Helping You Sing “Hallelujah” with True Exuberance

Helping You Sing “Hallelujah” with True Exuberance

The English word “hallelujah” is a transliteration of two Hebrew words, "hallelu" and "jah". The first word, "hallelu", is the second person imperative of “praise.” The second word, "jah," is the short form of "Jahweh" (or "Yahweh").

So when we say, “Hallelujah!” we are exhorting others (people and angels) to join us in praising Yahweh.

What gives a punch to my singing, “Hallelujah,” is that Jah (= Yahweh) is not a generic word for God, but the personal name of the God of Israel.

To shout, "Hallelu Jah!" — "Praise Jah" — is like standing in the council of the gods and boldly saying, “Not to you, Molech!” “Not to you, Baal!” “Not to you, Dagon!” “Not to you, Artemis!” “Not to you, Zeus!” But to Jah, and Jah alone, I give praise. And I call you to join me! Praise Jah!

And not only is Jah God’s personal name, but it is the one he gave himself to distinguish himself from all the gods. And it is thrilling in meaning.

When Moses asked God what name he should use to identify God in Egypt, God said, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).

The name Yahweh is built on the words “I am”. So God put his absolute, transcendent, self-sufficient being at the center of his identity. “All the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but Yahweh made the heavens” (Psalm 96:5).

So, the next time you sing “Hallelujah” pause for a split second between “hallelu” and “Jah” and say it like a name. We praise you . . . Jah! You are above all gods . . . Jah! Join me, all you heavenly hosts, and praise . . . Jah! He is! He simply, eternally, absolutely, independently, gloriously Is! Hallelu . . . Jah!

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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.