Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Complaint Department

I'm continuing my review of U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon. On the last track on the album, Bono is singing the Blues. I’ve been listening to that track, "Cedars of Lebanon" over and over. At first I didn’t like the song all that much…now I can't believe I ever thought that. Like other songs on the album, it sounds to me to be a contemporary Psalm. King David wrote complaints to God…lament Psalms, where he poured out his anger, frustration and confusion to a God who can handle all those emotions from His beloved sons and daughters. The line: “I’ve got a head like a lit cigarette” seems to be saying I’ve got a head on fire, so filled with anger and frustration as I am! Seeing “unholy clouds” also seems to point to frustration with how things are looking on "the Horizon" at the present time.

On a narrative level, the song is about a correspondent in the Middle East who sounds like he’s missing his wife and kids. For some reason he’s been away a while…yet he doesn’t seem to want to go home. However, it is very likely, as with many U2 songs, that the narrative is simply the “carrier” of deeper spiritual thought, perhaps a prayer to God. “Cedars of Lebanon” is a phrase used throughout the Old Testament. The phrase in the song, therefore, could be figurative for the entire Middle East. So the song could be a lament prayer for God to “return the call to home,” when He hasn’t seemed to be engaged there recently. On the other hand, Israel was the place of God’s glory in the Temple. Perhaps the Cedars of Lebanon could even refer to the temple. I guess, then, the song could be a lament over God’s people Israel and why things are so messed up there.

The song could also be a call for the people on the planet to return OUR call to our TRUE HOME…heaven. Perhaps it is a cry and a plea for us all to pray for peace in the Middle East. Certainly the phrases “Cedars of Lebanon” and “unholy clouds reflecting in a minaret” point us to the Middle East. A minaret is a tower, typically connected to a Muslim Mosque from which Muslims are called to prayer. I tend to think that because of the line, “You're so high above me, higher than everyone/Where are You in the Cedars of Lebanon?” that the song may be about a cry to God, a lament, a complaint…God, where are You in this Middle East crisis?!

Cedars are also used in Scripture to symbolize all that fallen, fearful humanity trusts in other than God—all those things in the creative order which appears strong and mighty. The Cedars of Lebanon are often used to represent man’s pride and haughtiness, trusting in weapons rather than God. God, then, shows His power by breaking the Cedars of Lebanon, to humble humanity so that they would turn to their true place of safety--God Himself (Ps 29:5, Is 2:13—Isaiah 2 is perhaps the clearest chapter on this idea of God humbling human pride and all that the world hopes in besides Himself.

We must remember: God humbles human pride because He longs for us to experience purpose, significance, security, love and joy in life…and that can only occur as we walk with Him. God is not being mean in breaking the Cedars of Lebanon, but is doing the most loving thing possible…removing all our crutches so that we walk by faith in Him alone.

This prayer could be for all humanity, but perhaps for Israel in particular (Is 2:6). The song could very well also be talking about the age-old conflict between Jews and Muslims. Israel picked her enemies or her enemies picked her; either way, it has defined both of their existence: “Choose your enemies carefully cos they will define you; Make them interesting cos in some ways they will mind you; They're not there in the beginning but when your story ends; Gonna last with you longer than your friend.” The entire Old Testament and all of recorded history since then reveals the truth of those words. Heck, the correspondent could be all the Bible writers of the Old Testament who record the hostility between Jews and Arabs. And then, with the onset of Islam, also the tension between that religion and Judaism…and other religions as well.

One last thought: Its even possible that the “face” in the Polaroid is God’s…as we think of the Old Testament, it is a picture of the God of Israel “tidying the children’s clothes and toys”; and it is a picture of God smiling upon us as well. Who knows? This broken, fallen world sometimes produces a “rose”…the roses of this life may be a wonderful spouse and family…but Scripture also talks about Jesus being the “Rose of Sharon” (Song of Solomon 2:1). The scent of the Redeemer lingers in this broken, fallen world, then goes (Aslan seems to go away for a time); but fresh breezes can bring it back to us again. We need a fresh breeze to bring back to us the scent of the Rose! Jesus, alone, is the Prince of Peace who commands us to LOVE our enemies! The Church has often failed to obey this commandment...but there is no question that there is no other spiritual Leader who made His will more clear...Love your enemies!

1 comment:

Larry Fischer said...

Dan Allender said that one of the effects of the curse for men was a feeling of futility in life. God humbling me forces me to think about His sovereignty and wonder what is His plan for me. I want to say I rest in His sovereignty but if I am being honest I have to admit I am afraid that I won't like His plan. That just shows my unbelief. Thanks Bob. I love that song. Choose your enemy well.