelujah!’ we declare the Lord is God. He is worthy to be praised. We worship and adore Him. We have no other gods before Him. We praise His name and His alone. Not even tough times or difficult days can change our hearts for Him. In those days He is our necessary Comforter and Friend above all others.

This verse shows us His steadfast reliability. 1 Sam. 10:5 “Afterward you will come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is; and it shall be as soon as you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and a lyre before them, and they will be prophesying.”

Day by day we live in the world where ‘the Philistine garrison’ is ever present. Enemies of the Lord surround us. But if we enter into the heart-felt “Hallelujah’ we will know the uplifting accompaniment of harps, tambourines, flutes and the uplifting prophesying will come to us. Meaning, the Word of God will not just sustain us but lift us up and bring us from the valley to the mountain top again.

David the prolific psalmist surrounded himself with that divine Presence.

2Sam. 6:5 Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.

It was the foundational tradition of those early believers to be surrounded with triumphant, expressive, even noisy praise.

2 Chron. 7:6 “The priests stood at their posts, and the Levites also, with the instruments of music to the LORD, which King David had made for giving praise to the LORD — “for His lovingkindness is everlasting” — whenever 1he gave praise by their means, while the priests on the other side blew trumpets; and all Israel was standing.”

Isaiah indicates what a bright and shining individual Lucifer was before the fall. The word ‘halal’ is used in Isaiah 14: 12: “How you have fallen from the heavens, O shining one, son of dawn.’ He was the ‘shining’ one. Pride caused Lucifer to fall. Pride focuses on self and misses the joy of intimate, humble, dependent, submissive fellowship with God.

That genuine faith is best summed up in the chorus “I surrender all.” We are His, totally.

Halal used as a verb indicates a bold and boastful demeanor. I often suggest Christians need a big dose of good old Jewish, Chutzpah! One analyst suggests it means ‘letting it rip’ when praising God.

The next time we read about praising God we must see it through these original traditions. Think about it in the climate the bible’s authors intended, not through our ‘stiff upper lip’, self protective, guarded traditions.

Be sold out for the Lord. Consider Psalm 135: 1 “Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD; Praise Him, O servants of the LORD.”

Those words can be uttered in a dull, monotone, passionless way but that does not convey the ancient Hebrew intent.

Halal is expressed with joy and enthusiasm, with passion and excitement. When a psalm begins with ‘hallelujah’ it is as if the leader shouted ‘here we go! Fasten your seat belts, we’re taking off!’

Psalms 146 – 150, for instance. The Hebrews knew the Book of Psalms as the Hallel, the Book of Praises.

Throughout these specific psalms David investigates his own soul. He stirs himself to effective and efficient praise.
Each of these five psalms opens with hallelujah and closes with that same exclamation.

Psalm 146 begins:
Psalm 146:1-5 “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; In that very day his thoughts perish. How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.”

How often have we watered down our enthusiasm for God because of what others might think? David says, ‘don’t trust in princes.’

Don’t let anyone or any thing quench the Spirit within you! Don’t censor your love of God.

That psalm ends Psalm 146:10 “The LORD will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!” (That is, “Hallelujah!”)

What makes you dance with joy? Do you jump up and down for something?

Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.”

Many Christians are self-conscious and avoid what they see as unseemly behavior – so very few of us dance.

Dancing which is often sheer exhibitionism is not what the psalmist means. Hebrew dancing is most akin to folk dancing. It is a form of joyful expression done in fellowship. It bubbles up from the heart and overflows in physical expression. It is praise that simply cannot be contained. It is hallelujah from a singing, dancing, Holy Spirit inspired, God-filled heart.

This form of praise goes beyond our personal circumstances into the God-realm. We see Him high and lifted above all problems, pain and difficulties and remember He inhabits the praises of His people. In His Presence we can only worship, for He fills our every desire and dream.

Some right now are switching off. These thoughts are far too intimate, emotional and expressive for the conservative, under control, self-conscious individual.

Letting go may be reserved for the dance floor, or some spectator activity. Maybe we never express ourselves without a few shots of an alcoholic beverage. Maybe we have been so trained as to never show our feelings.

But the Bible tells us to come to the Lord as a child, and children know how to express themselves. Our reserves crumble in the Presence of the Almighty.

Yah
The hallelujah highlights God’s name Yah! This is the shortened form of Yahweh. Psalm 135 illustrates how the names are connected.

Psalm 135: 1- 5 “Praise Yah! Praise the name of Yahweh. Praise him, O servants of Yahweh,
who stand in the house of Yahweh, in the courts of the house of our God. Praise Yah, for Yahweh is good. Sing praises concerning his name, for it is pleasant. For Yah has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his special possession. For I know that Yahweh is great, and our Lord is greater than all gods.
Psalm 68: 4 (NKJV) “Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, and rejoice before Him.”
Try this well known verse. The word translated LORD in the original text is YAH. Exodus 15:2 “The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him, My father’s God, and I will extol Him.” Moses was joyfully praising Yah, right there.

Many names throughout the Bible highlight YAH. Consider the name Isaiah which means, ‘Salvation of the LORD’ or ‘salvation is of the LORD.’ How appropriate the Book of Isaiah is called the Fifth Gospel and features many verses that point to the Lord Himself?

Zephaniah means ‘Yah has treasured.’

Josiah – “Yah supports.” Hananiah – “Yah is gracious.”

Melatiah, who assisted Nehemiah building the wall. His name means ‘Yah has set free.’ (Neh. 3: 7) The son of the exiled king of Judea was Nebahdiah meaning ‘Yah is generous.’ (1 Chron 3: 18) Hodiah is a common Israeli name meaning ‘Yah is my splendor.’ An appropriate translation of ‘hallelujah’ is “Praise be to Yah!”

There is a passage in the Bible called ‘The Fourfold Hallelujah!” I believe it is significant for these times and for our heartfelt understanding of the true passion behind a genuine Hallelujah heart.

We are about to look into spectacular events to come. Rev 19: 1-10 After these things I heard something like the loud sound of a great crowd in heaven saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 because his judgments are true and righteous, because he has passed judgment on the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality, and has avenged the blood of his slaves ⌊shed by⌋  her hand!”
3 And a second time they said, “Hallelujah!” And her smoke goes up ⌊forever and ever⌋ . 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen! Hallelujah!”
5 And a voice came out from the throne, saying, “Praise our God all his slaves, and those who fear him, the small and the great!”
The Wedding Celebration of the Lamb
6 And I heard something like the sound of a great crowd and something like the sound of many waters and something like the sound of powerful thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord God, the All-Powerful, reigns! 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him the glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has prepared herself.
8 And it has been granted to her that she be dressed in bright, clean fine linen (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints).
9 And he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet of the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 And I fell down before his feet to worship him, and he said to me, “⌊Do not do that!⌋  I am a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

In this biblical report of the Judgment and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, no other word describes the exhilaration better than “Hallelujah!”

The Teachers Bible Commentary open their comments on Rev 19 this way: “When we ask the question, “Who is God?” we can only reply that He is a Person who, in love and perfect holiness, chose to create beings with whom He would share Himself, whatever the cost. And the cost was one He, not we, had to pay!”

In the entire New Testament this is the only passage where Hallelujah is used.

It bursts forth when heaven observes the ultimate victory. “Because his judgments are true and righteous, because he has passed judgment on the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality.”

Movie star Raquel Welch,aged 71 said ‘we’re living in an era of porn.’ We don’t have to itemize the lust-power that dominates society through movies, TV and the internet.

I’m reminded of John 10:10 which says ‘The enemy comes to steal, kill, maim and destroy…’ and that’s what addiction to anything achieves….Fallen spirits, broken hearts, rejected and insecure people!

Our God offers much better than that! His offer is made to each one of us and when we see the pit, and truly understand what He has done for us, ‘Hallelujah!’ is the most appropriate response. But it must never be a half-hearted expression.

The Book of Revelation originally was written to Christians suffering difficult and painful persecution. In the face of those circumstances ‘Hallelujah’ was appropriately used because the author, the Apostle John, knew His judgments are faithful and true!

Rev 19: 6b-8 “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. 8It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

The Bible says, these words were spoken by the angels. They refer to ‘the Lord our God, the Almighty.’ This brings together the names Yahweh, Elohim and El Shaddai.

The angel is describing ‘The Lord God of us’ which quite uniquely displays the angels joining the saints in acknowledging Him. This amazing passage concludes by saying ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’

The Lord is the focus of all true prophecy. It was that Holy Spirit empowered voice that called each one of us to confess, Jesus is Lord. He has won the victory for us and He brought us into His eternal Kingdom.

A Christian woman was once talking to a servant of Christ about the assurance of her safety in the Saviour and said, “I have taken a single ticket to Glory, and do not intend to come back.”
Whereupon the man of God replied: “You are going to miss a lot. I have taken a return ticket, for I am not only going to meet Christ in Glory, but I am coming back with him in power and great glory to the earth.”

We have every reason to rejoice and praise the Lord. I pray our praise will be filled with passion and expression in the full impact and power of a hearty ‘Hallelujah!’

‘This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118: 24)

These verses from the JPS Bible.
Psalm 111:1 “Hallelujah. I praise the LORD with all my heart in the assembled congregation of the upright.”

Psalm 113:1 “Hallelujah. O servants of the LORD, give praise; praise the name of the LORD.”

Psalm 116:19 “in the courts of the house of the LORD, in the midst of Jerusalem. Hallelujah.”

Psalm 117:2 “for great is His steadfast love toward us; the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Hallelujah.”

Psalm 135:1 “Hallelujah. Praise the name of the LORD; give praise, you servants of the LORD”

Psalm 135:21 Blessed is the LORD from Zion, He who dwells in Jerusalem. Hallelujah.
Psalm 146:1 “Hallelujah. Praise the LORD, O my soul!”

Psalm 149:1 “Hallelujah. Sing to the LORD a new song, His praises in the congregation of the faithful.”

Psalm 150:6 Let all that breathes praise the LORD. Hallelujah.

Revelation 19:6-9 “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God.”

The only appropriate response to such grace is ‘Hallelujah!”

Bible Blog

About the author

Ron Ross worked as the first Sports Editor at WINTV. In Wollongong. He ran The Hamburger Hut an outreach and discipleship program for youth. He served with Youth With a Mission in Hawaii, Philippines and Australia. He was senior pastor of the Noosa Baptist Church, Queensland for 9 years. He reported news from Jerusalem for five years and is now the Middle East correspondent for United Christian Broadcasters and travels regularly preaching and teaching.
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