Saturday, April 9, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For - The Hallelujah Chorus

The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah is one of the most striking musical numbers ever written, and it's now one of the most recognizable. Every December this chorus becomes nearly ubiquitous, appearing in numerous Christmas movies and specials, being performed by 'flash mobs', getting played on PA systems in malls throughout the land, and of course being used to hawk all sorts of stuff in commercials of all types. Luxury cars? Discounted name-brand clothing? Lottery tickets? If the commercial airs in December, they just slap the Halleluah Chorus in there and roll with it. Now I'm even hearing it forced into service hawking - are you ready - turkey cold cuts. The song is treated as if totally pliable, performed by anyone, for any purpose, to get a cheap laugh or celebrate the majesty of a 3-day carpet sale. The term "hallelujah" itself is used as a throwaway exclamation, a sacred version of "sussudio".

I would just like to caution those who casually toss around "hallelujah" or break out the chorus - be really careful what you wish for.

Let's take a quick look at the term hallelujah. It basically means "Praise God!", from the Hebrew hallel (praise) and Yahweh. So it's not just a generic exclamation or to a general 'god', it's specifically an acclamation of the greatness of Yahweh. That should be plenty of warning to those who deny or rebel against him, but there's more.

Consider that hallelujah is only used four times in the entire New Testament - all of which are in Revelation 19:1-8:

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

"Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
   for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
   who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants."

Once more they cried out,

"Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever."

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" And from the throne came a voice saying,

"Praise our God,
   all you his servants,
you who fear him,
   small and great."

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God
   the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
   and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
   and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
   with fine linen, bright and pure"—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

So the term "Hallelujah" is directly associated with the following things - the judgment and destruction of Babylon, marked by such a great outpouring of God's wrath that the smoke rises forever and ever, the final union of Christ with his church, and the accompanying destruction of Christ's enemies, where he is completely exalted to reign over all forever. The prospect of this does not seem like something that those who set themselves as enemies of God should celebrate.

Oh, and what comes immediately after the four hallelujahs? You really, really, really do not want to be on the wrong side.

So please, for your own sake, if you're foolish enough to have not repented and placed your faith in Christ alone, do yourself a favor and stop exclaiming 'hallelujah!' Because the worst thing that could possibly happen to you is that God could hear you and grant your wish.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Your post reminds me of Amos 5 - Why do you look for the day of the Lord? God tells the people it will be like escaping a lion, who can only attack for short periods of time because of their hearts, to run into a bear, who doesn't stop until they get what they're after. That's what is waiting for many people who look forward to the day of the Lord (whether intentionally or not).