Hallelujah

Here’s a confession. I don’t know what the word hallelujah actually means. I’ve encountered it in the Bible a few times, but my main exposure to the word is in praise and worship music. As someone who is deeply involved in praise and worship music, from playing it as part of the worship team at church to listening to it at home, I’m familiar with hallelujah, but I don’t actually know the definition of the word. Let me say before I delve into this deeper, that I have assigned my own special meaning to the word. I want to get this written before I do any study, because I’m curious if my innate feelings about the meaning of hallelujah are anywhere close to the actual meaning. To me, hallelujah is a special cry to the Lord. It’s a word that encompasses many meanings. A word that conveys praise, glory, and honor to God. A word that expresses thanksgiving to God. Whenever I sing the word hallelujah, that’s what it means to me. Let’s see what it actually means.

The two definitions that the trusty internet bounced back are “God be praised” and “an utterance expressing worship or rejoicing.” It seems that my personal meaning for the word was dead on, which is pretty cool.

What’s funny is, when I started writing about this I didn’t really know what direction it was going in. It started out of a curiosity as to what the word really meant. But as I’ve started writing, I really feel lead towards an actual point (thank goodness, right?). God knows what’s in our heart. I’m not going to lie, there have been times during worship when I sang out hallelujah that I felt like a bit of a fraud. Here I was, belting out this word to God, but I had no actual grasp on what that word meant. That didn’t happen all the time. Sometimes I was so lost in worship that hallelujah just came spilling out and I didn’t slow down to question what it meant. But there were times when singing it derailed my worship. It would pull me out of my state of worship, pull me out of the song, and send my mind down a negative path. Instead of focusing on praising God I’d stand there and start doubting myself and my own sincerity.

But here’s the thing. God knows my heart. He knows my inner most thoughts. He’s always known the spirit with which I sang hallelujah, the meaning it held to me, and the way I meant it. There are a lot of verses in the Bible about this very thing, but here’s one of my favorites. This is Jesus talking in the following verses.

Luke 16:14-15 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

On several occasions Jesus was able to look beyond words and discern the spirit behind them. He didn’t just hear the words, He knew the hearts of those speaking. This holds true today. If I tell someone “good luck with the interview” while secretly hoping they fail, God knows my heart. You can’t fast talk God, nor can you hide your true intentions from him. And while yes, this serves as a great warning to anyone who lies or is fraudulent in any part of their lives, it also serves as a great comfort. And it’s that great comfort that I feel lead to talk about today.

In the past, when I would be lost in worship, and a song would include the word hallelujah, and I would just belt it out despite the fact that I didn’t know exactly what it meant, God knew my intention. He knew that in my heart, that word meant I was praising Him, that I was giving Him glory and honor. But I want to take this beyond the word hallelujah. There are people who are smarter than me. There are people who are more well spoken than I am. Sometimes, you can find yourself being intimidated by this. If I see a hugely charismatic guy that looks like a male model get up and share the gospel of Christ in a way that’s so eloquent that it moves the room to tears, there’s a chance that it may inspire a feeling of doubt in me. A feeling that I don’t measure up. I’m not a confident public speaker, and I’m most certainly not a male model. If I tried to do what that person did, I may not be able to do it as well as he did. I wouldn’t be as charismatic, wouldn’t have the beautiful speech that brought people to tears, and I wouldn’t have been as easy on the eyes as the first guy was. But guess what? God would know my heart in that situation. He would know if I gave it my all, if the words of my lips matched the truths of my heart.

In life, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. This can happen in the church, too. Maybe you see people who appear to be praying harder than you, worshiping deeper than you, making more trips up to the offering bucket than you. But our relationship with God isn’t about what those around us are doing, it’s about two people, you and God. As hard as it can be, we have to pull our eyes off of people and fix them on God. It’s about you and Him. My worries of feeling like a fraud when I used to sing the word hallelujah robbed me of worship opportunities. I let my worries break my spirit of worship, to pull me out of my special moments with God. And the dumbest part is that I had the meaning of the word correct! It was simply my own fears and inadequacies that were coming against me. There wasn’t someone somewhere in the church judging me from afar, thinking to themselves “I bet that boy doesn’t even know what hallelujah means.” And even if there was that person, so what! I’m not responsible for their heart, I’m responsible for my own. If they’re at church judging those around them then that’s an issue in their own life, that has nothing to do with me.

So I want to close out by saying two things. First, I want to encourage you to always be working on your relationship with God. Wherever you are with Him, I want so badly for you to go deeper. I want it so badly for myself, too. Our relationship with God is just that, an actual relationship. That means it requires time and sacrifice. We get to know Him by spending time with Him, in prayer and in the reading of the Bible. How well do you know people that you spend little to no time with? It’s the same with God. He is in His word, He is there with us when we pray, He is present when we worship Him. We have all of these chances to spend time with Him and to get to know Him and understand Him better. Why aren’t we taking those chances? Why are we letting days slip by when we aren’t taking advantage of all these opportunities to spend time with God?

Lastly, I want you to be encouraged that God knows our hearts. Just because I’m not as talented as the other bass player at my church doesn’t make me a pretender. God knows the heart of this musician, He knows why I play for Him, He knows what it means to me to be a part of the worship team, and He knows how much effort and practice I put in to keep getting better. Just because you’re not an eloquent speaker doesn’t lessen the importance or impact of the words you shared with a friend about God. By worrying about what others think of us we’re actually sitting in constant judgment of ourselves. Chances are nobody out there is judging us, but we can get so worried about it that it doesn’t even matter because we’ve become the critical, negative, always in session court that judges our own life. It’s time to put a stop to that. Be genuine with people, be loving. Do your best and constantly work to make improvements to your best. I did the best I could talking with a friend yesterday morning about the Bible, and today I’m going to study more so my best in that category gets even better. Trust that God knows your heart, that He’s in your corner, that He’s cheering us on. We are running this race of life, and He is our father, cheering us on.

God knows our hearts. That’s not condemnation. If you know He sees something in there that’s not how it should be, then pray about it. Work on it. Delight in the idea of getting your heart clean and pure so that when God looks there He’s pleased with all that He sees.

There’s a beautiful Bible verse that I think closes out this subject perfectly.

Psalm 132:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

PRAYER AND CLOSING

Father God, on this day I come before you full of thankfulness that you love me.  Those who don’t know you see you as this judge who stands tall, condemning our every mistake.  You are the god of right and wrong, that’s true, but you love us so much.  You’re not my condemner, you are my uplifter.  Search my heart today, God.  I know it’s not a perfect heart, and I ask right now that those areas that need work that you would guide me.  Lead me to a better way, help me rid myself of any qualities or attitudes or behaviors that run contrary to you.  Father, all I want in me is you, because you are the truest and most absolute form of good and love that exists. I want your heart, Lord, and whatever changes I need to make to get there I ask right now that you start making those changes in me right away.  Father God, right now I ask that you break the spirit of condemnation that so many of your people have built up in our own minds.  We’re so worried about the possibility of others judging us that we’ve become our own ruthless judges.  Father, I ask that you break that right now.  In the name of Jesus, I pray that this judgmental spirit is broken in the lives of all the people I know.  Lord, free us from ourselves.  I pray right now that anyone who stopped going to church because they’re worried about their appearance will be freed from that.  I fell into this category for over a year, hesitant to go to church for fear I would be judged by others.  It robbed me of time with you, Lord, and I don’t want that for anyone else.  So I ask right now that you break anything that is stopping people from coming to your house and engaging with other believers.  Any fears of judgment, any self judgment, I pray right now that you break it.  Free us from ourselves, allow us to focus on what really matters, our relationship with you.  I love the way you move in people’s lives, Lord.  I was moved to tears in church yesterday by the way you brought more people to you, the obvious touch of your love upon the lives of those who came forward for you.  Thank you that you are a God who does such things, a God of love who is constantly drawing in His children, showing them how much they are loved and taken care of.  Thank you for loving me and taking care of me.  I pray all these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

Well, I know I got a little wordy today but I was just feeling God’s love and had to share it.  I love all of you out there and I hope this week is off to an incredible start for you.  Spend time with our Lord this week, make Him a priority.  It’s a decision that you will never regret.

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