Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 25 (18): Hallelujah to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! - Scene 8 (44)




Scene 8 - "God's Triumph" 

44. Chorus

Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

The kingdom of this world is become 
the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; 
and He shall reign for ever and ever. 


(Revelation 19:6; 11:15; 19:16)


Revelation 19 & 11

Revelation, 19:6, 16 and 11:15 are all surrounded by one thing: Worship of Christ as King!

In His first coming, Jesus came as a Lamb sacrifice to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29); but when He reigns today and will come a second time, He will come as a Conqueror and King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16; 1 Timothy 6:15) and will execute judgment (2 Thessalonians. 1:7-10).

In context, Revelation 11 occurs at the sound of the seventh trumpet where Christ's reign is foreseen. Revelation 19 is that actual reign and comes on the heels of the whole world having worshiped the beast and the Antichrist. It is a definitive statement about Who is in charge with a fourfold hallelujah, worship, and the marriage supper of the Lamb with His Bride, the Church. 

Following this, Christ's comes on a white horse with a heavenly army. His robe is dipped in blood (Isaiah 63:2-3; Revelation 14:20), and He judges and wages war with the nations who gather to oppose Him ruling them with a "rod of iron" (see how Revelation 19:15 ties with Psalm 2:9 from the last scene). He comes with His heavenly army and "treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty." The earthly army is no match for God, and they are destroyed (rather gruesomely, I might add). The beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire, and Christ reigns forever. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. 


Calvin Stapert in Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People labels the "Hallelujah Chorus" as Scene 8, while most other references have it at the end of Scene 7. I asked Stapert about this, and here is his response:
I followed Jennens in labeling it Scene 8.  His wordbook of 1743 divides the Parts into Scenes by Roman numerals.  There's an [sic] VIII before the "Hallelujah Chorus."  Granted, it is unusual to call one chorus a scene by itself.  The normal pattern is to end a scene with a chorus.  But here Jennens clearly specified a chorus as a scene by itself.  (He also did it for the chorus, "Lift up your heads.")  I explain why I think he did so on p. 135:  "In the plan of Messiah, the 'Hallelujah Chorus' is not merely the culmination of a scene; it is a scene unto itself, the culmination of the entire Part II, indeed of the whole oratorio to this point." 
So true! It is the culmination! This is probably why it is the most familiar song in the whole oratorio (and makes me sob every time I hear it!

There is an anecdote that the King of England, George II, stood when this chorus was sung at the London performance in March of 1743, but it is based on a letter written many years later. So, we cannot be sure. 

Regardless of how it started, it is tradition for people to stand during this chorus, but former Boston Globe music critic, Michael Steinberg, commented that there is "a silent showdown between secularists who resolutely refuse to stand . . . and the traditionalists who rebuke them with looks of poison" (see entire article HERE). But how could anyone sit during this movement?

You can bet your boots that when I go to my first performance (yes, I have never been to one), I will STAND! 

December 2013 update: I went last Sunday night to a performance by the Portland Baroque Orchestra. I stood with tears in my eyes! I did not see anyone sitting either. 

How can you not stand? I have never been able to put into words what this part of the oratorio does to my soul, but I think Joseph E. McCabe has captured much of what is in my heart:

Through an everlasting mercy the trumpets do sound in the soul. The goodness and the kindness and the love which once we knew arouse as if from long sleep. Our finest nature comes forward, and we behold the true self like a long-lost friend. If not seized and cherished, the moment passes, and the soul returns to sleep again, to a long sleep. Your spiritual chance is in the finest moment. Lengthen it, nourish it, say to that nobility within you: “This is the person I can become.” For if you don’t, life will lull you to sleep again, smother you in convention again, choke you with success again, choke you to death, spiritually.

The burning desire to have the buried self be more and more your true self is the finest gift we can bring to Christ at Christmas. Let Messiah do its good work in the soul’s deep places, then rise in faith to that height you know as fact when the chorus calls you to worship him who is “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”

Handel’s Messiah: A Devotional Commentary, p. 87


Stand and worship God this Christmas morning as you listen to the "Hallelujah Chorus"! 

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