Summer in Song: Raise a Hallelujah

The song for this week will be a new one to most of you, I should think.  It was written at the beginning of 2019 by a couple called Jonathan and Melissa Helser from Bethel Music as a response to the illness of the son of a close friend.  

Here are the lyrics (and the link in blue for those who can receive this by email!).

I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me
I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee
I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery
I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me!

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

A few days before Christmas in 2017, Melissa got a text update from her friends, Joel and Janie Taylor, whose son she had been praying for, telling her that he was now critically ill and wasn’t likely to survive.   Their two year old son, Jaxon, had contracted Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) which had been caused by an E. Coli infection.  

Jaxon’s kidneys had shut down and he was having seizures and had been airlifted to an intensive care unit.  As his parents stood by his bed and prayed, and the doctor had come and told them that he didn’t think Jaxon would make it, they decided they needed to get people praying for a miracle and so sent out a text.  

When Jonathan read it, he said, “I just felt like this giant of unbelief stood in front of me and I just thought, ‘Jaxon’s gonna die tonight.  We’re not going to see the miracle.’ And as this giant stood in front of me, all of a sudden, out of my gut, this song started coming out….. ‘I raise a hallelujah….in the presence of my enemies…”

As they sang the song, and as Joel and Janie listened to the recording sent to them and sang it over Jaxon, they made worship their weapon against the forces of the enemy and their singing, their worship, became louder than the voices in their heads telling them that it was all pointless and that God could do miracles but wasn’t going to this time.  Whilst Jaxon was still very ill, his sister, Addie, who was 4, was also diagnosed with E.Coli and also ended up in hospital though never developed HUS.  People visited the hospital and started to declare the words of this song over them both.  On 16 January 2018, the family were able to take Jaxon home and they both recovered completely!

Joel Taylor found himself struggling to pray but was so aware of the prayers of people from all around the world.  He said, ““In the battle for his life, the global church community rose up like a mighty army and joined us in prayer and worship all over the world.  Our son was miraculously healed and today is perfectly healthy. For us, Victory (the album that this song was released on) has become a declaration of truth over hopelessness, a prophetic statement in the storm of adversity, and a battle-cry when facing the impossible. The battle belongs to our God, and our God is victorious!”

You can listen to the story direct from Joel, Janie, Jonathon and Melissa here on youtube but please be aware that there are video clips from when Jaxon was in the hospital.

So what can we learn from the message within this song?  

Well, firstly.  What does it mean to ‘raise a hallelujah’?  What is a hallelujah?  The word is a compound Hebrew phrase.  Hallelu means ‘a joyous praise in song’ and Jah or Yah refers to YHWH or Yahweh, the Hebrew word for God.  So hallelujah means we are joyfully praising God in song. 

We can joyfully sing in praise to God – in the presence of our enemies

We can joyfully sing in praise to God – and drown out our doubts

We can joyfully sing in praise to God – and use our worship as a weapon

We can joyfully sing in praise to God – with all that we have and all that we are

We can joyfully sing in praise to God – when we don’t understand what’s happening

And as we do that:

  • Heaven comes to fight for us
  • We see the darkness flee
  • Fear loses its hold on us
  • Our hope rises as we remember that death is defeated and Jesus is alive!

So what should our response be when we are facing storms?  We should continue to praise God, continue to worship, continue to sing louder and louder and allow his strength and his power to flow through us. 

As I was preparing for this, the passage that came to mind was from Acts 16: 16-34:

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Paul and Silas had every reason to feel like God had let them down.  They were doing his work, declaring the name of Jesus and instead of being rewarded for it, they were thrown into jail after being stripped and beaten severely.  If there was ever a time for doubt, surely this was it?  If there was ever a time to just sit and moan and ask God why, when they were doing his will, they were forced to suffer in such an awful way.  Did they?  No.

Instead, they raised their own hallelujah.  They were sat in the jail late into the night praying and singing hymns to God with the other prisoners listening to them.  As they raised their hallelujah, they saw the power of God break in and, as a result, the jailer and all of his family were saved and baptised and they were set free.

We’re not in jail right now but we are restricted and it is frustrating and hard and we want life to be different.  What are we going to do about it?  Give up and let the devil have his way or raise our hallelujahs and trust God to do the rest?  

Now, I know that some of you are thinking that we can’t even sing together right now so how can we do this.  Paul and Silas were separated from the rest of the believers and yet they sang.  Jaxon’s parents were separated from their church as they stayed in the hospital with him and yet they sang.  We might not be able to sing within the 4 walls of our church hall but there is nothing to stop us singing at the top of our voices right where we are in praise and worship to God.  So, let’s each one of us raise our hallelujahs and see what God is going to do in and through us!