Tuesday, April 03, 2012

This Sunday, We'll Sing, "Alleluia!" and "Hallelujah!": What Are We Saying?

This coming Sunday--Easter--churches throughout much of the world will sing out, "Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!"

But what does Alleluia mean?

Alleluia is the Latin transliteration of what was originally a Hebrew word, Hallelujah.

Hallelujah literally means Praise Yah. It lifts up praise to Yahweh, or I AM, the Name by which God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).

To be able to speak God’s Name is a privilege, a special gift that should be kept holy (set apart), the name never used superfluously.

It's to guard the specialness of His Name that God gives the second commandment:

“You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless those who take His Name in vain"  (Exodus 20:7).

Because of the holiness of God’s Name, the ancient Jews were hesitant to use both syllables of the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses, lest they accidentally speak the Name in a vain (worthless) manner. So, instead of Halelu Yahweh, they sang, Hallelu Yah. (Some of my Jewish friends display this same reticence about misusing God's Name, when, in their correspondence with me, they refer to God as, "G--d.")

Jesus identified Himself as Yahweh in the flesh when He told His fellow Jews: “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).

The Name of Jesus is as holy as all the other names by which the Bible records that God has revealed Himself.

The second Bible lesson read in many churches last week, Philippians 2:5-11, tells us that, through Jesus’ faithful pursuit of the servant’s path and the cross, God the Father, “highly exalted [Jesus] and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

In Martin Luther’s Small Catechism explanation of the second commandment, he says: “We should fear and love God so that we do not use His Name superstitiously or to curse, swear, lie, or deceive, but call upon Him in every time of need, and worship Him with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.”

Easter is the greatest world event since the creation of the universe! Through it, God conquers sin and death for all who repent (turn from their sins) and believe in (surrender their lives to) Jesus. If anything God has done is worthy of offering prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, it’s Easter!