Maybe “Hallelujah” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does, Leonard Cohen

I’ve never been one of those people who chooses a “word for the year,” but for some reason, I felt compelled to pick a word for this next year. I chose the word, “hallelujah.” Why? Initially, I really wasn’t sure.

One of my most notable exposures to the word “hallelujah,”  has been through the eponymous (you can thank my sister for suggesting that big word; I had to look it up)  song by Leonard Cohen (RIP). Cohen’s “Hallelujah” song has been recorded over 100 times (shameful/shameless plug: I covered it once too, in my more youthful days of off key singing and playing). Insane! When I first heard it during Shrek (like most people), I didn’t really understand what the word, “hallelujah” meant. I just thought it was a sad word because it was playing during a sad part of the movie (makes sense, right?). Nevertheless, I really liked it and always have.

Perhaps my fascination with Cohen’s song is what led me to pick “hallelujah” as my word for 2017. Naturally, after making this decision, I thought that it would probably be a good idea to learn what the word actually means. Well, thanks to the magic of the interweb, as well as the wisdom of PDK, I did learn.

“Hallelujah” is actually a derivative of two Hebrew words; “hallel” (הלל), which means “praise,” and “Yah” (יָהּ), which means “God.” Together, the two words mean, “praise God.” We don’t see the word “Yah” in the English word, “hallelujah” because we used the word, “jah,” instead (“jah” is simply an Anglo translation of “Yah”). I’m not sure where the “u” comes into play so don’t ask.

After I had learned  what “hallelujah” meant, I realized why I picked it.

I’ve come to realize that we have two choices in this life; we can either choose to live our lives in a way that brings glory to God or not (Matthew 6:19-24). That’s pretty much it. For those of us who follow Christ, we are called to use whatever we say and do to glorify God. Why? Because He ransomed us to do so (1 Thessalonians 5:5-10). In Christ, I no longer live to further the name of “Tobi.” I live to further the name of Jesus (Galatians 2:20). Doing so allows me to be a part of God’s greater plan of bringing salvation to the world (Matthew 28:19-20). I could go on and on, but I kinda already did.

Pretty neat, right? Well, to be honest, I constantly forget this truth. Too often I allow a demeaning joke or selfish activity to slip through the cracks of my consciousness as I claim, “I’m only human.” While that’s not an incorrect statement at all, I am only human and as such will always/often make mistakes, I’m not trying to make mistakes. I’m striving to a life that reflects the my salvation; dead to myself but alive in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). He lived a sinless life so that I may stand sinless before God (Colossians 1:21-22). I’m striving to take every thought, action and word captive so that everything in my life points back to the One who claimed me. Jesus didn’t just die on the cross so that I could live my life without fear of death. He died so that I could live differently so that is what I must do.

Now, there is grace and I don’t mean that as a cop-out. The Bible affirms that we are saved by grace through faith meaning that our mistakes and shortcomings do not nix the cross of Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). His death payed the penalty of our sins once and for all (Romans 6:8-10). That being said, I believe that God’s grace shown for us through sending His Son to die for us, though we don’t deserve it, should inspire us to live differently. So that’s what I’m trying to do. 

As I look towards the start of a new year, I am praying and striving to make everything in my life a “hallelujah.” Whether I’m at church or home, with friends or strangers, in plenty or need, in sickness or health, may everything and every part of me reflect the glorious goodness of my God and King.

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