What’s “Hallelujah” Sound Like?
By Addy Harper
My niece, River, turned 3-years-old this month. If you have children in your family, midst, or proximity, you know how much they alter the dynamic of the family. You may also experience the insightful, precious, humorous, and strange thoughts they eagerly express. River loves music, learning lyrics and rhythms easily; breaking into song and dance on the regular. We quickly learned that our youngest family member could absorb lyrics and ponder their meaning. On a couple different occasions, I was playing some worship music from my phone and of all the words River wondered about concerning the meaning, she inquired: “What’s hallelujah sound like?” My mom, who River calls ‘Grammy’, and I glanced at each other inquisitively. Grinning, as you do in response to children, we asked her to repeat herself. “What’s hallelujah sound like?” Well, I don’t know about you, but I had never considered the look, feel, or sound of hallelujah. I still can’t remember our response, but I could never shake her question.
River asked this question nearly every time a song played with “Hallelujah” in the chorus. It got me thinking about the word and where/how it was used in scripture. I opened my Bible and turned to the concordance. I was expecting to find chapter after chapter, verse after verse including the word hallelujah. I dragged my finger down the page and stopped when I came to the word, finding one passage underneath: Revelation 19. My heart thumped and I flipped to Revelation where I read about the end of the tribulation and Christ’s second coming. God’s people and heavenly hosts exclaimed hallelujah, which means “praise the Lord” (halal=praise, jah=Yahweh). This is the only place in the bible where the specific word “hallelujah” is used. Yes, there are some verses in the Psalms where “praise the Lord” is utilized, but in no other instance does someone shout, say, or whisper “hallelujah”. To my surprise, I felt disappointed. I wanted, almost wished, that the angels had sang the word the night Jesus was born or when water was turned to wine at the wedding where Jesus displayed his first miracle. When the Israelites made their way safely across the parted Red Sea would have been a good time. Or when the dove brought back an olive leaf, telling Noah and his family that the floodwaters had diminished.
However, I thought about how many times I had uttered the praise. Probably never? Maybe when I felt that the time was appropriate or to show I was relieved, glad, or thankful. I had truly only heard one person in my life say “hallelujah” regularly, and that is my Grandma Glory. My husband’s grandma gleams with praise whenever we are united. She will clap her hands together, raise them, and exclaim “hallelujah!” When I first took this in, it was peculiar to me, having never heard someone say this upon meeting, seeing, or talking with me. But as a grandparent, from what I have heard from some experienced ones, being in the presence of your grandchildren is about as ‘praise the Lord’ as you can get.
I wanted to tell my little niece all the times in the bible where God’s people shouted the word she wondered about and make some correlation to when it should be used or felt. But in reality, its utterance is saved until the end of time; the end of suffering, pain, sin, and separation from God. The sweetness of Him coming back and setting all things right, clapping his hands together, placing them on either side of our head, and ushering us home. The reunion of our Lord with His people sounds like a good time for, “Hallelujah”.