Foreign languages never clicked with me. My brain is not hard-wired to speak anything other than Southern English. I took French in high school and German in college along with some Greek; and I am equally non-fluent in each.
However, today I want to teach you a little Hebrew. The word for the day is “Hallelujah.” Can you say “Hallelujah?” I KNEW you could!
Hallelujah actually combines two Hebrew terms. “Hallel” means “praise.” “Jah” is an abbreviation for God’s name of Yahweh. Combined the two words form “Hallelujah.”
In the Greek and Latin translations of the Bible, it is written as “Alleluia” with an “A.” The word is typically translated in English as “Praise the Lord.”
This exclamation of praise is primarily found in the Old Testament book of Psalms. The Psalmist repeatedly declares: “Hallelujah—Praise the Lord!”
It is an expression that the church continues to use in worship. The word often appears in our songs of faith. Our children sing, “Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia, Praise ye the Lord!” At Christmas, we sing “Alleluia to our King” during Silent Night. On Easter morning, we celebrate the resurrection by singing, “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!” Perhaps the most famous use of the word in song is Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
We also use Hallelujah as an exclamation of praise. There are moments in worship when we are stirred to praise God out loud. Most people shout “Amen,” but some will use “Hallelujah” as well.
I have heard, said, and sang “Hallelujah” all my life. When I began studying the word, however, I learned something new about the term.
I mentioned earlier that the term is primarily used in The Book of Psalms. Today we read the Psalms as poems or prose. However, the Psalter was originally the hymnal of Israel. In other words, the Psalms are actually songs.
Only the words to the songs remain. At some point over the centuries, the music and tunes of the Psalms were forgotten. However, the Psalms still retain many of the musical instructions to the musicians, singers, and worship leaders.
Within the setting of the Psalms, “Hallelujah” is not just an expression of praise. It is also an instruction or command given to the people by the worship leader. The Hebrew phrase is actually an injunction rather than an exclamation. It literally says, “Praise God, You People!” It’s really a blunt command: YOU—Praise the Lord—NOW!
Someone saying “Hallelujah—hey, YOU, Praise the Lord”—is a good reminder in our faith walk. We all need to remember to take the opportunity to praise God in our personal and public worship.
Praise spans the emotional and spiritual spectrum. Sometimes we adore God with high energy and volume; other times we praise God quietly and reflectively. Praising God is a hallelujah-lifestyle for the Christian.
Sometimes we forget to express our praise to God through inattentiveness or ingratitude. Then we bump into some divine cue that reminds us to say, “Hallelujah!”
Laughter, joy, and praise bubble up in our lives. Carbonated spirits overflow in our hearts. We cannot contain it. And even if we don’t use the exact word, a hallelujah chorus is sung in our lives.
At times, we say it with an exclamation point. Other times with a period. Sometimes with a question mark. And there are times when there is silence . . . waiting for the time when we can say it all.
We sing and shout it. We sigh and pray it. We whisper and whimper it. But still we say it: Hallelujah!
HEY! YOU! Praise the Lord! NOW!