When I first entered the Colosseum, I was awed not only by its enormity but also by the architectural and engineering genius that had created it and kept it standing for thousands of years. But as I started to walk around, my thoughts drifted to the Colosseum’s purpose. I started to realize that thousands of people (and animals) died here. The ground was bloody as people attacked and even killed each other, in the name of sport.
When the Colosseum was first opened, 5,000 people died in one day. It is estimated that during the time it was in use, 400,000 people died there, in addition to 1,000,000 animals.
I felt physically sick to my stomach.
I remembered that some of those people killed were criminals whose only “crime” was being a Christian. Historians debate whether a large number of Christians were actually martyred in the Colosseum itself, especially since the numbers are skewed by the Christians officially being called “criminals”. But regardless it is historically very clear that Christians certainly died in other smaller arenas.
The Colosseum was and is a symbol of death, persecution, and is a place where hope was often lost. In fact, a modern pope erected this cross in the Colosseum in honor of all the Christians who were martyred in this massive arena.
There goes my stomach again. My Christian brothers and sisters died here. They died here, yet I paid money to come marvel at this arena. The fights I visualize aren’t just between gladiators, but also include defenseless Christians.
I don’t know how much longer I can stay here, feeling dirty, imagining people dying.
Just then, I start to hear singing coming from the first level, below me. It’s soft at first and I can’t quite understand the words. Eventually I find them: a group of 30 or so people standing in a circle singing in 4-6 part harmony. My guess is that they were some sort of college touring choir, but I really have no idea.
The music and the harmonies swell and echo perfectly around the Colosseum, and I again am awed by the Colosseum, this time as an amphitheater. And then I begin to understand the words.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creation. O my soul, praise Him For He is thy rock and salvation. All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near. Praise Him in glad adoration.
It’s a Christian song, an old hymn to be exact. I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s really beautiful.” I didn’t want to take away from their music but I couldn’t help singing with them a bit. Then a few other tourists stop next me to listen and start singing along in their own languages. I realized that I was experiencing a piece of Heaven; people of every nation and language singing together.
The second verse continues:
Praise to the Lord Who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth. Shelters thee under His wings Yea, so gladly sustaineth. Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been Granted in what He ordaineth?
The meaning of this verse hit me. In modern English: “Praise to the Lord, who reigns over all, who shelters you under his wings, who gives you what you desire within His will.” Was that the prayer that my Christian brothers and sisters prayed as they were martyred in this arena? Asking God to shelter them, but believing and knowing that he reigns over all? I started to get emotional as I really thought about their strength and their love for the Lord.
Praise to the Lord Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee. Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, If with His love He befriend thee
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do … and that was it; I couldn’t control myself anymore. The tears just spilled out and suddenly I went from an observer to joining with my fellow Christians in worship. I praised the Lord in the Colosseum, a place of death and martyrdom. It was the last place in the world I expected to be brought to my God in worship and the last thing I thought would happen during my Colosseum visit.
But yet there I was, worshiping my Lord who has redeemed my life from death and can do all things, even transforming this symbol of death into a place of worship and hope.
And like the song says, I began to ponder anew what God can do in our world. Two thousand years ago, Christians were persecuted here. Now, I’m singing praises to my God in this same place. God truly can do anything! It makes me wonder what God is going to do in the next two thousand years. Where will we be singing Praise To The Lord two thousand years from now?
Will we sing it in North Korea? Or in Somalia? Or Iraq? Christian persecution is worse than it ever has been before and 2014 is marked as the worst year yet. Will we someday sing Praise To The Lord over the ground where the blood of our modern day martyred brothers and sisters once spilled? I pray that God will do a miracle and redeem those dark places.
Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him. All that hath life and breath Come now with praises before Him. Let the ‘amen’ sound from His people again Gladly for aye we adore Him
But no matter what happens, regardless of whether Christian persecution increases or decreases, we will still say “amen”. We will still praise the Lord, whether we do it with joy at what the Lord has done or with tears at the pain of our brethren. Either way we will praise the Lord.
Ever since this experience, Praise To The Lord has been constantly running through my mind. I find myself worshiping God and moved to pray for the persecuted Christians on a much more regular basis.
Please join me in praying for the 11 countries that are currently experiencing extreme persecution. In order of most severe persecution: North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Maldives.
For the full list please visit: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/
While this is not the same music group and some of the words are even a little different, I hope this a capella version of the hymn by the group Acapella brings you a little closer to worshiping the Lord too.