“Hallelujah.” Do you know what this word means? Like expressions such as “God bless” and “Lord willing,” the word hallelujah is part of a rich tradition of words that reflect the religious sentiments that underlie our culture, especially the culture of the Bible belt. Sadly, when many use the word today, they just mean “That’s good news” or “I’m really happy.” The reverent tone which was once used in saying this word has disappeared.

Hallelujah is from two Hebrew words: halal, to praise, and jah, a short from of Jehovah. It means “praise Jehovah.” When we sing the hymn “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah,” a song taken from Psalm 148, we are saying the same thing in two different languages. It may surprise you that the word as we spell it is not in the King James Version of the Bible. The closest to it is “Alleluia” in Revelation 19. Still, the idea of praising Jehovah is found throughout the Bible, especially in the book of Psalms.

It is good to say and sing with reverence the word Hallelujah because a new chant is beginning to take its place in parts of America. It is the sound of “Allahu Akbar.” This is an Arabic expression which means “Allah is great.” It is not a harmless way Muslims talk about their religion. The words “hallelujah” and  and “Allahu Akbar” are not two different ways of saying the same thing. These expressions point to two different concepts of God and two different moral codes. Tragically, many give as little thought to the meaning of the strange cry of “Allahu Akbar” as they give to the meaning of “Hallelujah.”

How many times is the cry of “Allahu Akbar” connected to savage attacks in the name of Islam? When Nidal Hasan murdered 13 people and injured over 30 at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, he shouted these words. When three men killed a British soldier with meat cleavers in broad daylight in London in 2013, they cried “Allahu Akbar.” When Muslims massacred dozens in Paris last year, they screamed these words. This is how barbaric Islam is. In the eyes of true Muslims, it is great when Jews, Christians, and other “infidels” are slaughtered. While Christians praise the Lord for His goodness, Muslims praise Allah for the hatred they have for those who are outside their religion.

Our society is changing. Our country has changed. But even though the word hallelujah doesn’t mean much to some, it should mean a great deal to us. Regardless of how much the world changes or how dangerous it gets, let us make the words of Psalm 146:1-2 our goal:

 “Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” Psalm 146:1-2

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