Handel’s Messiah and Scripture

Last night we went with some dear friends from church to a performance of Handel’s Messiah, with full orchestra and four soloists. They performed the “Christmas” selections from Messiah, with the attendees joining in the choruses (bring your own score!). It was the first time we had sung through the piece, and I had chills during the Hallelujah Chorus. I also gained a new appreciation for the entirety of Handel’s Messiah, because some of it is incredibly difficult to sing. As my wife said, it’s quite ironic that “His Yoke is Easy” is one of the hardest to sing.

I’ve been struck this entire Advent season by the Scripture Handel used in Messiah – nearly every word from his work was taken from the Authorized Version of the Bible, and he completed writing it in a mere 22 days. The Scripture flows so beautifully from pre-incarnation to Christ’s birth to His passion to His glorification. I’m no musical scholar, so I won’t really comment much more. I have heard rumors that Handel was not a believer, but I haven’t been able to find sources to back that up. Regardless, his work is one of the most beautiful sacred pieces of all time, and I like to think we’ll be singing it in heaven.

I’m not sure how to structure this post, so I’ll just list the Scripture from some of my favorite parts of Messiah here. Go ahead and sing along in your head as you read. Then I’m going to go listen to it (the Christopher Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music version of course – the only version according to Aitken).

Malachi 3:2,3: But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire…And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness.”

Isaiah 40:9 & 60:1: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God. Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”

Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16: Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth…The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever…KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS.”

Revelation 5:12, 9, 13: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain…and has redeemed us to God by thy blood…to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing…Blessing and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen.”

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