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Hallelujah! To Praise God Only

 
There is a possibility that the word “Hallelujah” is among the most overused and misused word that we ever got from the Judeo-Christian Bible. We’ll study aspects of that word in this article, and find out how big a mistake we are making by how we use it. I’ll be interested to know your thoughts when we’ve finished our journey.

“Hallelujah” is a word of Hebrew origin, and is found 28 times in the Bible, in only two books: 24 times in Psalms 104-150 (well, actually 23 times plus one variation of the word) and 4 times in Revelation (confined to chapter 19, in which the residents of heaven sing and shout praises to the King of Kings).

It is a compound word, comprising the root “halal” (meaning, in this context, to give or sing praise) and “Yah” (the shortened version of Yhvh, or Yahweh or Yehova, the name of God).

If you go to the book of Psalms, looking to find the word “Hallelujah” there, your success will depend on which English translation you use. While the HCSB consistently translates it “Hallelujah,” in most other versions you will find it rendered “praise the Lord,” once in a while “praise Yah,” or (in the KJV) “praise ye the Lord.” However, just about all translations revert to the actual word “Hallelujah” when it appears in the book of Revelation.

Hallelujah in Hebrew and Greek

The word “Hallelujah” in Hebrew (above, as used in the Psalms) and Greek (below, as used in Revelation).

 
Sports, Steaks, and Songs.
Perhaps because the true meaning of the word is not universally known (or we’ve forgotten it), let me suggest that we tend to throw it around far more often than we should. It does contain the name of God, after all, and the Third Commandment in Exodus 20:7 clearly tells us how God feels about our misusing His name or using it “in vain” or in a profane way. Yes, we sometimes rightly and joyfully use it in praise of our Creator (for example, Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus is replete with it). But then there are times we’ll shout it when our sports team scores in a closely contested game, or when (after several failed attempts) the restaurant finally serves our steak cooked exactly right. (I’m not pointing fingers. I fear I’ve been known to throw the “H” word around too loosely at times myself.)

Pop songs which are seasoned with liberal sprinklings of the “H” word (and which also contain quite dubious lyrics for Christians) are often very fashionable. A couple of them come immediately to mind. Leonard Cohen’s song of that name (“Maybe there’s a God above, but all I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot at somebody who outdrew you”) and George Harrison’s doctrinally indefensible hit (“My sweet lord, Hallelujah. My my lord, Hallelujah. Mmmmm My lord, Hare Krishna. My my my Lord, Hare Krishna”).

Because of how it is used throughout the book of Psalms, we know that “Yah” is a name of God. So here’s a question to ponder: Imagine if we were actually in the presence of God the Creator, and we found ourselves in a situation (our team scoring, the perfectly cooked steak, etc.) where we might automatically shout the “H” word. Now that we’ve remembered that it contains the name of God, and we’ve re-read the Third Commandment, would we still be as willing to use that word so loosely in His presence? Well, aren’t we always in the presence of our God? Doesn’t it follow, then, that we should reserve the use of His name in the word “Hallelujah” only in instances of sincere praise of Him, to Whom it is directed?

Maybe if we went back and read all 28 occurrences of “Hallelujah” in Scripture, we would see in what types of situations and for what reasons it was written for us, under inspiration from God, by the Psalmist(s) and John. It can be a very teachable moment, I have found.

With that in mind, I have copied out all 28 “Hallelujah” verses for you at the bottom of this article. As we read through them, we should try to coach ourselves to say or think “Praise God!” or “Praise Yahweh!” (or Yehovah) every time and in each context that we see the word “Hallelujah.” If we do that enough times, we will begin to see it for what it is — an exclamation of praise specifically for and directly to God — and not just another thing to yell out of habit when we are excited about other, less important things.

Alleluja

Misuse? In Vain?
And I think this might be a key to understanding why God gave us the Third Commandment in the first place. Stay with me, and let’s think this through. Both Jesus (Sermon on the Mount) and Paul (1 Corinthians 9) gave us specific and highly enlightening instructions on how we should understand each of the Laws and the Commandments of the Bible. Both used examples to show that a rote, limited, methodical, literal (therefore “fleshly” or physical) response will only take us so far.

Paul cited a law given in Deuteronomy 25:4 to make a point. It says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain.” Jesus gave several examples, which took this form: “You have heard it said, Do not murder… But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Those who believe that the exact, strict letter of the Law is all that is required of us might easily try to duck out of responsibility by arguing, “Well, I’ve never murdered anyone, and besides, I don’t own an ox!”

What Jesus and Paul have taught us is that for every rule, commandment, or law that God has given to us, there is a wider, more all-encompassing, elevating, and moral (therefore “spiritual”) plane to which we are expected to take every one of them. Paul said, “Is God really concerned with oxen? Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us.” Jesus was certainly not saying He was going to “do away” with the commandment against murder. Quite the contrary, He elevated it to the level of human feelings, emotions, character, and the spirit. If we are angry without cause, we will be judged as having broken that same law.

It’s a matter of developing character and conscience, it seems, that the Law and Commandments were given to us in the first place. The development of that Christ-like character, to which we all should aspire, starts at the lowest level. When basketball icon Michael Jordan was in junior high school, would anyone have expected him to perfect his “gravity-defying 360-degree lean-in dunk” at that age? Of course not. We start where we are, and we build. Starting with a law forbidding murder or mistreating livestock is part of that. If we recognize that refraining from murder and from muzzling the ox are behaviors that will make us better people, then obeying those laws will build our character — but only to a certain basic degree. If we stop there, we will be able to live well, but at that level only. We probably won’t become a mass murderer, but we could easily become a misanthrope around whom nobody wants to be.

But if we ponder each commandment and ask, “What am I actually meant to learn from this? And how else can I apply it to other aspects of my life?” then we give ourselves the opportunity to increase the level of Christ-like character we build and live by every day.

Commandments Lead to Character.
So let’s end by thinking for a moment about how the Third commandment fits into this character-development idea. God told us plainly and for all eternity (after all, He also told us, “I am Yahweh, I do not change!”) that He considers it a serious offense if we misuse His name. Why? Is He so vain that He cannot bear any ridicule or satire or lightness made of His name? No. I think we can safely say that vanity is not in the character of the God of the Bible. So why is it not only a law, but one of the Ten Commandments? There’s far more at stake here than salving the feelings of some petulant deity.

What happens if, at first, we very carefully and meticulously avoid saying God’s name (in any form) in any sort of “vain,” light, off-handed, satirical, derogatory, or unsavory manner? No cursing using God’s name, no expletives using Jesus’s name, etc. After a while, what began as merely a rote obeying of the commandment becomes a part of our character. Yes, we started obeying the commandment because God was the One Who commanded it. But eventually, we move from “God said it so I will do it” to the burgeoning of respect for God’s name — and therefore increasing our reverence of God Himself. We are coming to know (and to live as if we know) more about Him and to honor the greatness, holiness, majesty, righteousness, and power of the Creator of the Universe.

This action causes us to “set apart” God’s name from misuse. And what does the Bible call setting something apart for God’s use? It’s called “holiness.” Over time, the strength of our character grows so that more and more of our inward parts, our demeanor, our thoughts, our actions, everything becomes more and more attuned to God as the object of our worship. He is holy because He is God. To us, He becomes holy because we have obeyed, and that part of our character has become more and more Christ-like. In other words, we have increasingly set God apart as the most important Object in our lives, the One we know is to be worshipped.

So, I think there is a real lesson to be learned and growth into Christ-like character to be achieved here. What if we, in fact, take a relatively small issue like the word “Hallelujah” that contains the name of God, and “set it apart” for use only for the praise of that God? And what if, as we do that, we do not do it in a grousing and rebellious manner, resentful that somehow we are being “forced” to do these things.

Rather, we should follow Christ’s (and Paul’s) principle of looking for the higher-level spiritual ways to keep each law or commandment and the lessons to be learned from each. The more we do that, the more other acts and forms of worship and holiness will almost certainly begin to develop. Even if at first we must force ourselves not to muzzle our oxen as they tread out grain, if we are open to it and looking for it, we will begin to discover that we are doing a good thing for that ox. We are being generous, giving, yes even loving to this creature. As that becomes more and more a part of our character, that attitude can spread from each of us to the people around us, our family, our neighbors, our employees (which was what Paul was talking about), our leaders, and (gasp!) even our enemies.

We begin all of this with the premise that there is a Creator of the Universe and a designer of the entirety of this thing we call a “human being.” It seems quite likely that this Creator could easily have predicted that, if we as humans want to be or do something, we can work our way toward that by imitating the actions of someone who already is or does that thing. Going through and discovering the hidden psychological and spiritual gems (and gifts) that can be found inside every one of the Laws and Commandments (which are the building blocks of the Christ-like character we seek) is beyond the scope of this article. But everything starts with keeping each law or commandment, and working our way upward and outward from there. Maybe a place to start is the Third Commandment and the misuse of “Hallelujah.” What do you think?


 
FINAL NOTE: You can click the video below and listen to what is most likely the best known musical setting of the word “Hallelujah” (and certainly among the most Biblically based ever) — the “Hallelujah” Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. (I’ve put much more about the “Hallelujah” Chorus in my Additional Verses Bible Study.) At the end of his 259-page manuscript of the entire work, Handel wrote the letters “SDG” — Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory.” Let us approach the inspired words (most especially “Hallelujah” itself) and the glorious music with this same devotion.

Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world is become
the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ;
and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Hallelujah!

Hallelujah Chorus

The first performance of Handel’s Messiah was in the Musick Hall, Fishamble Street, Dublin, April 13, 1742.
Shown here is a detail from the “Hallelujah” chorus, part book of Christ Church cathedral (RCB Library, Dublin)


 
BIBLICAL USES OF THE WORD “HALLELUJAH”

Old Testament:

Psalm 104:35 — May sinners vanish from the earth and wicked people be no more. My soul, praise Yahweh! Hallelujah!
Psalm 105:45 — All this happened so that they might keep His statutes and obey His instructions. Hallelujah!
Psalm 106:1 — Hallelujah! Give thanks to Yahweh, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 106:48 — May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Hallelujah!
Psalm 111:1 — Hallelujah! I will praise Yahweh with all my heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
Psalm 112:1 — Hallelujah! Happy is the man who fears Yahweh, taking great delight in His commands.
Psalm 113:1 — Hallelujah! Give praise, servants of Yahweh; praise the name of Yahweh.
Psalm 113:9 — He gives the childless woman a household, making her the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah!
Psalm 115:18 — But we will praise Yahweh, both now and forever. Hallelujah!
Psalm 116:19 — in the courts of Yahweh’s house — within you, Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
Psalm 117:2 — For His faithful love to us is great; Yahweh’s faithfulness endures forever. Hallelujah!
Psalm 135:1 — Hallelujah! Praise the name of Yahweh. Give praise, you servants of Yahweh
Psalm 135:21 — May Yahweh be praised from Zion; He dwells in Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
Psalm 146:1 — Hallelujah! My soul, praise Yahweh.
Psalm 146:10 — Yahweh reigns forever; Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!
Psalm 147:1 — Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely.
Psalm 147:20 — He has not done this for any nation; they do not know His judgments. Hallelujah!
Psalm 148:1 — Hallelujah! Praise Yahweh from the heavens; praise Him in the heights.
Psalm 148:14 — He has raised up a horn for His people, resulting in praise to all His godly ones, to the Israelites, the people close to Him. Hallelujah!
Psalm 149:1 — Hallelujah! Sing to Yahweh a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly.
Psalm 149:9 — carrying out the judgment decreed against them. This honor is for all His godly people. Hallelujah!
Psalm 150:1 — Hallelujah! Praise God in His sanctuary. Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Psalm 150:6 — Let everything that breathes praise Yahweh [a variation on “Hallelujah”]. Hallelujah!

 
New Testament:

Revelation 19:1 — After this I heard something like the loud voice of a vast multitude in heaven, saying: Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God,
Revelation 19:3 — A second time they said: Hallelujah! Her smoke ascends forever and ever!
Revelation 19:4 — Then the 24 elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who is seated on the throne, saying: Amen! Hallelujah!
Revelation 19:6 — Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying: Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign!

 
 


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ARTICLE © 2018, DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 
 

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Conspiring Against Yahweh and His Messiah

 

H E A D L I N E :
“The Rise of Xi Coincides with
Crackdown on Christian Worship in China”

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong,
Christian followers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically,
even as the country undergoes a religious revival.

(ASSOCIATED PRESS, IN MIAMI HERALD)

There is a documented hunger for (and a burgeoning of) the Christian faith inside China today. And that has become a most inconvenient truth for the country’s “President for Life” Xi Jinping. His actions against the Chinese Church are moving from harassment, to intimidation, and on to persecution, all in the name of collectivist, statist absolutism.

Chinese Christian funeral procession

(History tells us the Roman Emperors felt and acted the same way as Xi. Here we are, 2000 years later, and the worship of the God of the Bible has swept around the world. And where are the emperors? They remain with us merely as marble busts in museums. Is Xi doomed to repeat?)

Xi understands quite well that he will not be able to eliminate the worship of God, as he might wish. Christianity has, after all, been in China for over 1400 years now, and his “glorious” Revolution isn’t even 70 years old. From his position of power, therefore, his plan appears to be to force Christianity to incorporate and teach his own set of values — “Christianity with Chinese Characteristics,” it has been called.

Xi and the Burning Crosses

Xi Jinping and the Destruction of Crosses

These dubious values include forcing the Church to embrace and teach abject loyalty to the Communist Party and its leaders. As anyone who has even thumbed through a Bible must realize, this type of overt politicization of Christianity is absurd and heretical. “Rendering unto Caesar” [Matthew 22:21] is one thing, and our command to be “in subjection to the governing authorities” [Romans 13:1] is similar to it. But if Xi were successful in his goals, and the Chinese Church became merely a minor Ministry of Jesus with Chinese Characteristics, the resulting new religion would clearly not be Christianity anymore. Nevertheless, Xi’s elevation to “lifetime power” and his jingoistic chauvinism have deluded him into thinking that he and his comrades can successfully “conspire together against the LORD and His Anointed One” [Psalms 2:2]

ChinaAid is a highly respected international not-for-profit organization, committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China. Their leaders have called the existing and proposed regulations on religious affairs in China “the harshest and most strict policy on controlling religions and religious affairs since the time of Cultural Revolution.” Here are a few of the persecutions currently being inflicted upon Chinese Christians:

  • Teachers and soldiers are forbidden to become Christians.
  • It is illegal in China to give children a religious education, or in any other way to “indoctrinate minors with superstitious beliefs.”
  • Priests are forbidden to pray for the sick and dying in hospitals, and patients are not allowed to pray or read the Bible.
  • These are all against the law: “organizing citizens to attend religious trainings, conferences and activities abroad”; “preaching, organizing religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools”; and “providing religious services through the internet.”
  • Christians are banned from traveling abroad for religious purposes, and they are forbidden from taking teaching positions outside the country.
  • Chinese authorities raid a worship service

    Chinese authorities raid a worship service

    There are strict bans against the wave of underground churches which are thriving throughout the country. Raids on these churches have brought hundreds of arrests and imprisonments. Witnesses described one female church official being pushed into the back of a patrol car, being slapped across her face, and being grabbed by the scruff of her neck.
  • Local governments have been given the authority to close down and demolish places of worship, on the flimsiest of charges, with the result of numerous churches being bulldozed and crosses torn down. (See photo at bottom of this article.)

According to ChinaAid, for Christians in China, there is “no legal room for the existence of the house churches and Bible reading as well as prayer meetings without explicitly being approved by the Chinese Communist Party-controlled patriotic associations and religious affairs bureaus.”

And as if all of the above restrictions on people and their activities weren’t enough, a recent order from the Central Government threatened that “if unregistered churches are not willing to be managed by the government or guided by China Christian Council, the government shall guide and transform their thoughts.” This new trend of taking a hard line on “extreme religious thoughts” and “external influences” conjures images of “thought police” and inquisitions.

Our Lady of China painting by Chu Kar Kui

Our Lady of China painting by Chu KarKui

And it’s being sold to the Chinese people and the world in the (seemingly) harmless name of “Christianity with Chinese Characteristics.” Notice the beautiful modern painting (in an ancient style) of the Madonna and Child, dressed in Qing Dynasty robes — “Chinese characteristics” indeed. After all, in our art galleries we see that Western Renaissance artists painted Biblical characters wearing 16th-century clothing. Really, we nod knowingly, how bad can that be?

But, no, that’s not what Xi has in mind.

We saw something similar to what Xi has in mind four decades ago. In 1978, leader Deng Xiaoping recognized the need to allow markets to inspire and produce strong economic growth, as had happened universally in Free Market, Free Enterprise, Limited Government, Capitalist economies throughout the world. Unwilling to give up the centralized power and control that China’s brand of Communism afforded, Deng labeled his Western-style reforms “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” The markets worked, the Chinese economy took off, but Socialist-style central planning kept its thumb firmly on the process.

The tyrant’s creed: If you cannot defeat it, change how you name it, and fight heresy as you define it.

God will, of course, dispense His grace and implement His plan anywhere He wills (Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:15). But you must understand that the current leadership in China fears Christianity, which teaches that God deserves His followers’ highest loyalty and most fervent worship — above and beyond any human or humanistic governmental system. The Central Government will fight (with force) any and every effort for God’s truth to be preached and believed in China. We are seeing the beginning of a very hard and systemic tribulation for our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ.

Follow this in the press, discuss it with your pastors, and pray for the Christians’ protection from persecution in China.



Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily. (Hebrews 13:3)


Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)



 
As important in the overall scheme of things as Xi believes himself to be, 3000 years ago a writer of Psalms described people like him and foretold their fate perfectly. Here is Psalm 2, showing on the left side who is speaking in each section.

PSALM 2 (HCSB)

Psalmist: Why do the nations rebel and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against Yahweh and His Anointed One [Christ, the Messiah]:
Kings & Rulers: “Let us tear off their chains and free ourselves from their restraints.”
Psalmist: The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then He speaks to them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath:
God the Father: “I have consecrated My King on Zion, My holy mountain.”
Messiah: I will declare Yahweh’s decree: He said to Me,
God the Father: “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; You will shatter them like pottery.”
Psalmist: So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. Serve Yahweh with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling. Pay homage to the Son or He will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for His anger may ignite at any moment. All those who take refuge in Him are happy.

Destruction of Chinese Christian Church


SOURCES:
ChinaAid.org
Mansfield, Katie, “Chinese government shuts down underground churches to ‘transform thoughts’ of Christians”, 28 August 2016
Mansfield, Katie, “China launches ‘religious winter’ in bid to destroy Christianity in fierce crackdown”, 30 September 2016
Mansfield, Katie, “Christians fightback as China wages war to destroy Christianity and wipe out religion”, 8 October 2016
Wang Yanan, “Christian heartland opens window into fight for China’s soul”, 7 August, 2018
 
PHOTO CREDITS:
(PROCESSION) PETER PARKS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
(CROSSES) DAILY AND SUNDAY EXPRESS/GETTY IMAGES
(POLICE RAID) CURRENT NEWS, DAILY CATHOLIC NEWS
(MADONNA AND CHILD) CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR, BEIJING
(CHURCH DESCRUCTION) CHINA-AID

 
 

ARTICLE © 2018, DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

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