Leonard Cohen

Hallelujah!

Beloved of the soul, Compassionate Father, draw Your servant to Your Will; then Your servant will hurry like a hart to bow before Your majesty; to him Your friendship will be sweeter than the dripping of the honeycomb and any taste.

Majestic, Beautiful, Radiance of the universe, my soul pines for your love. Please, O God, heal her now by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance; then she will be strengthened and healed, and eternal gladness will be hers.

Yedid Nefesh, as quoted from the Siddur

Recently, a friend of mine leant me his copy of a book called Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith, written by Stanley Howard Frodsham. It’s a short biography of an early Pentecostal evangelist and faith healer who operated in the early to mid-twentieth century.

In reading this book, you’d think that Wigglesworth was a walking, talking, healing vendor. It seems that whoever he encountered in any circumstance, even among crowds of thousands and tens of thousands, he could heal just about anyone of anything with a mere touch. Some of the stories are beyond fantastic, such as a man who had no feet being touched by Wigglesworth and then told to go to a shoe store and buy a pair of shoes. It wasn’t until this man put his stumps into a pair of shoes that his feet miraculously grew back in a few seconds.

I have to admit, while reading the book (I consumed most of it in a single setting), I wasn’t feeling too good and I was reflecting on my own various (though minor) physical discomforts, and wishing that one such person did exist who, through a mighty apprehension of faith, could heal any human deformity, discomfort, and disease.

But it wasn’t the “healing miracles” that impressed me. Assuming that his biographer was accurate and truthful. What I admired about Wigglesworth was his faith and dedication to God. According to the book, he wasn’t in it for the money and never amassed great wealth in the manner you see many televangelists do today. In fact, he tended to (but not always) shun the rich who wanted his healing and gravitate to the poor and the desperate. Of course, Wigglesworth grew up in poverty and hardship and it’s likely he identified with those he helped.

Supposedly, the only book he read was the Bible, which while laudable also seems extreme (as an avid reader, I rather believe that books are good, depending on the material). He also said that while feelings were unreliable, a simple believing faith in God and daily devotional reading of the Bible was necessary. Not exactly the picture you get of Pentecostals from some of their critics.

My friend leant me this book, which was a gift to him from one of his daughters, before he’d even read it himself, because of my recent blog post on healing faith. I think he’s trying to tell me that I’ve limited the “gifts of the spirit,” and if I’m to believe everything written about Wigglesworth, I must be doing so in the extreme.

white-pigeon-kotelBut as I continued reading, while I didn’t always subscribe to the various miraculous claims attributed to Wigglesworth, his love of God and unswerving faith and devotion to the Lord of Heaven did touch me. In the world of the blogosphere, it’s easy to get into your head and forget your soul, as if faith and a life dedicated to God were a mere intellectual exercise, an academic pursuit.

While men like John MacArthur may seek to purge any sort of emotional attachment one might have to God from the realm of the Christian faithful, I don’t think we can truly experience faith as an intellectual pursuit alone. I was reading my morning prayers, which today included Yedid Nefesh, and was particularly taken by the passion of this song. It speaks of a man who longs for God as a deer might pant for water, nearly dying of thirst, begging for even a drop of what returns life, not just to the body but to the soul.

How can someone turn to God, broken in spirit, humbled before Majesty, covered in iniquity, and not feel anything? How can we turn to God at all if we don’t believe He is the lover of our souls?

That’s what impressed me about Wigglesworth.

Although, I wouldn’t give Frodsham’s book as high praise as I find on Amazon, I can see what the other readers are attracted to. While it would be of great benefit today if such healing miracles were available to us through one faithful man of God, it’s not, in my opinion, Wigglesworth’s most defining characteristic, nor the focus of what we should desire.

In fact, I just read a story of a Jewish man who drew ever closer to God in faithfulness, even when he was not cured.

I said in my previous blog post that it is the healing of the sick and injured spirit we should seek above all else. The healing miracles of Jesus and the apostles were used to bring the sick of heart to faith by healing their bodies. Wigglesworth seemed to do something similar, but it is faith, belief, devotion, love and duty to God that is important…for Wigglesworth just didn’t have a believing faith, he acted for the benefit of countless others, that is the crux of who we are as disciples of the Master.

While I was reading, my wife was doing some paperwork and listening to an Israeli Jewish singer named Liel Kolet. Kolet was singing Leonard Cohen’s signature chart “Hallelujah”, which I found myself (softly) singing to myself as I was driving to do an errand later last evening. When I got back home after talking to God, I visited YouTube and listened to Kolet’s interpretation of the song, but found Cohen’s to have more heart. The words weren’t exactly what I was thinking about or feeling, but somewhere between the lyrics and the music, I found my faith rejuvenated.

I can thank Wigglesworth, Frodsham, Leonard Cohen, and especially my friend Tom for that.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

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18 thoughts on “Hallelujah!”

  1. I had a Wigglesworth biography in my collection but when I ran out of space and needed to pare down my collection, I sold it before I read it. I knew that as soon as it left my hands that I would regret it. I’ll have to get another copy now that my son has made me a new bookshelf. 😉

    Love the new look, too.

  2. Thanks, Lisa. I must admit that I’d never heard of Wigglesworth (and with a name like that, I would have remembered it) before last Sunday afternoon. I’m going to reserve judgment on some of the more dramatic miracles attributed to him, but if even 10% of what is said about him is true, he was indeed used exceptionally by God.

    That doesn’t add credibility to many of those out there today who claim healing gifts, especially those getting rich off of the deal, but it does give me pause as to the limits (or limitlessness) of a life filled with the Spirit of God through faith and trust.

  3. I agree. I had hesitated to read the book based on the people who had recommended it to me to read, or the people who expected that I had read it. But hearing your impressions, I am much relieved and looking forward to reading it for myself one of these days.

    I know for certain that miracles happen today, that HaShem heals even today, and that it is possible. I also agree that it’s not frequent and that it is a special type of person through whom the Father may choose to work in this way.

  4. Sadly (in my opinion), for every single individual who is uniquely and powerfully used by God for His purposes, there are dozens if not hundreds (or more) who claim to be God servants in order to perpetrate scams and rip off the disabled, the ill, the desperate, and the dying. The legion of scammers give those few “tzaddikim” a bad rep, diminishing faith where those who truly are serving God desire to magnify faith.

  5. Agreed. But we must remember that as disciples of our Master, it is incumbent upon us to test these people – their messages, their deeds – and determine if they are indeed sent by HaShem. As a whole, we don’t do that but we assume that everyone who says they’re sent by HaShem indeed is. We are not like the shrewd steward, we are not gentle as doves yet wise as serpents. We are foolish and gullible. The believers in Acts 17:10ff were busy testing the teachings that they received and the Torah commands in Deut. 13:1-5 that we test the words of any prophet or teacher who comes our way. These false teachers, prophets, and healers are allowed to come our way so that we may be tested – tested to see if we love HaShem with all of our heart and soul or if we will love another teaching more.

    On the other side of this coin, those who are beguiling others will find their judgement along with the rest. One day we’ll all learn whether we are in the “sheep” camp or the “goat” camp. “Many will say, ‘Lord, Lord! Didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ and then I (Yeshua) will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.'” Matthew 7:21-23

    It’s nice to want to blame the charlatans, but we’re equally responsible. In fact, we may bear more of the burden than those who come to fool us. He does say, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.”

  6. Interestingly enough, this reminds me of something I’m reading in Mark Nanos’ book The Irony of Galatians. According to Nanos, the letter is Paul’s “ironic rebuke” at the naiveté of the Gentile addressees of the letter for letting themselves be so easily convinced by the Jewish “influencers” that they must convert to Judaism in order to be justified before God, and to eliminate their identity and status ambiguity (I’m not quite a third through the book yet).

    Paul rebukes his addressees for not paying more attention to “his” gospel (rather than the “other” gospel being sold to the addressees by the influencers) and understanding that no one is justified by ethnic status or even the (faithless) performance of the mitzvot, but rather by faith and then obedience (though, as you well know, I believe that the Torah is not uniformly and universally an obligation to Gentiles in the same manner of the Jews).

    The moral of the story is not to take someone’s word for it but to check out the scriptures. Also, seeing if the fruits of those being examined live up to who and what they say they are wouldn’t hurt. Some of these people say they’re “saints” but live quite the opposite lifestyles.

  7. Our Galatians study group discussed that today. 😉 DTL said in his lesson that the Influencers had ample Scripture to stand on for circumcision. Paul had something rather new to say. However after a good study several years ago about the classes of people: ger, zar, and nochrei (or however it’s spelled), and making notes in my Bible to identify which word/people group is being used in nearly every passage – I can see the Scriptural basis for Paul’s gospel and the point he’s making. This study was *huge* in our family’s discussion about conversion and ‘where we fit’.

    The moral of the story is something that I think Christians once were much better at than they/we are today. Today we have such a tremendous epidemic of Biblical Illiteracy. This coupled with a lack of spiritual character development is unfortunately severely weakening the Christian’s faith.

  8. Even when Jesus was alive and walking the shores of Galilee, half the children he encountered would be dead before the age of five. Anthropologists tell us that those who survived were under- or malnourished. Where were their miracles? I say, don’t wait around for them; you might regret it.

  9. Good point, Steve. A read through of the Gospels shows us that poor, blind, deaf, and diseased people were pretty common. I don’t think Jesus and the apostles cured 100% of them, and probably not more than a very small fraction of them.

  10. The problem for me with miracles is that if they are genuine, they are still very capricious. So, no matter how you parse them we still are the ones who interpret their meaning and significance: we have to have an explanation why some get them and some don’t. Most of the time our explanations have horrible implications.

  11. A miracle doesn’t have to be something dramatic or a drastic violation of the laws of physics. In fact, sometimes we don’t notice miracles at all, even when they are happening all around us. When God wants us to notice a miracle, He wants us to notice something He’s doing so that we know it’s Him. This helps us turn to Him in faith or renews our faith when it’s flagging.

    Toby Janicki talks about the nature of miracles in Chapter 7 of the book Gifts of the Spirit and a quick search of the Aish.com website turned up one way Jewish people look at miracles.

    On the one hand, I can say that I’ve never seen a miracle. I’ve never seen an angel or a miraculous healing or any such mind and physical law bending event. On the other hand, I’ve looked through a telescope at other planets and starts, watch a plant grow day by day, watched my grandson learn to walk and talk and play ball, so in that sense, I’ve seen lots and lots of miracles.

    It is said that if God were to cease His activity, the universe would fly apart in an instant. It is said that God regulates each and every beat or our hearts, and if He should stop, so would our hearts. In that sense, each second the universe continues to exist and each beat of my heart is a miracle.

    I heard someone say recently that the human heart beats, on an average of 104, 000 times a day, about 37.8 million times a year, and if a person were to live to be about 80 years old, in that lifetime, their heart would have beat over three billion times.

    Those are a lot of miracles and a lot of reasons to give thanks to God.

  12. Smiths Wigglesworth ??? I haven’t heard that name in a long time.

    In my early days in the Assemblies of God (early 1990’s), it was expected, at least in my Church, that all serious Pentecostals study the life of Smiths Wigglesworth, read “Why revival tarries” by Leonard Ravenhill, and earnestly pray for revival. At the time, I considered myself a decent Pentecostal, but had become disillusioned with it by the late 1990’s. My feelings were … if we are the New Testament Church that we claim to be, then why isn’t anything happening?

    After reading Aaron Eby’s chapter four in the “Gifts of the Spirit” book, I have given thought to possibly going back.

    RB

  13. Matthew:
    Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him ALL sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.

    He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed ALL who were sick.

    And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them ALL.

    Luke:
    When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on EVERY ONE of them and healed them.

    And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them ALL.

    Acts:
    a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were ALL healed.

    From reading the gospels and Acts, healing seemed to be dependent on two things. Going to Jesus (or the apostles) to seek healing. And faith (which would perhaps lead to the “going” and “seeking”.

  14. It’s through Purim, and the reading of Esther through a Jewish lens, that I discovered the notion of “hidden miracles” … that there are miracles happening all the time throughout history… some via a dramatic suspension of natural law such as the parting of the Red Sea and some through the righteous acts of human beings, such as Mordecai and Esther to save the Jewish population of Persia.

    My experience has consisted mostly of the latter; but of those, there have been many.

  15. My experience has consisted mostly of the latter; but of those, there have been many.

    Agreed, Dan. I think miracles are happening every day, but because they don’t involve such mind-blowing events as the splitting of the Atlantic ocean or New Zealand rising a thousand feet above the Earth, we don’t think of them as miracles. In many ways, each day is a miracle.

    And if God should choose to do something more “dramatic” from time to time, most people would attempt to explain it in “scientific” ways rather than accepting the fact that God chose to momentarily interact with our world directly.

  16. James, when I saw the subject line on your entry in my email, I thought of Cohen’s song because I just listened to the original. I heard a Christian group do their take on it, so found the original with lyrics on YouTube. I’d heard it before on Shrek (and possibly Criminal Minds) before and remembered the tune. He unites praise and sexuality in such a marked way that I see why Dylan said Cohen’s songs seemed like prayers. I think it’s beautiful, and am so glad you embedded it. I’ll check out Liel Kolet’s version. Thanks, brother!

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