hen Robert Ingersol, the noted agnostic, died, his funeral notice read: “There will be no singing at the funeral.” There was nothing to sing about.
How different was my experience at the funeral of one of our parishioners who died of cancer in her mid-40s. In spite of her illness, she possessed a vibrant faith that she shared openly and freely with everyone she met. On the day of her funeral, her husband shared how inspired he had been by her faith.
He said, “Often I would sit next to her in church, knowing she was in tremendous pain. Yet, as the congregation sang, she would lift up her voice and give glory to God.” Then he added, “She had peace in the midst of her pain.”
Perhaps the most distinguishing mark of the people of God is our praise. C. S. Lewis said, “Praise is inner health made audible.”
The word praise appears 200 times in Scripture. While the Hebrew Old Testament uses some 50 different words for praise, the most frequent is halal (99 times), meaning “to boast, to laud, to make show, to celebrate.” Add the suffix jah (pronounced yah, for the name of God, Yahweh), and we have the premier word for praise, hallelujah, meaning “praise the Lord.”
The word hallelujah appears only four times in the New Testament . . . and all in Revelation 19. In fact, there are more references to praise in the Revelation than any other book in the Bible except the Psalms. This means Revelation is the hymnal of the New Testament.
Take a minute and look at the series of songs and shouts of praise that God has woven throughout the Revelation:
- The song of the angels (5:1-2)
- The song of the elders, saints, and all created beings (4:8-11)
- The new song of the redeemed (5:9-10)
- The song of the great multitude in heaven (7:9-10)
- The heavenly praise announcing the defeat of the devil (12:10-12)
- The praise of the seventh trumpet declaring, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (11:15 NIV)
- The special song of the 144,000 (14:1-5)
- The victorious church singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (15:1-4).
The crescendo of the praise reaches its climax in “Heaven’s Hallelujah Chorus” in Revelation 19:
I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous.” . . .
Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns” (v. 1-2, 6 NASB).
What a paradox—the book that unfolds the terrible future and the judgments of God is a book of praise. Let these words reverberate in your mind until they become a part of your nature: “Let us be glad and rejoice” (19:7).
When 57-year-old George Frederick Handel wrote The Messiah in 1741, he was battling depression, in debt, and feeling hopeless. One day a minor poet named Charles Jenners delivered to Handel a collection of Biblical excerpts titled A Sacred Oratorio.
As he read it, Handel began to identify with the sufferings of the Messiah. The Spirit of the Lord touched his heart as he began to read words which lifted his eyes to behold the greatness of God: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever!”
With divine inspiration, Handel began to compose a musical score to the lyrics. In seclusion for 24 days, he was so overwhelmed with joy that he sometimes jumped to his feet and shouted, “Hallelujah!”
Later, when someone asked how he came to compose The Messiah in a mere 24 days, he said, “I saw heaven opened before me and God Almighty seated on His glorious throne.”
This is exactly what we need—to see the glorious throne of the Sovereign Lord and shout triumphantly, “Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!”