Category Archives: Understanding Our Times

Articles that lend insight or understanding to our times, the day in which we live, usually in comparison to the Biblical or historical perspective, which will aid one in knowing how to live and act wisely in our day. “Like the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times and what Israel should do.” I Chron 12:32

A Medical Perspective

My wife read to me last evening that the governor of our state had ordered the closure of all restaurants and bars. The stock market posted a tiny upswing, and I also read the first article I’ve seen pointing out that the virus may not be as vial or deadly as the media has shouted from the roofs in most of their coverage since the outset.

So where did we get reliable information about this danger anyway? Where does it start? Medical professionals, correct? Why and how does it swell to fear and panic so quickly? I realize that history and time may show that it was merited. But from the beginning it seems the amount of fear and the corresponding over reaction could have been avoided by more truthful and objective reporting of the facts, and more courage and less fear among our leaders and our people.

This particular version of the coronavirus is new and therefore its characteristics are somewhat unknown. I get that. So it’s been under a microscope, pun intended, for a few months now (since December 2019) like other coronavirus cousins of the recent past, SARS and MERS, until their characteristics where better known for tracking, prevention, containment, and future vaccinations.

So we’ve learned that [1] You can be contagious for 14 days before you have any flu like symptoms making it likely you will infect others during that time before you begin staying home to recover. [2] It’s not as contagious as its cousin influenza, the common version of the flu. [3] It’s up to 3x more fatal than the flu in the USA (2%vs.6%), especially in those with other health problems, compromised immune systems, and the elderly.

Just Doing What They Do

While I was pondering all the seemingly irrational reaction to this phenomena, and voicing it to one of my best friends who recently retired as a successful CEO of a large hospital and medical center, he helped me see a little better the medical origins of the scare and how some of those in the medical profession look at it. In a text he related the following:

Talked to couple of physicians yesterday p.m..  here’s another perspective:   They have both full resolve and are somewhat disheartened! On one hand, social separation strategy is aimed at getting us to warmer weather with people outside in the hopes the virus dissipates and goes away in 4-6 weeks.  Thus, saving lives potentially. They think of little else beyond that it seems – economics, jobs, etc.  In my experience this is typical doctor thinking. They are disheartened by the level of cynicism about this, feeling if it works people will say -“they over did it for nothing”. And if it doesn’t work that “ they weren’t prepared”. I can understand some of that. They blame the media by in large for distortion of reality – as I do – and the populous for falling for it. Interesting [their perspective] and thought I’d share. There are some warriors in healthcare, not all, and I love them for what they do.–

Thanks Bill! Well said! Insightful! True!

Medical people are just doing what they are trained to do. Treat patients. Educate people. They even practice drills on how to deal with epidemics or pandemics, to insure they can treat people with the disease while continuing to treat those routinely in their care. They are in many cases “warriors” who sacrifice of themselves to care for others, and we should love them for it, thank them for it, and honor them for it.

The real responsibility is with, I believe, our leaders, our media, and us, the people who’ve “fallen for it.”

The issue at this point is not to cast blame, but to do what we can to come out of it, while noting lessons that can be learned. Especially spiritual lessons.

Thanks Friends

Bob Goff

As the truth about the Coronavirus continues to be researched and debated in the privacy of homes, in the media, and on social media, I’m grateful for some of the best things my friends sent me yesterday. To provide different perspectives, and some big picture truth.

To be honest I’ve been a wee bit angry at our leaders, media, and people for letting fear of this flu virus escalate into panic that has very likely caused unnecessary damage to us all far exceeding anything the virus could have done. And I’m perplexed about all the fear and concern with so little evidence of the danger?

But alas, the possible small crisis has taken on a personality of its own and become a crisis, with little sign of abating until it runs its course. Still I’d like to stand against the storm in some small way and pray others will too. Pray may be the key word. There is One with power to act, and He hears prayer. In fact it’s His idea.

That said, yesterday I received a blog link through an email from my good friend and spiritual mentor for decades. Because I know his spiritual sensitivity, heart, and wisdom, I knew I should give credence to everything he said, and was feeling. So I did. It changed my attitude and helped me get on with the reality of the thing, and remembering people are important, and people serving people. And to be obedient and faithful in natural things, like the presidential directive, was practical and important.

It didn’t take away the truth from anything I was seeing or feeling, but it changed my focus to a trajectory in a healthier direction. Thank you Charles.

The next best thing I got was from a beautiful, sweet spiritual sister who had been very angry about what was happening too. We shared thoughts and she shared something from C.S Lewis someone sent her that deserves a blog all by itself without comment. Thank you Patty.

I share it here:

The following from C. S. Lewis. It was written in 1948 after the dawn of the atomic age.

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

Pondering A Virus

Already I feel a little bit silly spending almost a whole day pondering a virus. My research was completed rather quickly and can be by anyone a little bit savvy on the Internet. I feel there are much better uses of time. But since I’m into it, if it helps one person a little bit with their fear or faith, or looking at this objectively, I think it’s worth it.

First let me state my qualifications, which are few. I have a degree in mathematics from the University of Arkansas. However let me truthfully say that I feel more like an escapee than a graduate. That said with no false humility, I was exposed to statistics, many algorithms from algebra, geometry, calculus, number theory, and algebraic theory. So I’m mathematically ( the universal language ) inclined enough for simple deduction and reasoning, with statistical validity and error analysis skills, to look at this threat to humanity simply and objectively, by the numbers.

I’m using the KISS principle if you will, (Keep It Simple Stupid), which suits me and most of humankind I believe.

Definitions

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Confucius

Solomon said 500 years earlier that,”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We won’t argue or even discuss the “beginning” part, which could be semantics or context? But I love history, and I love wisdom. I also like to view life through the eyes of the ancients, seeing what’s been valid enough or meaningful enough to be passed down through history as truth. Certainly when discussing or researching a matter and looking for truth, one has to be clear on words and their meanings, or “calling things by their right names.”

[1] co·ro·na·vi·rus: any of a group of RNA viruses that cause a variety of diseases in humans and other animals. Or if you prefer something from the medical community rather than the dictionary, this is from John Hopkins: A newly identified type (of coronavirus) has caused a recent outbreak of respiratory illness now called COVID-19 that started in China.

[2] swine flu: The 2009 flu pandemic or swine flu was an influenza pandemic that lasted from early 2009 to late 2010, and the second of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus, albeit a new strain. And: According to the latest WHO statistics (as of July 2010), the virus has killed more than 18,000 people since it appeared in April 2009….” Wikipedia.

[3] Spanish flu: The 1918 influenza pandemic was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus, with the second being the swine flu in 2009. The Spanish flu infected 500 million people around the world, or about 27% of the world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion. Wikipedia

OK, simply put I’ve listed above three major outbreaks of the flu in history. Actually and factually the coronavirus isn’t even honorable mention yet. Check it out by the numbers you can search any day of the week. By any metric: total number of cases, how contagious, how fatal when contracted, etc. It’s just not that destructive by the numbers. And it’s hard to tell why the experts the media chooses to quote think it is? You get a different picture when you read medical journals, etc. So why don’t we? Is it because our default is to slave toward fear? Or slave to the media who make their money that way, having turned long ago from objective reporting of the facts to sensationalism and fear? Just a thought.

I’ll go ahead and prescribe my simple math operations to calculate and compare the threat the coronavirus is today compared with past versions of the flu in our country and perhaps the world. But I think a better approach might be to demonstrate what other experts are saying without being filtered through the media. And encourage you to turn off the hype and do some research yourself.

Numbers of People With The Virus

[1] # COVID-19 Cases CDC Reports as of March 16 / US Population = % of Population
3487 / 330,435,890 = .0011%
[2] #Swine flu Cases CDC Reports as November 2009/ US Population = % of Population
200,000 / 309,300,000 = .0645 %
[3] # Spanish flu Cases CDC Report 1918-1919 / US Population = % of Population
34,485,000 /104,500,000 = 33% (est. 1/3 of the population at the time)

Number of Deaths Due to The Virus

[1] # COVID-19 Deaths CDC Reports as of March 16 / US Population = % of Population
68 / 330,435,890 = .00002%
[2] #Swine flu Deaths CDC Reports as November 2009/ US Population = % of Population
10,000 / 309,300,000 = .0032%
[3] # Spanish flu Deaths CDC Report 1918-1919 / US Population = % of Population
675,000 / 104,500,000 = .646%

These are the numbers, verifiable from the CDC Website and from history. They certainly don’t indicate a pandemic yet, and if it were to become one, it seems likely to be small compared to 1918 and 2009. So it would seem to me the USA needs a good slap in the face to be snapped out of hysteria and back to reality.

Click here to see the up-to- date numbers world wide by John Hopkins.

Click here to see the up to date numbers in Arkansas on two maps.

Click here to see the up to date U.S. numbers as reported by the CDC.

There is some troubling uncertainty of course because it’s new, specifically the Italy numbers. I would assume they are accurate and growing while the numbers in China and South Korea are diminishing. But even the numbers as percentages of the population are quite small in all these countries.

Compare the coronavirus with another virus in the USA this year. According to a US News & World Report article February 7, 2020, “Influenza has taken the lives of 10,000 Americans this season. At least 19 million have caught the flu, with 180,000 landing in the hospital because of it.” “The CDC predicts that at least 12,000 Americans will die from the flu in any given year. As many as 61,000 people died in the 2017-2018 flu season, and 45 million were infected.”
That puts coronavirus in a different perspective with it 3487 cases and 68 deaths. It’s the flu season. Take precautions. Take courage. Live life, without fear.

Finally read this John Hopkins up-to-date article about COVID-19 and other such medical journal articles. They seem far away from the media’s hype and spin. You will get a much different perspective of the disease and the associated risk it poses to the health of our citizens and country. May you farewell.

Here are a couple quotes from the article. “As of Mar. 16, 2020, 6,705 deaths [world wide] have been attributed to COVID-19. However, 77,657 people have recovered from the illness.” “In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.” Does this sound like what you’ve been hearing?

If more people would take a positive, you might say “faith filled,” attitude about life, and exercise common sense with a historical perspective, there would be a lot more toilet paper, paper towels, and bleach on the shelves of our local markets. And our economy and our lives could return to normal. May it be so, and may it be soon.


“Overheard in an Orchard” by Elizabeth Cheney

Said the robin to the sparrow,”I would really like to know Why those anxious human beings rush around and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”

March Madness

I think maybe it’s time to start at the gym? Maybe today? I know in light of all the coronavirus chatter in the media, you may think that’s the last thing I should do? But God told Jeremiah the prophet that even though the children of Israel were going to go into Babylon as captives that he should buy a piece of property, put the deed in a jar, and bury it — a symbol that the Lord would have mercy and that they would be coming back to the land.

I don’t know if that’s really apropos to this article but that’s what I am hearing this morning as I ponder and write. These days I find what really brings me joy and what I’m passionate about is spending time with God: reading, journaling, and sometimes sharing what I see with the faith community and seekers, on the web via this blog, maybe in preparation for another book.

But I feel compelled or at least the freedom to pause this morning and talk about the coronavirus. I promise I’ll get back to doing what I’m passionate about very soon, and stay there. Abiding is key for all of us in these days.

I haven’t written about the pandemic — and even thought about it that much. If it is a pandemic? It seems more like a pandemic of “fear.” Shutting off life to a relatively healthy culture and economy to me.

In the early morning hours my son has been texting that he’s been called back to New York City from the West Coast where he’s been visiting successful businesses—to discuss [1] If he should come into the office since he’s been traveling? [2] If they should close some stores?
Mind you, this is an expanding, healthy, thriving business until the “scare.”

Locally, store shelves are empty of toilet paper, paper towels, breathing masks, and who knows what else?

Of course I’ve been curious, even incredulous, at the wide sweeping closures and paranoia about this supposed threat to public health, our nation, and our way of life.

So I check the web from time to time to see the numbers of people who are infected with the disease and who have died because of it, as best as can be known in this instant information age, and compare it with the total populations of the countries and what has happened historically with other viral infections, commonly known as the flu, since the Influenza outbreak in the early 1900s.

Very few! One could say extremely few statistically. As this has progressed a few days now, the statistics on the spreading virus haven’t climbed as one would expect given all the hysteria, yet the hysteria seems to escalate.

This prompts me to think and say, “It’s the flu, people.”

Sadly, there will be people die from it. And I’m sad about that, and would not say anything to diminish their pain or that of their loved ones. Death hurts, and leaves a void. But it’s also a part of life and living.

I don’t fear death, largely due to faith in Jesus Christ, the One who overcame it for Himself, for me, and for millions who call upon his Name and put their trust in Him.

Even without faith in God, Jesus, the hereafter, or the Bible; it doesn’t make sense to fear death, the flu, or anything else so much that you quit living your life with courage and joy.

Yes wash your hands with soap and hot water, which is my M.D. daughter tells me is a better protection from viruses than wipes. But use both if you like, and keep informed about real news and real numbers and take precautions until the threat subsides or it is better known.

But don’t let it rob you of life and living – a single day. Death comes too soon to all of us for that. Life is a precious gift to be used, enjoyed, spent, and given away or shared with others.

Choose life!

“…So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” Deuteronomy 30:19b

The Word & The Wilderness

“The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that we are not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Word of God transforms us as we read it, mediate upon it, memorize it, pray it, sing it, share it, and fellowship with the One Who wrote it. Our minds are renewed, our hearts are strengthened, and our behavior is changed; not by external force, but by internal transformation.”

I borrow that from the beginning remarks of Charles Simpson’s excellent pastoral letter this month. You can read the whole of it here. I’ve been in a spiritual wilderness of late, experiencing both the isolation, cleansing, and terrible beauty, reorienting as it is; and I’ve been in the Word experiencing it’s beauty, cleansing and reorientation.

Against the mostly hidden enemy of our souls, there is no substitute nor defense like the Word. Indeed Christ used the Word of God His Father, the the King of the Universe, when attacked in the wilderness by Satan.

Words from Luther’s most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”, come to mind: “…one little Word shall fell him.”

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

So we see the Word can silence our enemy and put him to flight — very important indeed, and the order of things in our earth journey in the seen and unseen realms.

But I’m thinking in this early morning moment by the fire of the “transformation and the renewing or our minds” power of the Word. It’s beautiful. It’s holy. It’s relational. It’s mystical. It’s joyful. It’s reorienting. It’s life and light really. It’s hard to describe, but beautiful to experience.

Our Catholic brothers have a saying, “Don’t read the Word, let the Word read you.” Indeed.

I have a very, very high view of Scripture. Yet once I felt the Lord impress me, “I didn’t give the Word for you to serve it; but for it to serve you.”That’s at once humbling, and important to know, if it is true. It’s an important distinction, even if both are true at the same time.

Jesus in His wilderness experience quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” We need food every day, in the natural and in the spiritual.

And we need to practice good hygiene every day to stay healthy. Ephesians 5:26 tells us Jesus “washes us with water through the word.”

We need healthy relationships each day to thrive. Our Father meets us when we read and meditate on His Word, to illumine us, love us, and just be with us, like a friend.

Recent visit to the College of the Ozarks with two friends

Please excuse me. It’s time to wash up, and have breakfast, with a Friend.

Valley of Decision

 This morning in our FYV Fellowship Matthew study, the location of this spot came up. I sent the following email to the leaders of the group in response and thought you might be interested as well. I hadn’t listened to Gene Little’s words in awhile, but they are timely perhaps and true. I invite you to listen with ears that hear, and see what you hear? For yourself?  Blessings
**********************************************

More recent visit with my editor and friend – Jerusalem

Greetings Friends,

Good to be with you this morning.

I would not be clear on where the Valley of Jehoshaphat was myself except for a personal trip I took to Israel in 2017, when my lodging host in Jerusalem in a serendipitous fashion offered to take me to some of his favorite off-the-beaten-path places. Here’s what happened as he handed me his phone when arriving at the rim of the valley at Teqoa, and said “Record what I’m about to say.” I did, and that was that! Take one, take only, on the spur of the moment, without warning, then off to see Herodium, and his favorite, lesser-visited, Jerusalem sites. :):)  After getting home I added the introductory music, photos, title and sent it back to him. Since that’s a hobby of mine. Enjoy!
https://youtu.be/8_FgqGDbpdE

https://bibleatlas.org/tekoa.htm

“For behold, in those days and at that time,
When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will also gather all nations,
And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
And I will enter into judgment with them there
On account of My people, My heritage Israel,
Whom they have scattered among the nations;
They have also divided up My land.” Joel 3:1-2

From The Mt of Olives across the Kidron Valley
Most likely Joel’s Valley of Jehoshaphat

Many think this prophecy about the Valley of Jehoshaphat is the same location as the Valley of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20:20). After looking into it, I think they are a few miles separated geographically, but maybe not that different spiritually. His blessings as you ponder… or study further… and His grace to you and yours.

Addendum

After trading emails back and forth with Alan, a men’s Bible study leader, and doing more research the following came to light.

I never knew their was a reference of the Kidron Valley also being called the “the Valley of Jehoshaphat.” That’s where the confusion or debate comes from I would guess. This started in the 300’s A.D.? The ancient Jewish sources say there was no valley by that name. Wikipedia may have it as close as anyone, with their three insights or possibilities.

[1] The judgment we discussed will likely be in the Kidron Valley, between Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate and the Mt of Olives, which Joel called “The Valley of Jehoshaphat” for some reason. Perhaps symbolically? As the LORD vanquished Jehoshaphat’s attackers in his day. Certainly that’s what Joel heard the Spirit say to write. Maybe it was known as such to people in his day, and has been lost in antiquity? There is after all, much mystery in the Word… seemingly on purpose at times! As well as, much revealed!

[2] Jehoshaphat witnessed the LORD’s promised deliverance in his day near Teqoa… about 10 miles south.

The Word is always understood better in community with illumination by the same Spirit Who breathed it. 🙂 Grace be with you all.

Therefore Immanuel

Christmas Morning Sunrise

Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

This verse hit me with unusual force this morning. The beautiful prose strikes one softly, but also hard and true. After one considers its beauty and message for just a few seconds — and its peace with its mystery — the question arises…

What’s the there for?

I’ve studied Isaiah the past two years, so I know. King Ahaz of Judah is being threatened and terrorized by threats of conquest by two dark kingdoms working together to war against him and remove him from office.

The LORD sends His prophet, Isaiah, with a message to the king and the people whose “hearts shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” The LORD’s message is, “The enemy’s plan will not stand nor shall it come to pass.”

He also adds, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.”

“Ask a sign for yourself. Make it hard,” says the LORD to the king.

“I will not ask, nor test the LORD,” says the king back to the Lord’s prophet.

It sounds pious and wise, but it’s full of disobedience, disbelief, and really “testing” the LORD, Who instructed him to ask for a sign.

The prophet responds with, “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will birth a son — Immanuel.”

~~~

Don’t doubt it! Believe that the LORD Himself will rise up against your enemies, and you will be spared. You will stand.

There is a coming sign recorded in the ancient texts around 700 B.C.. There was a son born to a virgin around 2-3 B.C., and we now recon time by His appearing and work.

He lives… with us … within us.

Immanuel

~~~

Isaiah 6 sets the stage for all believers — seeing the LORD, high and lifted up.

Maybe in a year or years when a godly king is gone, the government is in turmoil, and you’re learning not to trust in man, or even yourself anymore.
But “God in us — God with us — Immanuel.”

“The holy seed is in it’s stump, “says the LORD to His prophet at the end of Isaiah 6.

Isaiah 6 sets the stage.
Isaiah 7 gives the promise of help, deliverance, and power. Immanuel.
Isaiah 8 shows the outcome of the scenario.

We don’t have 2000 years of church history — but 50 years repeated 40 times. Not 4000 years of Jewish history — but 50 years repeated 80 times.

God’s judgment comes upon the culture swiftly — so much so it will catch them unaware and add to the terror and tenor of the recompense, which will appear merciless, but it was chosen by them. They forgot God to serve themselves and their idols, and thus fell into the traps and clutches of the enemy.

Yet to those of the house of faith He writes? (Isaiah 8:16)

“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”

And the disciples respond, “I will wait for the LORD Who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him.”

“Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, Who dwells on Mount Zion.”

“Immanuel” appearing first in Isaiah 7:14 and three times in Scriptures is a beautiful Name, a beautiful thought, and a beautiful reality. “God, the Mighty One, is with us.”

Merry Christmas!

“Immanuel” Article by Jeff Benner

Immanuel” Article by Paul Summer

Immanuel” Article by Jack Zavada

A Final Hallelujah

Of course this isn’t to be my final Hallelujah, as far as I know; but my final thoughts after a week of reflection, study, and mediation on the poem and melody of Leonard Cohen entitled simply and profoundly, Hallelujah.

Of note to me, the song is going round and round in my head in this Christmas season 2019. I’m not sure why? But it gives me joy, peace, pause, and wonder.

I’ll share with you the best article I’ve found about the song, a 2015 Newsweek article by Zach Schonfeld. It’s insightful though written primarily about the song’s musical attributes and its popularity, from a secular point of view.

Schonfeld notes, “The album on which it appeared, the murky, mid-career Various Positions, had been rejected wholesale by Columbia Records in the U.S., and when it finally was released, “the song was still generally ignored,” as Alan Light notes in his 2012 book The Holy or The Broken.

The Holy or the Broken? That’s an insightful title for a book about the song. It’s also telling that the album on which it first appeared was entitled “Various Positions” isn’t it? Since he’s Jewish, to begin with, and the song, albeit quite short, addresses simply and profoundly the issues of God, the Bible, human sexuality, the philosophy of life and one’s earth journey, admissions of struggle and failures, and yet seems to somehow point to God as the answer from start to finish. Purposely it would seem, and honestly, in a mysterious and understated way. And people definitely have “various positions” on these issues— he did apparently.

Light would go on to say, “John Cale and Jeff Buckley, then dozens and hundreds of others lifted the song out of obscurity” but it is “something more mysterious that cemented its status as a modern standard, appearing on American Idol and in synagogue services in equal measure. It has become ubiquitous. Tallying versions by Cohen and plenty of others, Light estimates “Hallelujah” has been listened to hundreds of millions of times on YouTube alone.

The Newsweek article goes on to list “60 notable recordings of it that are readily available online and ranking them from worst to best.” 🙂 Feel free. For our purposes here I’m going to list and link my two favorites at the bottom, then one in Cohen’s own voice, as well as the lyrics he settled on and a few quotes that reflect on the man.

Etymology of Hallelujah

It doesn’t seem right to leave the song without a good look at the meaning of its famous title and course. It’s a Hebrew word lifted directly from that ancient language and dropped into English, simply transliterated as “praise the LORD.”

Wikipedia adds, “In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. The first part, hallelu, is the second-person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hillel. However, “hallelujah” means more than simply “praise Jah” or “praise Yah”, as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God.

In Psalm 148:1 the Hebrew says “הללו יה halelu yah”. It then says “halelu eth-YHWH” as if using “yah” and “YHWH” interchangeably. The word “Yah” appears by itself as a divine name in poetry about 49 times in the Hebrew Bible (including halelu yah), such as in Psalm 68:4–5 “who rides upon the skies by his name Yah” and Exodus 15:2 “Yah is my strength and song”. It also often appears at the end of Israelite theophoric names such as Isaiah “yeshayah(u), Yahweh is salvation” and Jeremiah “yirmeyah(u), Yahweh is exalted”. The word hallelujah occurring in the Psalms is therefore a request for a congregation to join in praise toward God. It can be translated as “Praise Yah” or “Praise Jah, you people”.

With Cohen’s Hebrew roots and his love for poetry, there can be no doubt the word was well understood and meaningfully used with sincere intentionality. When it’s sung and heard, it seems all creation and the Creator pause with a heart smile to take note. The best is yet to be.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6)

Hallelujah הללויה

Hallelujah – Pentatonix
Regina Spektor
Leonard Cohen
Hallelujah Lyrics

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

Leonard Cohen

“Hallelujah” Summary

Oddly, the summary I’m going to share is from the notes I wrote in one sitting after reading the lyrics before beginning all the meditation.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen is:
A hauntingly beautiful melody
Introducing
A true confession.
A humble confession.
To all mankind
From a fellow, broken pilgrim
About a hidden God.

Whose love is an
Open Secret.

Too holy and too precious to
Be passed flippantly around.
But for the hungry, humble heart
There to be found.

All of this
Given by the God of Grace
To His broken vessel.

It’s the only kind He has.
…But he who falls on this Rock
Will be broken. (Matt 21:44)

Cohen seemed to struggle by himself…
To know the Maker, Creator,
Sustainer of All.

All the verses from Cohen’s
Cutting room floor (80 or more)
Would bear this out.

A struggle largely unfulfilled
But grasped at
To find the One Who
Put eternity in our hearts.

Love is not a victory march,
Rather it’s hard fought.

Perhaps a priest at the end?
A Cohen at last?

Like Sampson fulfilling the purposes
Of God for his life,
After a mighty struggle marked with
Many failings.

His song leaves us to decide if it is a
Holy or Broken Hallelujah?
And also to ponder the difference .

With a victorious note at the end
He acknowledges the futility of
Being one’s own king.

The many heartbreaks, disillusions,
And disappointments of a life
Without faith.

Yet one senses at the end
A possible “Return of the Prodigal” (Luke 15:11)
Or at least an acknowledgment
Of a glimmer of faith
In the Father, the Name, the beautiful Light —

The Lord of Song

Hallelujah

The Star of Bethlehem by Rick Larson
Cloverton’s Christmas Hallelujah
Hallelujah – Pentatonix

Hallelujah Christmas

Part One of Two

The Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” has really captured me for some reason in this Christmas season 2019. I’ve read about it and listened to several versions, my current favorite by Pentatonix, but including the Christmas version by Cloverton. I’ve printed the lyrics, meditated on them, and journaled about what I’ve seen for several days.

It seems it may be related to the verse we used on our Christmas cards this year, Isaiah 9:2. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

Seems like I’ve been led to focus more on the broken hallelujah, and a house swept clean? How did we get where we are? Do we stay here? Or journey on in His love, power, presence, and grace? Celebrating Christ and Christmas? Immanuel? God with us?

On the same day I journaled those thoughts, December 10, I also journaled this quote from Bob Goff from his devotional calendar.

“Following Jesus is about having your paradigms shift as you navigate a wide range of emotions while living the big life Jesus invites us into.”

These thoughts seem like a fitting prelude or introduction to:

Hallelujah

(Song & Lyrics by Leonard Cohen 1934-2016)

I really see this song as a modern day parable or poem set to hauntingly-beautiful music that affects the human spirit immediately and demands attention — then politely gives the hearer the opportunity to hear no more if they wish. “But you don’t really care for music do you?”

Still it invites and draws the hearer immediately onward into a room of questions about life’s meaning with its successes and failures. Also the activity of the Holy with the continuing questions that arise from all of this.

Then follows the beautiful, one-word course so prevalent in King David’s collections of songs, “Hallelujah.”

The story gets stronger in the second verse as Cohen struggles with faith and reason— the supernatural meets the natural — the material meets the Eternal.

Immediately follows sexual temptation and seduction; the giving away of one ’s strength, destiny, and calling for one of this worlds’s greatest natural pleasures — but not according to God’s plan or ways. And the admission of this failure.

Here, one surely sees this is personal. This is autobiographical. This is too close, too intimate, too heartfelt not to be. We all feel it. We all know it. We all have experienced it in some shape form or fashion, with the sense of failure it brings. The sense of loss. The sense of shame.

What else touches us so deeply and personally in our earth journey as our sexuality? Common and mysterious as it is.

Then comes and follows immediately the hauntingly beautiful refrain; the one word course in Hebrew…”Hallelujah… Hallelujah”… Soft… Sweet… Soothing… Truthful… Honest… Real.

A word lifted unchanged from the ancient Hebrew language and placed into almost every language of the world; unaltered. A word not threatening, not objectionable, but soothing, peaceful, true. It seems easy on the lips, the ears, the heart — something our spirits find whole, good, true — even transcendent, and readily acceptable.

The third verse takes us back to life on earth. There comes more accusations from the enemy of our souls and those he influences and controls. And the human need we feel to defend ourselves, if we’re living in our own strength and not trusting God for our defense, our deliverance, our salvation.

But didn’t Cohen capture how we feel? And in so few words? If we’re honest and vulnerable about it. Like he is.

“You say I took the name in vain, I don’t even know the name, but if I did, well, really—what’s it to you?”

In this humble, honest confession we can all empathize. We don’t really know Him like we’d like to. And can He be known really? It’s personal—very personal. So “what’s it to you?”

Yet one senses Cohen has known the Name in some measure, and that has affected him deeply. His brilliant, deep-cutting insights into David and Sampson betray that fact, as does his next words in verse three.

“There is a blaze of light in and every word, it doesn’t matter what you’ve heard, the holy or the broken hallelujah.”

Ah ha! There it is. Did you catch it? “The holy or the broken hallelujah.”

There may be two kinds of hallelujah? But I think really only one, as far as humans are concerned. The broken variety. Or, if you can see it, by his power and demonstrated goodwill in sending Jesus and the Holy Spirit, a broken hallelujah restored, and set apart, which is the meaning of “holy.”.

But, “it doesn’t matter which you’ve heard” “the holy or the broken hallelujah,” “there’s a blaze of light in every word.” (John 1)

I want to pause here a moment to consider the broken. Because CR (Celebrate Recovery) comes to mind as the clearest picture of this “broken hallelujah” in my realm today, and thus far in my human journey, and I believe in the community of faith called the church.

A broken vessel is required really to let the light in; and then once it’s held within to let the blaze of light out. To be seen by others, beckoning them to come to the Light and experience the Light for themselves.

So we’re challenged to recall our knowledge of the Holy or our ignorance of the Same, and give credence to the Light we’ve seen in creation, the Word, or others around us. However it has been observed, “it doesn’t matter which you heard. The holy or the broken hallelujah.”

That soothing, that real, that transcendent hallelujah comes softly in the refrain. “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.”

… To Be Continued…

The Star of Bethlehem by Rick Larson
Cloverton’s Christmas Hallelujah
Hallelujah – Pentatonix