According to tradition, one stands when the song is played. It has been that way for hundreds of years. When the song is played, you stand. Or at least that’s the way it used to be. In recent years, the tradition has declined. One woman told of going to a concert and when the song was played, she stood up, only to be asked a little while later to sit down because they couldn’t see the stage. Another woman mentioned that when she heard the song played at church and sung by the choir, she stood – and was the only one who stood. Those who still stand, bemoan the lack of respect or the ignorance of tradition from those who don’t stand. So, how did the tradition begin?
According to the story, King George II attended the first performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in 1742. As the notes for the Hallelujah Chorus rang out, King George stood and remained standing until the end of the song. Back in those days, when the king stood, everybody stood, and so the audience stood with him. The tradition has continued from those days. No one knows the exact reason why the king stood, there was no twitter for King George to explain his rationale. Of the many explanations offered, the one I like is probably least likely to be true: “The Hallelujah chorus clearly places Christ as the King of Kings. In standing, King George II accepts that he too is subject to the Lord of Lords.” The chorus, and the whole musical make it clear who the king of kings is, and, many of the words of this chorus come from this verse: “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’” (Revelation 11:15)
It seems like everyone gets so caught up in the details of the book of the Revelation that the miss the big picture. We argue about the trumpets, and the seals, and the bowl judgments. We discuss the beast and even the two witnesses mentioned earlier in the chapter. This verse is the big picture summary of the whole book. The world has become God’s kingdom. He is the one who rules. He is the one who reigns, and His reign will never end. I’m sure that some of John’s readers must have wondered if it was worth it to stay faithful to God in the midst of their persecution. Perhaps they had lost jobs, been deserted by friends, had seen friends or family members die or suffer because of their faith. Perhaps they were facing death themselves. The whole book of the Revelation is meant to encourage those who were dealing with persecution and remind them that in the end, God reigns over all.
In one of the most popular contemporary Christian songs of all time, “I Can Only Imagine,” the group Mercy Me describes their thoughts about meeting Jesus: “Will I stand in His presence, or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to sing at all?” When I finally come before Jesus, I don’t know if I’ll stand, kneel, or fall prostrate before Him. What I do know is that I will be worshiping the one who died for me. I will be celebrating God’s reign over this earth like He know reigns in heaven. I have not gone through the persecution the early believers went through. I have not gone through the persecution that believers in some areas of the world go through today. I can’t imagine what those people went through or are going through today. I do know that even though I love the Lord, I stray from my beliefs out of convenience. There will come that time when I will know, even as I am fully known; I will walk in His light and His presence and joyfully surrender all my sins so that my life will be pleasing to Him. He will reign forever and ever, Amen. Hallelujah!
Let me sing “Hallelujah!” with all those who will be in Heaven as we think about You reigning forever and ever.