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  • Jim Lovelady

Day 35: The Sound of Scripture

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! 

Oh the walls of my heart! 

My heart is beating wildly; 

I cannot keep silent, 

for I hear the sound of the trumpet, 

the alarm of war. 

Crash follows hard on crash; 

the whole land is laid waste. 

Suddenly my tents are laid waste, 

my curtains in a moment. 

How long must I see the standard 

and hear the sound of the trumpet? 

 Jeremiah 4:19–21

Jeremiah spent most of his time being a frustrated prophet.  He tried and tried to get his message across but no one listened and then it was too late.  He did all sorts of things to try and warn people of the coming judgment of God.  He tried to help people understand the depth of their sins and the wickedness of their culture.  He made poetry. He wrote essays. He did performance art.  He sang songs.  

The prophets were like lawyers in charge of bringing God's holy lawsuit against God's people who were so far gone that drastic measures were needed.  So God sued them.  "This is the charge that I bring against you."  The prophets were the messengers who delivered the lawsuit to the king, who was supposed to be a guide for the people, and they delivered the message to priests, who were supposed to maintain clear access to the Divine. Their strong message to the institution, the status quo, often got them killed.

"Guide the people in complete justice and rightness."

"Speak the true will of God, not of the status quo."

"Reveal the real God, not the idols of empire."

The modern day equivalent to the ancient prophet is the rock musician.  Rock n roll is a ripe context for the prophetic message.  The music fits perfectly with the angst of prophetic complaint and God's holy lawsuit that he brings against his people.  The sense of injustice, the realism of the situation, the demand that things be better, the self deprecating behavior, the angst of being an embodiment of the sinful people and the holy lawsuit--are all Biblical themes found in rock n roll culture.

Punk rock rails against the status quo of empire.

Death metal warns of coming justice.

Folk rock offers quiet complaint.

Hard rock offers a model example of the destructive nature of decadence.

Grunge rock declares with Isaiah, "Woe is me! I am unclean and amidst a people of unclean lips."

Pop rock paints an idealistic alternative.

Indie rock with its irony that is infused with the sarcasm of Jonah lets cynicism overtake hope, leading to despair.

Heavy metal is an angry response to injustice.

Emo would probably be Jeremiah's favorite genre of rock.

Let's take Black Sabbath's War Pigs as an example.

War Pigs is a prophetic wake up call. It is a call to look at the systems of this world and be honest with how the church has been a part of those systems. It is a call to use wisdom in the midst of that brutal honesty to see how we have been complicit in the violence of this world. This song invites us into honest conversations that require vulnerability, openness and an immense courage and humility. This song leads us to the hope of Isaiah 2:3-4…

People from many nations will come and say, 

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, 

to the house of Jacob’s God. 

There he will teach us his ways, 

and we will walk in his paths.” 

For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion; 

his word will go out from Jerusalem. 

The Lord will mediate between nations 

and will settle international disputes. 

They will hammer their swords into plowshares 

and their spears into pruning hooks. 

Nation will no longer fight against nation, 

nor train for war anymore. 

This is where we are headed so how can we begin making this a reality now? We must first examine ourselves. Where have you gotten comfortable? How have you become complacent? Where you complicit in the status quo of the world? Where do you prefer "decency" over justice? How are you going to be woken from your slumber?

You need a prophet to come into your life to awaken you and remind you that things don't have to be this way. You need to be reminded that if you don't change, things won't change. You need a prophet to show where you have gone astray but you also need a priest to clear your path to God and a king to guide you along that path.

Abraham Heschel said, "A prophet can give a man a new word, but not a new heart. It is God who must give man a heart to know He is God."

But rock n roll can't be the prophetic voice, the priestly intercession and the kingly guidance that is needed to actually change the world (though rock culture has tried) the same way that Jeremiah (and all the prophets) tried but was unable to actually change things. When the prophet spends all his energy convincing the priest and the king to do their jobs there is no room for actual change. What if the world had a good prophet, priest and king?

Yup, insert the Sunday school answer…

Jesus is the fulfillment and critic of the status quo.

Jesus was a good prophet who would have listened to rock n roll because that's the music the people he hung out with would have listened to. Our culture calls it "sex, drugs and rock n roll" while the ancient near eastern culture called him, "a glutton and a drunkard who hangs out with tax collectors and sinners." He was a real king who took care of everyone with twelve baskets full of left overs. He was the true priest who offered himself up as the sacrifice so that peace and justice would be a reality for this world.

If you follow Jesus you will often be tasked with speaking hard things to our culture (actually, we LOVE doing this one) but if we refuse to offer a wise (kingly) option and if we evade the demand to be a (priestly) sacrifice on behalf of our culture, there will be no change.

Ok, let's be honest. The church has prided itself in having a prophetic voice and wants to offer its abilities to be king but tends to neglect the priestly--"we will sacrifice ourselves on behalf of the world"--calling that actually earns us the right to be heard and the love for the world that would make us good kings. So we repent of being know-it-alls. We repent of being rock stars that lack wisdom because we lack the courage to die to ourselves first. Lord have mercy on us!

I confess that I am currently part of the status quo in ways that I can see and ways that I can't. Wake me up to the ways of your Kingdom. Make me uncomfortable. Show me when to turn over tables…when to declare a wake up call…when to offer a cup of cold water in your name. Give me wisdom to follow you regardless of the dangers. Make me more like you. Amen.

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