Matthew 6:10 (ESV)
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
It’s difficult to argue that any general market band has injected the Bible into its songs more than Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legends, U2. From the opening track of its 1981 sophomore release October to its 2017 album Songs of Experience the iconic Irish foursome has consistently gone back to its spiritual roots as former members of the Shalom Fellowship in Dublin.
There’s no better example than “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from the 1987 platinum album The Joshua Tree. Not only did the song provide U2 with its second U.S. #1 radio single, but it was also loaded with biblical references:
I have spoke with the tongue of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1)
I believe in the Kingdom Come (Matthew 6:10)
You broke the bonds/And you loosened the chains (Psalm 107:13-14)
Carried the cross of my shame (1 Peter 2:24)
Four years later, U2 dedicated an entire song from Achtung Baby to Judas (one of the original 12 disciples) and his betrayal of Jesus. “Until The End of the World” begins with a scene from The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30), continues in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is betrayed (Matthew 26:36-56), and concludes with a guilt-ridden Judas taking his life (Matthew 27:3-5).
Another example can be found on “Yahweh” from the 2004 release How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The song title itself references the biblical name of God usually written as Lord in modern English Bibles), which is found in the Hebrew Bible well over 5,000 times and first appears in Genesis 2:4. Then, towards the end of the song, there is this refrain taken from Matthew 5:14-16:
Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city
If it be your will
While three of its four members grew up around the Bible, lead singer and primary lyricist Bono is often credited for bringing its content into U2’s musical offerings. His love for the book of Psalms is especially apparent and has even impacted the band’s live performances in unique ways. Bono noted this in the 2016 documentary The Psalms, in which he was featured along with Eugene Peterson, author of The Message.
“In the dressing room before a show, we would read the psalms as a band and then walk out into arenas and stadiums—the words igniting us, inspiring us,” Bono revealed.
The lead singer has also been known to read Psalm 116 from The Message before the band kicks into opening set. Then, at some point in the concert, U2 will play its earliest biblically inspired song, “Gloria” (from the 1981 album October), which references Psalm 51:15. Another popular tune for concertgoers is “40” (from the 1983 album War), which is literally taken from Psalm 40:
I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
Bono explained his admiration in the introduction to the book Selections From the Book of Psalms.
“At 12, I was a fan of David, he felt familiar…like a pop star could feel familiar. The words of the psalms were as poetic as they were religious and he was a star…He was forced into exile and ended up in a cave, facing the collapse of his ego and abandonment by God. This is where David was said to have composed his first psalm—a blues. That's what a lot of the psalms feel like to me, the blues…Words and music did for me what solid religious argument could never do, they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. As a result, the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, the book of John.”
Dear Lord, we thank You for the Bible. We thank You for all the lessons we can learn from applying to all aspects of our life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
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