A Thought On Hallelujah
And love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.
Have you heard this song before? It’s Hallelujah, written by Leonard Cohen. It’s a song that grips whoever hears it. It’s a disillusioned love song. But, there’s something about its lyrics that speak into something that we have all experienced but never share.
Failure. Sin. Guilt. Regret.
I’m not going to exposit Leonard Cohen, but I’m going to use his song as the starting point of a thought. I’d like to first state that I don’t believe that his lyrics are truth or to be taken as fact, I think they can speak to a perspective and moment of our lives. Those broken, profound, focus-shifting moments.
His song centers around three characters. King David, Samson, and himself.
“Well I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
But baby, I've been here before
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya
And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.”
Leonard Cohen wrote this song at a low point in his life. He had suffered two failed albums, and this song he composed in the middle of all the mess he was struggling through as he wrote his next. I said I wasn’t going to exposit Leonard Cohen, so I’m not going to try and mingle his interpretation of the song with the Bible. I simply want to use his lines to bring a moment back to your mind.
I think you know the moment I’m getting at. The moment when you are standing in the wake of your sin, and you are staring at the ugly splattered everywhere. It’s not shiny. It’s not beautiful. It maybe started out that way. It’s easy to pretend we are all good, because it’s easy to mask sin. However, we cannot keep ignoring that we are not by nature good. One day, the mask falls off, and the crown we gave ourselves for our good behavior is revealed to be filthy and tarnished.
Where was God in the middle of your moment? This is not said with mockery, but with genuine wonder. Where was God as you faced what He has been seeing from the beginning? And where did you turn your focus in that moment?
I can’t answer for you personally, but I want to unravel a thought. Because, unlike what Leonard Cohen describes, love is a victory march. Jesus, who is love, is victorious over sin and death and offers us redeemed life in Him, through repentance and faith.
I have found though, that faith and repentance can be cheapened, when you are still living under the impression that you are not that bad of a person. You live in chosen ignorance about how broken and shameful your dark secrets really are, and you don’t want to let the light into them because that would mean admitting that you are a sinner. “Oh, but I am a sinner! I know that!”
But, aren’t we so often living in denial? In some ways, some of us are still clinging to the belief that we are good on our own apart from God. We ignore the fact that all of what we perceive as righteous is still filthy rags in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6) and that whoever thinks they are something when they are nothing is only deceiving themselves (Galatians 6:3).
Ultimately, there is a piece of ourselves that we have not let die because we are unwilling to admit it needs to be redeemed. But this is redemption!
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
What does any of this have to do with Leonard Cohen?
King David and Samson were both God’s chosen men, who were staring at the ugliness of their sins. The wrong choices they made when they thought they knew what was best, when they believed they could decide what was and was not right. They were getting away with it too, until the light found the depths of their darkness.
The enemy will step into these moments and whisper shame and disgust and revulsion, convincing us that God is fooled had been fooled by our good behavior, and must be appalled by us now. However, the Holy Spirit brings conviction, because He has known your sin long before you ever wanted to bring it to Him.
Shame is disappointment and shock. Conviction is the call of grace that you don’t have to stay in that moment any longer. God wants to redeem you. This is where those lyrics resonate with me. Love is not always a victory march because, “this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
The line that always wrecks me is the second half of that stanza: “Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah. I think of David, as Nathan confronts him on his affair with Bathsheba. I think of Samson, as he sat in Philistine captivity with a shaved head. I think also of Peter as he hears the rooster crow. Judah as he is handed his staff and cord from Tamar. The moments where there is no choice but to look at sin in all of its grotesque fact.
However, in those moments, they all take the same course of action: in their lowest and most broken moments, they lift their heads and out comes the hallelujah. Some not verbally, but through the evidence of their actions. This is what is profound to me. Repentance is a form of hallelujah. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” It’s cold and it’s broken. But, it’s acceptance, it’s surrender, and it’s redemption. Through that whisper comes the victory march.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Have you whispered this hallelujah? Or are you still trying to cover up what refuses to stay covered? What is the ugly you have to address in your life?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mia Grace loves sunflowers, words, old hardcover books, and fountain pens. She adores Jesus Christ, and seeks to listen and obey him in her life. Her life verse is Isaiah 52:7, and her prayer is for every girl to grasp the height, weight, depth, width, and power of Christ's love for them.