READ: Psalm 116 & 117
THINK: Both of these psalms end with the expression “Praise the LORD!” In the original Hebrew, that phrase is actually just one word and it’s a word we are all familiar with: hallelujah!
Hallelujah. It’s one of the only words that you could speak almost anywhere in the world – in any language or any culture – and be understood, and it’s etymology is pretty interesting. It is actually a compound word. The first part is the 2nd person, plural, imperative of the verb hallel – which means that is a command to a group of people…basically “you guys all hallel.” Hallel means praise. But it’s way deeper than that, or way bigger. It isn’t just a faint praise or a halfhearted praise – like the kind I give my 3 year old when he’s really proud that he helped me clean up because he picked up a grand total of 3 of the 213 Crayons that he dumped all over the floor. Instead it is this huge, overwhelmed, boastful, outrageous, overflowing sense of worshipful praise. Hallel = All of you guys totally give yourselves to crazy praise.
The second part is Yah. This is the object of the praise. In Hebrew, the name for God – translated LORD in all-caps throughout the Old Testament – is Yahweh. Because of their immense respect for God’s holiness and their love for him, the Hebrews refused to ever speak his name. They simply represented it with the 4 Hebrew letters that made it up – yod, he, waw, he – and said Adonai or Hashem (Lord or The Name) whenever they were reading and came across it. So, to honor God by not speaking his full name, they shortened it to Yah when making the word hallelujah.
The emphasis is clear – both in these Psalms and everywhere else that we hear the word hallelujah. Whenever there is something so incredible, so amazing, so unbelievable that it must be celebrated with effusive praise and excitement then there can be but one singular object of that praise: God. Every good and perfect gift comes from he. He is the source of our joy and our hope. He is the one worth boasting in and worshipfully praising with all that we’ve got! Hallelujah! Everybody praise the one, true God!
PRAY: Join with believers all over the world in echoing this one simple phrase of worship and praise for the God who is worthy of it all: Hallelujah! If you have a few minutes, listen to your favorite song with the word hallelujah in it and use that song to worship. This one is my favorite.*
*Alleluia is the Greek transliteration – sounding out and spelling a foreign word without translating it – of Hallelujah. Greek doesn’t have a letter that makes an “H” sound.