Recently I attended a local public high school choir and symphony presentation. Much to my surprise they began with George Frederic Handel’s song Hallelujah or as it has come to be known The Hallelujah Chorus.
Because of my own music background and having sung the Messiah at least once in my life and listening to others sing it I was acquainted with the story of Handel’s life and the writing of this massive musical work. It is customary when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung to stand and I wondered if that was going to happen at this school concert.
It was fascinating to watch as a few of us in the back stood and then others began to stand until most were standing. Close to me two guys stood but looked at each other with a shrug and a questioning look as to why we were standing.
It made me think that maybe someone should insert a few words about the deeply spiritual work that Handel left our world. So I will depart from my chronicle of brokenness to share this story. . .
In 1741, Handel was deeply in debt and suffering from depression as he worked on the Messiah Oratorio. He completed this amazing work in 24 days. Despite his financial and mental state Handel was deeply touched by this encounter with God as he wrote. It is said that his assistant walked into his room one day and found Handel in tears. Handel held up the manuscript and said, “I’ve seen the face of God.”
The lyrics in the Hallelujah Chorus are derived from three scriptures in particular. They are Revelation 11:15, 19:6 and 19:16. Revelation 19:6 says, “6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! In Revelation 11:15 we find these words, “ Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms[f] of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And of course these classic words from Revelation 19:16, “16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Handel dedicated this massive work by signing the original manuscript. At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters “SDG” — Soli Deo Gloria“To God alone the glory”.
Why do we stand when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung? Because at its London debut with King George II in attendance legend has it that the King stood moved by the words to this crowning and celebratory song. This is not necessarily considered factual but is anecdotal and has prompted generations of people to stand at the singing of this profound work.
And so last Friday, I stood. I stood but really these days I want to lay flat on my face and worship the Jesus that hasn’t walked away from me or kicked me while I was down. His love never fails. It never runs out and it never gives up on me. He is my hope. He is the one that gives me strength every day. King of kings and Lord of lords, thanks for coming that whosoever will may not perish but have everlasting life.