“Hallelujah Psalms - I”
The book of Psalms is an incredibly rich and diverse collection of Biblical material for the spiritual life. The book is actually a collection of collections, we might say. There are sections of related psalms, for instance, Psalm 120-134, the Songs of Ascent. This is my favorite section personally and I have written and taught on this beloved collection often in my years in ministry.
Another collection that is starting to “grow” on me is a little section called the “Hallel”-psalms, running from 113-118. “Hallel” is of course a shortened form of the word “hallelujah,” which is Hebrew for “Praise Yahweh” or “Praise the Lord.” Now, this is a great section for a lot of reasons, but I want to look at them with you here from one primary standpoint. By tradition, these 6 psalms were sung by Jews at the time of the feast, in particular at Passover time. More specifically, it is said that the family would sing psalms 113-114 before the Passover meal began, and then the rest of them after they had shared the meal. Remember that Passover is a celebration of salvation, a remembrance of the Exodus event, God’s delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery with His mighty arm.
This might be interesting historical information, but why is it even more relevant and powerful for living today? Consider Jesus’ celebration of Passover. Jesus of course was a Jew, as were the 12 disciples. On the night before Jesus was crucified, He celebrated Passover with his disciples in the upper room. We tend to think of this more as His instituting of the Lord’s Supper – “Do This In Remembrance of Me.” But never forget, originally, this was a Passover meal.
If they followed common practice, Jesus and his men sang the Hallel before they ate the meal, though the gospel writers do not give this detail. This would mean Psalm 113 and 114. After the meal, we know that they “sang a hymn” before going to Gethsemane – Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26. This hymn could well have been Psalm 115-118 – in whole or in part.
What do these psalms say, in addition to “praise the Lord!”? Would it not be helpful and insightful and instructive to know the words of Scripture on Jesus’ heart as he steeled himself for what lie ahead, and as He tried to prepare His disciples for the coming shock? In the next few posts, I would like to explore this in a bit more detail. I hope you will check back and follow along this trail with me!