Feeling like a failure? Have a lot of “bad” things happened to you lately? You’re not alone. One of the greatest composers of music the world has ever known felt like a failure too. And at his lowest point, God stepped in and used George Frederic to work one of the greatest musical miracles of all time, illustrating 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 beautifully.
In 1737 Handel’s opera company went bankrupt and he suffered a stroke. His first oratorio, Esther, was condemned by church leaders for allowing the Words of God to be spoken in a theatre! The Bishop of London prohibited oratorio from being performed. However, when Handel proceed with Esther anyway, the Royal Family attended and it met with success. In 1739 advertisements for Handel’s Israel in Egypt were torn down by church leaders who also disrupted his performance.
George Handel was convinced that his call was to set the Scriptures to music. “I have read my Bible very well and will choose for myself.” Handel declared that he knew his Bible as well as any bishop. However their attacks had the effect that he was threatened with the debtor’s prison. By 1741 George Frideric Handel was a failure. He was financially bankrupt, in great physical pain and the victim of several plots to sabotage his career. Deeply depressed, Handel began to plan his farewell appearance in London for April 1742.
That summer however, he composed Messiah, which was at once hailed to be “The epitomy of Christian Faith.” Handel began composing Messiah on 22 August 1741. Within six days, part 1 was finished, in nine more days, Part 2. Six more days and part 3 was completed. Handel composed like a man obsessed. He rarely left his room and seldom touched his meals. In 24 days he had composed 260 pages of what has been recognised as one of the greatest compositions ever. When he had finished writing, what would become know as the Hallelujah Chorus, he exclaimed: “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”
The premiere of Messiah on 13 April 1742, to an over capacity crowd of 700, was a sensation. The demand for tickets were so great that men were asked not to wear their swords, and women not to wear hoops in their skirts, to allow 100 extra people into the audience. When Messiah was performed in London, the King attended, and when he stood at the opening notes of the Hallelujah Chorus he began a tradition that has been carried on in the English-speaking world ever since.
Evangelist John Wesley attended a performance of Messiah at Bristol Cathedral, commenting afterwards: “I doubt if that congregation was ever so serious at a sermon as they were during this performance.”
By the time of his death Handel had conducted 30 performances of Messiah. He died on the day before Easter Sunday 1759, hoping to “meet his good God, his sweet Lord and Saviour, on the day of His Resurrection.” A friend remarked that George had “died as he lived – a good Christian, with his true sense of his duty to God and to man, and in perfect charity with all the world.”
Dr. Peter Hammond
I had never before realized that “Messiah” came at his lowest point. Isn’t that just like God?