But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. ~ Acts 16:25-26, NASB
Hallelujah. We hear the word a lot, especially at church or in Christmas carols. On TV, televangelists use the word almost as often as the word 'and' is used in daily conversation. We ourselves may even use the word a lot. I read that in our modern world's vernacular, 'Hallelujah' is most often used to express great happiness that something one has been hoping or waiting for has finally come to pass, and doesn't necessarily indicate the religious belief or faith of the person using the word.
In the Bible, the word Hallelujah occurs often, mainly in Psalms and several times in Revelation, and is said to be a request for a congregation to join together in praise towards God. It can be translated as "Praise God" or "Praise Yahweh, you people," and is usually worded in English contexts as "Praise the Lord."
For most of us who are followers of Christ, Hallelujah is considered a joyful word of praise to God, rather than an injuction to praise Him.
And when are we to praise God? All the time. Not only in those times that we deem God as being 'good.' You know...when we have no problem chanting in church or to other people that "God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good." When everything in our life seems to be going our way.
But we're also called to 'praise the LORD' in those times when, if we're totally honest with ourselves, God doesn't seem so good. In those harsh, dark, lonely and frightening times when God 'seems' to have forgotten about us and He 'seems' to be busy with other, more important things or people; those times we're left feeling like a scared puppy that someone has abandoned along the side of a road less traveled.
But that's just a lie of the enemy, a lie he delights in force feeding us until we're ready to choke, leaving us unable to utter a syllable of praise. Because God IS good...all the time. Our circumstances and situations may change, but God's character does not. So no matter what, God is worthy of our praises.
I'm sure you've heard it said, as I have, that God inhabits the praises of His people. This is actually biblical, coming from Psalm 22:3 ~ But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. We may not be Israelites, but we are still God's people, His dearly loved and chosen children. So to me, this verse means that when we praise Him, no matter what we're going through or dealing with, He is right there with us. In our good times and our bad times, God is as close as our breath -- the breath that joyfully shouts or the breath that tearfully whispers, 'Hallelujah!'
Today's song by Heather Williams is a beautiful testimony to that. I did a little research on Heather and her song. She didn't grow up in a loving, Christian home. She grew up in an environment of extreme poverty and physical, verbal and emotional abuse. She became involved in alcohol and drug use, and she was homeless for a time. She gave her life to Jesus when she was about 18 years old after living such a harsh and wild life, a life in which she openly admits that she cursed God, boldly told Him she hated Him on a regular basis, and blamed Him for every awful thing that happened to her. But one day, at a church service she attended with her birth father, she heard God speak to her heart, inviting her to 'come as you are.' And all she could say to Him right then was, 'Forgive me!'
Not long afterwards, she met the man that is now her husband. They were married for seven years before they were finally able to have a baby, their son, Caedmen. But Caedmen had a heart condition and died when he was only 6 months old . About a year after Caedmen's death, Heather tells the story of sitting down on the floor of her home one day, guitar in hand, and was moved to begin composing this song. She asked Jesus to show up, right where she was.....and He did, in a powerful and awesome way.
This song is so very special to Heather and she shares that the cry of this song, her Hallelujah, is that even in that place on the floor with her guitar, remembering her beloved son and crying out in a blubbering mess, she still chose to say Hallelujah; she still chose to say to the Lord, "I love You," and she still chose to glorify Him.
Paul and Silas, after having their robes torn from them in public, beaten with rods by an angry crowd and then thrown into prison with their feet fastened together in stocks, chose to do the same, singing praises to God and glorifying Him in song, despite their horrible and seemingly hopeless circumstances. And didn't God show up, right where they were, in a powerful and awesome way, setting free Paul, Silas and the other prisoners from their chains.
Today, what are those horrible and seemingly hopeless circumstances that have you imprisoned? Are you afraid or anxious? Are you discouraged or depressed? Are you financially broke or spiritually broken? Are you grieving the loss of someone or something?
Whatever it is, in spite of it all, it is my hope that as you listen to this song, you'll still choose to sing out "Hallelujah!!" Still choose to tell God, "I love You!" Still choose to glorify Him.
Let your own Hallelujah invite God to show up right where you are and to set you free.