Archive for January, 2007
I’ve recently begun going through a book & DVD study entitled “In the Dust of the Rabbi“, written by Ray Vander Laan, with a few of my friends. I became interested in Ray Vander Laan’s work through my reading of Rob Bell’s book, “Velvet Elvis.”
It was Rob’s suggestion that there was so much more to the Bible than what we can understand without knowledge of historical and cultural events from Jesus’ days on the earth. Our limited knowledge of such things only gives us surface information about the meanings behind the Scriptures.
So, we’re reading the book. And it’s very good so far.
One of the things that keeps coming to mind lately as I choose songs for worship each week is how the language of many of the praise songs we sing (many of which come directly from Scripture) is foreign to our culture today. There are phrases and words used in the songs that we only use when we sing praise songs. Words such as hosanna, hallelujah really aren’t used in conversations today.
So, what do they mean? How can we sing them and mean them if we don’t understand the meaning behind them?
I did a little digging and here’s what I found about the word Hallelujah –
This famous exclamation of joy stems from the word halal, plus the particle u, meaning ‘and’ or ‘with’, and jah, which is short for Yahweh, the Name of God. The verb halal means ‘to shine,’ and since the people of Biblical times did not have flashlights, this verb is most often ascribed to stars. This makes Daniel 12:3 even more interesting than it already was.
Hallelujah means: shine with God!
But wait! There’s even more. I found a further explanation (below) on an interesting website written by Jewish Rabbis:
Hallelujah is a remarkable word. In the Bible, it appears only in the book of Psalms; yet this exuberant exclamation of joy and gratitude has survived the passage of centuries, transcending the barriers of language and culture. What exactly does it mean? According to the Talmud, Hallelujah is the most sublime expression of God’s praise, combining together in one word both praise (hallel) and God’s Name (the two-letter Name ‘Ya-H’). Yet Hallelujah does not appear throughout the book of Psalms. It is only used in the last third of the book, starting with chapter 104
“Let sin be finished from the earth, and evil be no more. My soul will bless God, Hallelujah!” [Ps. 104:35]
What is special about this particular verse, that it contains the very first usage of the word Hallelujah? The Sages noted that the theme of this verse is the destruction of evil. King David, they explained, only began employing this declaration of God’s praise after he witnessed the downfall of the wicked.
- In what way does Hallelujah relate to the downfall of the wicked?
- Why does it contain the short, two-letter Name of God, and not the full Name of God (consisting of four letters), which is more commonly used?
We need first to determine the inner meaning of the Name ‘Ya-H’. This Name for God appears in the Torah after Amalek’s unprovoked attack on the Jews, as they left Egypt. God took an oath, as it were, “upon the throne of Ya-H, a war against Amalek throughout the generations” [Ex 17:16]. The Sages explained that as long as evil exists in the world – as long as Amalek has not been destroyed -God’s Name is incomplete, containing only two letters.
Thus the Name ‘Ya-H’ refers to the state in which the world is not yet perfected. As long as there is room for evil and violence in the world, God’s rule is incomplete. God’s full Name belongs to the era in which the corrupted spirit will be destroyed, evil will dissipate like smoke, and all will acknowledge and praise God with His complete Name.
The most elevated praise, combining God’s praise with His full Name, belongs to a future time. But the praise of Hallelujah reflects a sublime form of praise suitable for our days.
If we can raise our sights and understand the purpose of evil, if we can grasp that a world in which evil existed and was subsequently overcome is greater than one in which evil never played a part, then we can honestly combine God’s praise with the Name ‘Ya-H’. This combination indicates that we recognize the value of a world in which corruption is allowed to exist. Hallelujah is an expression of this lofty outlook, acknowledging God’s praise in an incomplete world.
King David succeeded in reaching this level when he witnessed the fall of the wicked. “Let sin be finished and evil be no more.” He understood the role of the wicked and their downfall, and at that point was able to call out: Hallelujah!
You see? There’s so much more to the word than just a way of saying, “Yeah, God!” The next time you find yourself singing this word, it will be less unfamiliar. Now you can worship Him better. The enemy has been defeated! Praise God! Hallelujah!
It first happened when I read a book entitled “Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning. I highly recommend this book. In it, I read a line that changed my prayer life. I can’t quote it exactly because I gave away the book with all my highlights, but it was something about instead of praying for wisdom and guidence, pray for trust.
As I have mentioned I’m working my way through Rob Bell’s book “Velvet Elvis.” In my second or third reading of these particular pages, it really stuck. I knew there was something buried in here so I kept reading it. It’s about this issue of trust and how it can transform our lives:
The remaking of this world is why Jesus’ first messages began with “T’shuva, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt 4:17)
The hebrew word t’shuva means “to return”. Return to the people we were orignally create to be. The people God is remaking us into.
God makes us in his image. We reflect the beauty and creativity and wonder of the God who made us. And Jesus calls us to return to our true selves. The pure, whole people God originally intended us to be, before we veered off course.
Somewhere in you is the you whom you were made to be.
We need you to be you.
We don’t need a second anyody. We need the first you.
The problem is that the image of God is deeply scarred in each of us, and we lose trust in God’s version of our story. It seems too good to be true. And so we go searching for identity. We achieve and we push and we perform and we shop and we work out and we accomplishy great things, longing to repair the image. Longing to find an identity that feels right.
Longing to be comfortable in our own skin.
But the thing we are searching for is not somewhere else. It is right here. And we can only find it when we give up the search, when we surrender, when we trust. Trust that God is already putting us back together.
Trust that through dying to the old, the new can give birth.
Trust that Jesus can repair the scarred and broken image.
It is trusting that I am loved. That I always have been. That I always will be. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to prove anything or achieve anything or accomplish one more thing. That exactly as I am, I am totally accepted, forgiven, and there is nothing I could ever do to lose this acceptance. (see Romans 8:37-39)
God knew exactly what he was doing when he made you. There are no accidents. We need you to embrace your true identity, who you are in Christ, letting this new awarness transform your life.
That is what Jesus has in mind
That is what brings heaven to earth.
One of the things I love about my church (BridgePoint Church in St. Petersburg, FL) is how we emphasize being and not doing. We have a saying on posters, bulletins, on stage, everywhere you turn. It says, “It’s never too late to become who you were meant to be.”
The encouragement today is pray for God to increase your trust. Trust that he has come to be near you – just like you are with your flaws and shortcomings, your talents and your strengths. Let this sink in and transform you.
Not sure if you’re aware, but I write music reviews for Nappaland.com, a FREE Internet magazine for families. This month, I reviewed John Reuben’s new Word of Mouth CD and Phil Keaggy’s upcoming release, Dream Again.
Click on the tab above labeled “Music Reviews” to check them out, along with others I’ve written recently.