Why do some Christians use the word Hallelujah continually while others hardly ever use it?
The word hallelujah is a Hebrew expression that literally translates as praise ye the Lord or praise ye Jah where Jah is one of the Hebrew words for Lord. The Greek version of hallelujah is alleluia. The basic sentiment behind the word is thus very commendable: God’s people ought to be a praising people. However, if we truly wish to be in accordance with the Lord’s mind, we will not be satisfied with merely the dictionary definition of the word. The crucial question is how the Bible uses the word hallelujah and in what context. Now the Hebrew word is present only in the Psalms (104: 35; 105: 45; 106: 1, 48; 111: 1; 112: 1; 113: 1, 9; 115: 18; 116: 19; 117: 2; 135: 1, 3, 21; 146: 1, 10; 147: 1, 20; 148: 1, 14; 149: 1, 9; 150: 1, 6) and the Greek word only in the Revelation (Rev. 19: 1, 3, 4, 6). Thus the word is absent from the Gospels, the Acts and is never used by any writer in the Epistles. This simple fact is clearly significant and cannot be ignored. Hallelujah can thus hardly be claimed as a word that is part of Christian vocabulary.
The first occurrence of any word in the Scriptures is always important. This is not just the view of Christian students of the Bible for the ancient Jewish commentators of the OT also called special attention to such events and laid great stress upon them as always having significance. A first occurrence of a word generally fixes the meaning of the word throughout the rest of Scripture or points to some important lesson in connection with it. For example, the first instance of the word love is in Gen. 22: 2 when God said to Abraham “Take now thy son, thine only [son], whom thou lovest, Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and there offer him up for a burnt–offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of”. Does this not illustrate the real meaning of love: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only–begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal” (John 3: 16)?
The first instance of the word hallelujah in the OT is in Ps. 104: 35: “Sinners shall be consumed out of the earth, and the wicked shall be no more. Bless Jehovah, O my soul. Hallelujah!”. The word is thus used in connection with judgment. It is an exhortation to others to praise the Lord in relation to the judgment of the wicked. The first occurrence in the NT reads “And after these things I heard as a loud voice of a great multitude in the heaven, saying, Hallelujah: the salvation and the glory and the power of our God: for true and righteous [are] his judgments; for he has judged the great harlot which corrupted the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of his bondmen at her hand” (Rev. 19: 1, 2). Here the context in which the word is used is identical to that of the Psalm: An exhortation to praise the Lord for His judgment on the wicked. While the Book of Revelation is in the NT, its idioms are Hebrew and it is OT in character, with many of the words and phrases having their origin in the OT. Hence, as already remarked, the word hallelujah does not find any place in the Scriptures relating to Christianity. Indeed, no NT writer uses the word personally—John in the Revelation only records what he saw and heard.
The present time is marked by grace and not judgment and the Gospel is characterised as “the glad tidings of the grace of God” (Acts 20: 24). The Christian would accept the Lord’s exhortation, “Love your enemies; do good to those that hate you; bless those that curse you; pray for those who use you despitefully” (Luke 6: 27, 28), rather than praising God for His judgment on men. The present exhortation from Paul is “[Let] your word [be] always with grace, seasoned with salt, [so as] to know how ye ought to answer each one” (Col. 4: 6). The use of the word hallelujah would seem to be inconsistent with this.
That said, I am sure that those who use hallelujah only use it as a general exhortation to praise the Lord and that the thought of judgment is entirely absent from their minds. One would not like to hinder any soul rendering praise to God. Indeed, would that more of us were occupied with praising the One who loved us and gave Himself for us! However, those who are continually peppering their speech with hallelujahs, and in some cases can hardly utter a couple of sentences without such an ejaculation, may be doing so with meaningless repetition. What is used frequently and lightly, over time tends to lose weight and conviction for both speaker and hearer alike.