That's Jehovah to you

Album comes out: Nov 22/23
"Yahweh" first used in church services: at least 2 places weekend of Nov 27/28

I am not going to be reviewing HTDAAB per se, for those that have asked. But I may say a word or two about some songs, and I think right now I'll comment on the lyrics to "Yahweh." Here I speak only for me, not for anyone else involved with the sermons book or our publisher or anything like that.

Of course I know that many Christian listeners were instantly thrilled by "Yahweh"; I have to admit that at first, I wasn't one of them. It reminded me of "40," and after all U2 has done since 1983 for them to return to the place where they close an album with a straight-ahead inarguable hymn just seemed to me far too pious and self-limiting for them. (I probably would have liked the song instantly had it been on a Matt Redman album, don't get me wrong...) I've gotten used to the idea and can take the song at face value now, but it took awhile. (And I do sympathize, as a Christian: sometimes you just really want to shout the truth of how you feel about God even if you know many people will misunderstand you.)

There's an obvious lyrical retread of the earlier U2 song "Do You Feel Loved" (lyrics down at the moment because of the Universal fiasco, sorry) but I also wonder if there is an influence from "Take My Life and Let It Be," especially since the message is precisely the same as that hymn's?

I initially thought the only non-personal verse on "take this city if it be thy will" was odd. Now that I realize they will be singing it in maybe 70 cities, and thus getting maybe 1,400,000 people total to sing it with them (in those people's own cities), it seems like a shockingly bold stab at spiritual warfare. However, Angela Pancella has a whole different theory in this comment which is pretty persuasive too.

Another thing by which I initially was annoyed was the "tell me now why the dark before the dawn" line, which struck me as a sort of insincere Mandatory Bono Insertion: "can't write a whole song of faith, must insert a doubt-reference even though it's obvious this lyric is actually madly in love with a vision of total consecration." Then, out of nowhere, I heard it in my head as the kind of utterance recorded in Exodus 33 when Yahweh and Moses are having such an intimate tete-a-tete that Moses blurts out "now show me your glory!" As if it's sort of "now that I'm finally right next to you I'm going to be so daring as to expect an answer."

Another member of my household is quite taken with the "what no man can own, no man can take/take this heart and make it break" line. There's an odd comment on U2.com about the reference having to do with people not being able to "own" Jerusalem, but it also vaguely evokes Biblical references like Rom 8:38-39, and a passage that is semi-quoted earlier in the song, John 16:21-23. But I think what he likes most is the repetition of "take" - how it brings home that the ultimate gift of self is too big to be given to, owned by, another finite human; total self-abandonment is only for God.

Finally: I was interested to hear in the alternate version that there was originally a much muddier, vaguer period of wandering around before the "Love is like a drop in the ocean" revelatory moment, and that near the end there was originally one chorus that (with typical U2 wordplay) changed the text to "Yahweh, You're waiting for me, I'm still waiting for the dawn." In both cases, they seem to have decided that the watchword of the hour was total clarity and removed things that suggest hesitation or lack of commitment.

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