Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Soundtracking the Bible Part VIII: Zephaniah - Malachi

The last four books of the Old Testament are often over looked by the most popular four books of the entire bible, the Gospels.

Themes that close out minor prophets are just as important then as they are now.  Dealing with issues of injustice, corrupt leaders, and money.

The subjects addressed are layered in prophecy and judgement but God's truth and faithfulness still shine through. 

35. Zephaniah - Bulls on Parade: Rage Against the Machine

In the times when you lose trust in authority and become disenfranchised with people it is not uncommon to project those feelings on God.  Zephaniah words can be solace in time of cynicism.  King Josiah was trying to bring reform as Judah was heading for exile, but his leaders undercut his intentions with idolatry and corruption.

A similar theme in Zack de la Rocha's anthem Bulls of Parade which a is a direct response to his belief that America is becoming a nation built on war instead of peace. The line "Rally round your family with a pocket full of shells," is a response to how the political leaders and the media use fear as a vehicle for war.

Zephaniah balances that tension of war with words of peace..."Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility (Zeph 2.3)."

36. Haggai- Fell on Black Days: Soundgarden

The book of Haggai is a spiritual fork-in-the-road.  After being in Exile the Jews returned to Judah and began to rebuild the Temple but in the process they hit a wall.  It is not easy to return home and face your insecurities but God can rebuild what is broken.  

Chris Cornell, the cathartic voice behind Soundgarden, shares what causes those Black Days. " It is a feeling that everyone gets. You're happy with your life, everything's going well, things are exciting—when all of a sudden you realize you're unhappy in the extreme, to the point of being really, really scared."

Much like the rising chord structure in the song that shines thru there are verses of hope sprinkled throughout the book of Haggai. "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty (Haggai 2.9).

37. Zechariah- Given to Fly: Pearl Jam

The prophet and priest Zechariah grew up while God's people where in Exile under the Babylonians.  Struggling with a sense of significance can come out of a lack of identity. Zechariah offers hope and motivation for a nation trying to pick up the pieces as they return home, thru subtle predications and phrases paint a picture of the coming Messiah.

Given to Fly is a song that also uses obscure phrases and words to convey a message of hope.  Some say Eddie Vedder wrote this song about Jesus.  Some say it is about about Vedder quitting smoking or even surfing.  It is interesting to note that all of those ideas convey freedom, something that we all want for ourselves, especially for a man who grew up in Exile, encouraging a nation to find their identify in the Messiah.

"And he still gives his love, he just gives it away/ The love he receives is the love that is saved."

38. Malachi- No Excuses: Alice in Chains 

The message of Malachi reads as clear as our reflection in the mirror.  He gives his readers a choice to have a wholehearted love for God or a life lived halfhearted.  Malachi presents the question, will we be people who are indifferent or people who make a difference?

"Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 3.7)."

Alice in Chains was a band full of potential but also full of problems.  Jerry Cantrell brought a sense of depth to their music but it was Layne Stanley whose conviction and charisma drove the band in both good and band directions.  No Excuses was written by Cantrell in response to Stanley's pervading substance abuse.  The acclaimed MTV Unplugged performance captured this beautiful and heartbreaking irony as his drug addiction would soon after take Layne's life.