Hallelujah, What a Savior

If asked to give some favorite hymn-writers, I probably would not say P. P. Bliss off the top of my head.  There would be a smattering of new and old ones, but he doesn’t come immediately to mind.  However, he actually wrote what is probably one of my favorite hymns from traditional hymnody, Hallelujah! What a Savior.  I’m not such a fan of the music, to be honest… it goes into the “it’s a tune to sing words to” category.  However, I think the lyrics are very good.

The recurring phrase “Hallelujah! What a Savior” actually makes sense after each verse, which is nice.  “Hallelujah” means “praise the Lord,” which also fits in the way it is used.

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

We have three references to Jesus – “Man of Sorrows” (Isaiah 53), “Son of God” (numerous places, of course), and “Savior” (also numerous places).  I “like” (seems like an odd word to use here) the irony that Bliss draws our attention to – that the Son of God came and, contrary to what He deserved, He was called a “man of sorrows.”  Also, the irony that the Son of God was called the man of sorrows because He was saving ruined sinners.  I like the word ruined.  I know the meaning, it’s clear, and it’s pretty accurate.

In reading through, I wasn’t sure about the usage of the word “reclaim” … but it seems appropriate, seeming more to refer to the idea of reclaiming the “lost.”

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Hebrews 12 (“despising the shame”) … I’m not sure about the scoffing part, although various descriptions of how Christ was treated before the crucifixion (and during) would easily be called “scoffing.”

The clear reference to the substitutionary atonement is in the second line there – in my place, condemned, He stood.  I also like the sealing part; it was done completely, not partially.  If my pardon has been sealed, then there’s nothing I can add to it.

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

The emphasis on our complete depravity and helplessness (we can’t earn our salvation) is good; the contrast between our state and His (a sinless sacrifice) is also good.  And I also like the wonder that is expressed in verse 3.  It’s easy to take salvation for granted, for some reason, as though … well … as though it just kinda makes sense that God would do that!  But it doesn’t make sense.  I am reminded of Wesley’s And Can It Be, which asks the same question and follows it with “amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, would die for me?”  We should always wonder that God would do such a thing for guilty, vile, ruined sinners.

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

This is fairly generic; however, I like the tie-in of “it is finished” with Christ being exalted in Heaven.  The “exalted” part, I think, is important to remember; not in every song, of course, but it seems that many songs about the atonement/crucifixion dwell on the crucifixion and stop there.  While it’s not necessary to always move on in every song, I think we should remind ourselves that Christ not only died and was forsaken by God in our place, but He finished, was raised, and not left forsaken by the Father but was actually exalted by the Father and “given the Name that is above every name.”

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

This is perhaps my favorite part about this song; it actually looks forward to Christ’s return!  It seems this is lost in so many songs.  As an example, these sorts of songs can easily be used to accompany communion; but even communion is not just a perpetual, everlasting remembrance, is it?  Christ seemed to tell the disciples to do it until they were reunited with Him (“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”).  We should remember that part, too; we not only remember what Christ did but we look forward to the culmination of what He did, when we are finally reunited with Him with resurrected, perfected bodies and finally free, completely, from all sin.

All that to say, I like this last verse; it refers to Christ coming as a King, it refers to us as being ransomed (which is biblical) and mentions that Christ will come to bring us home (don’t forget, we’re not home yet).  One slight confusion that I might fault the song slightly with is that the “bring us home” part is actually the rapture, though the “when He comes” matched with “King” makes me think more specifically about the Second Coming.

Lastly, I like how he still ties the last phrase in with the verse; it is true that even in Heaven, we will continue – and with renewed and fresh understanding (and REALLY COOL, GLORIFIED VOICES! 😉 [that means everyone will be a bass, right?]), we’ll still sing – joined by the angels, apparently, who glorify God as Savior even though they actually aren’t redeemed – about God’s (“our”) salvation.

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2 Responses to Hallelujah, What a Savior

  1. Laurie says:

    Lovely commentary on a lovely piece. Thank you! :) P.S. I really like the simple tune it is sung to. :)

    • Paul says:

      Simple can be nice, sometimes. To its credit, I haven’t heard one I like better, hehe. I think I’ve heard one or two different tunes and I like them less, so :)

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