The Hallelujah Chorus
Arguably one of the most popular works in Western Music is Handle’s Messiah. There are many opportunities to hear it around the Christmas holidays. Composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, it is largely a commentary on Jesus Nativity, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension.
In Part I, the Messiah's coming and the virgin birth are predicted by the Old Testament prophets. Part II covers Christ's passion and his death, his resurrection and ascension, the first spreading of the gospel through the world, and part two ends with a definitive statement of God's glory summarised in the famous "Hallelujah Chorus".
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
Is become the kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ, and of His Christ
And He shall reign forever and ever
And He shall reign forever and ever
Forever and ever, forever and ever
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords
And He shall reign, and He shall reign
And He shall reign forever and ever
King of Kings, forever and ever
And Lord of Lords, Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The different lines being sung with different voices and instruments gives a giant chorus parise that reflects what Christmas is about, and also what Psalm 150 is about. We can rejoice because of what God has done.
[And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:13-14 ESV)
For the last few months we have been studying the books of Psalms. Psalm is the Greek word for song. It comes from the Hebrew word meaning praises. The book of Psalms ends with a chorus of praises to God. It feels like the hallelujah chorus. Many voices declaring the praises of God. It shouts the hope of Christmas. We could look at any of the last four psalms and get this, and while we will touch on elements of those psalms we are mainly looking at the last psalm today. Psalm 150.
Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! 2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! 3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150:1-6 ESV)
This psalm as well as the last four psalms of the book of Psalms begin and end with “praise the Lord.” Praise comes from the word, Hallalu, which means praise, your praise. The word is combined with ya, an abbreviated form of God’s name Yahweh. This combination of words gives us in Hebrew Halleluja. The English word is the transliteration of the Hebrew meaning “praise the Lord.” Hallelujah occurs 23 times in the book of psalms and 10 of those are in the last four chapters. The root word Hallal is used 36 times in the four chapters. The book of praises ends with a chorus of praises.
[Hallalu ya → Halleluja
This chapter begins with a call to praise God and it ends with it too, and so does Psalm 146, 147, 148, 149, 150.
Praise concludes not just book five of the psalter but the entire psalter. The best for last. Reflective of a journey. Begins with God’s word being a way for living and ends wtih call to praise God. Living for God ends in praise.
One of the things you see in these psalms is different ways the praise originates. Here the praise begins by praising God in his sanctuary. Literally it is praise him in the holy place. That often gets translated as sanctuary. It is the place of his presence. The next line is praise him in the heavens. So while some translations take holy to be an attribute of God, Praise him in his holiness. It seems two locations are juxtaposed Praise begins in the sanctuary and goes up to the heavens. A great picture of God’s work beginning in the church and rippling out. Moves out in locations. Moves out in many expressions: Dance, trumpet (shofar), tambourine, dance, strings pipes. There can be debate in the church on which instruments you use in worship. Here everything that has breath. Everything that has voice let it join in the song of who God is.
See who God is. V2 excellent greatness. Praiseworthy. He is above everything. Transcendent. He is beyond us. Beyond us in his holiness, his justice, his mercy, his power and every other way, even location, he is in heaven. But he is also imminent. He is near us, in his sanctuary, with his people. Not the highschool teen who doesn't want to sit with another group at lunch. Why would someone so great be in the presence of those not so great. Love. And this is the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus. God, the transcendent God, comes to be with his people. In the flesh.
God’s character and God’s works. God acts in the world and what he does elicits praise. Sometimes things in life happen that cause us to question God’s goodness. God is good. He is good all the time. Sometimes we don’t see it, but it's like a cloudy day when we don’t see the sun, but we know the sun is still there. The Bible is full of stories, events, that show his goodness.
The call to praise is not a mindless call to do something. It is to see God for who he is. Church is known for being moralistic. Moralism focuses on what you ought to do. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t watch bad movies. Moralism just says what is right and wrong. It leads to legalism. Don't wear those shoes. Song-Be good for goodness sake! It gives no basis for why you ought to do those things. This is where we need to see how the gospel changes us from inside out. It gives us motive to do what God calls us to do. You can focus on the morals with kids, and while that is important, it is a failure if all they know who God is and what he has done. Dead religion. Religion with no basis.
Moralism does not lead to praise. It leads to drudgery. Here the call to praise is anchored in something. It is anchored in the character and actions of God. It's not, “aw man I got to go to church to get it out of the way.” The psalmist here is ecstatic because of what God has done. Creation is ecstatic at what God has done.
God’s character and work cause praise to arise in hearts.
God is able to deliver his people
praise him in his gibbor. might acts. warriors did mighty acts and deeds. conquering kingdoms and kings. strength. After a victory, when the battle is won by a great act.
grow up, become great or important, promote, make powerful, praise, (magnify), do great things.
As significant as the words are of this psalm you also have to recognize what is missing. Something is missing from all the earlier psalms. Gone are the groans, the questions, the pain.
[I have been accustomed to calling the Book of Psalms an Anatomy of All the Part of the Soul. For there is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Rather the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities with which the minds of men are want to be agitated. Calvin, in Futato, Joy comes in the Morning. 61.
Psalm 2 mentions the nations raging and people’s plotting against the Lord. It is not more. No evil.
Psalm 1 mentioned the way of the wicked, but there is no mention now.
Psalm 27 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 4 (Psa 27:1 ESV)
Praise the Lord, who heals all your diseases, forgives all your sins, redeems your life from the pit (103:2)
O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? (Psa 13:1 ESV
I cry out day and night before you. 2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! 3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, (Psa 88:1 ESV)
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. (Psa 34:6 ESV)
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. 3 They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. (Psa 109:1 ESV)
The loud cries for help have not just faded but they have been replaced. They are nowhere to be found. But now all that agitated is gone. No more fears, griefs, sorrows… Everything that has gone wrong has been made right. The wicked are put down. The righteous are raised.
God is able to save his people. That is a theme of these chapters.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God. … He upholds the cause of the oppressed. 146:7 … The Lords lifts up those who are bowed down.
For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. 149:4
This is why Jesus comes. God sends his son to deliver his people. To save them from their sin, and that salvation is multifaceted.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Mat 1:21 ESV)
One of the biggest reasons you do not sing more is because of suffering. One of the greatest attacks of suffering is the thought that it will never end. Some have said that what is intolerable of suffering is that it is interminable. That is a terrible place to be. To think your job loss has ruined you completely. To think a broken relationship is irrecoverable. To think a trauma suffered is irreparable. To think that you are marked, stained, ruined, crushed, broken, depleted, emptied, beyond repair. That is an enemy of the devil. It will lead you to isolation. I don't want to talk about my issues. It will lead you to despair. I'm hopeless. It will lead you to quitting. I'm a failure; why try any more.
I have been reading a book about how the brain and body respond to trauma and suffering. The author worked with veterans who had been through a great deal of pain and loss. One man had lost his closest friends in Vietnam, and later he returned to America and got a normal life. Years later, he is playing with his newborn baby and a sound triggers a memory from the war. Suddenly he reverts back to his war mentality and in a panic goes running to the VA hospital. They are about to start giving him very heavy antipsychotic medication and put him in isolation. Before doing that the author of the book comes and starts tending to and studying him, and as he looks at him a quote from Freud comes to mind and he says, “This man seems to be suffering from memories.” Seems to be suffering from memories.
The man had significant events from his past that he needed to work through. Part of the hardship he was going through was the fear that he could never get over those things and that they would forever characterize him. It is not easy working through painful events. Read about the lives of biblical figures and you will see that. King David who wrote many of the psalms had unbelievable pain. But the point of the psalms is that God is able to deliver us from all of those.
The ending of the psalms is like the ending of the Bible.
Rev He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Rev 21:4 ESV) And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." (Rev 21:5 ESV)
God is able to save his people. He is able to deliver. He is able to take you, your fragmented life, and heal you and put your voice in the symphony of those praising and worshipping him. He puts a new song in your mouth.
Elvin Semrad, The Greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.
Salvation. This chorus sings not because they have not been through some stuff, but because the Lord has provided for them. The Lord has delivered. Delivered from enemies. Delivered from their own sin. Sin is anything that goes against God’s commands. It is intention rebellion. It is also when you have the best intentions but come up short. Sin has consequence. It deserves punishment and separation from God. It also has consequence with other people. When you hurt some one it leads to separation, it leads to abandonment.
Sin is outright rebellion to God. It can be indifference. I think one of the things that I see in our society is the cold indifference to so much. Relationships. Wife is upset and angry because you don't show her affection, and you just leave it. Well want her to be happy. No go fight for it. Lay it all out for her. Parenting kids and feel like can't tell them anything… well don't give up trying. Turn from that. Turn to the Lord.
God can turn your morning into joy. Suffering is no match for God. Your enemies are no match for God. Jesus was born and Herod sought to kill him. God thwarted Herod’s plans.
“Five joyous psalms of praise, each of them beginning and ending with Halleluja, ,bring the psalter to a close. So in this respect as in many others, the Psalms are a miniature of our story as a whole, which will end in unbroken blessing and delight.” Derek Kidner, 520
Kintsugi pottery is made by taking a bowl and breaking it and then repairing it with a laquer or filler dusted with gold, silver, platinum or other precious metals. It makes beautiful pieces, repurposes what has been broken, and through the brokenness the end product is far more beautiful than what it was originally.
The little boy Jesus grew up to be one who healed diseases, opened blind eyes, raised the dead, fed the hungry. He promises to one day return in glory and finish what he began. But we have to turn to him now.
The Call to Praise Him/Your Choice/Praise him
Verse 6 is a call for everything that has breath to praise the Lord. There is a command to praise him. There is an invitation, exhortaiont. Let everything find its place. It is good to sing praise to the Lord. 147:2 It is good, right to sing praise to the Lord. It is what we are created for. We are created to worship, to celebrate, to dance, to sing, to exalt. Isn’t every day a day to search for something to connect with and rejoice in. Those are our best days. Well God has done something to enable this to happen. The sending of his son.
Some won't serve God because of the way something in life has happened. people mad at God for the way life turned out, and many have made no attempt to follow his plan. He has promised to make all things right, and he will. Now we are not promised that if we follow God everything goes well. Job proves that. But at the same time we can’t go against what he calls us to and then be surprised when it doesn't go well.
Christ is greater than our suffering. Will you praise him. He is greater than the glory of the world that you busy yourself with. Will you praise him. Will you see what God has done for you. Sin leads to death. We will all die. That is the worst thing that can happen to us, but in Christ it is taken away.
Believe that he can, will, and has even already acted to take care of all our pain and suffering.
O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
The Psalms lay out two ways to live: path of the righteous or wicked. To serve him or reject him. To sing praise him, not just in having to do things, and checking off a box, but will you praise him with your every breath, your every action. His path leads to everlasting praise but we have to walk it and follow him.
Will you look to him to go deeper in what he has done for you, the healing he has brought for you, the life he calls you to live.
Christ is the Lord. to us to love one another. His work bring a thrill to life, it brings a purpose to us, it brings us to our knees and lifts us to our feet. Causes our hearts to glow. If we take the time to look past the clouds and see what is there.