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It’s not always a good idea for an artist to look backward. Things often look different in the cold light of the morning after, and much of what we try to say can rely heavily upon context. Plus if you’ve grown at all, it can be painful to look at your old work. Kind of like that haircut you had in high school or the tattoo you picked up in Daytona on Spring Break. But for me, revisiting these old songs has become something I never expected. It’s become a bit of a healing process.

As creatives, we’re made to give away what we have. But sometimes, especially when there’s a demand, we can be tempted to dig deeper and deeper within ourselves to satisfy that demand. At first, you give away your best stuff: the cream of your crop. This is the stuff we’re meant to give. This is the stuff we’re proud of. When that runs out, you give your good stuff, your OK stuff, and your not-so-good stuff. Finally, you can start digging into the container itself and actually start giving parts of yourself away. The problem is that if you give too much of yourself away, you wake up one morning to discover that you’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel one too many times and now there’s a leak. You look like yourself but there’s no substance left – you feel as though you’ve become a bit of a ghost.

I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t realize I was leaking until I tried to write a song. For weeks I came up from my office each day with almost nothing. When I showed my wife what I did have, she wanted to know why I’d written myself out of my songs: why didn’t I use the terms “I” and “me” anymore (and hadn’t for years actually). I realized the reason “I” wasn’t in my songs anymore was because I wasn’t in my songs. I had nothing to say. My well was a sandbox. I was dry as a bone. Real music comes from real life, and I didn’t have much of one anymore. I’d become consumed with keeping a machine running so that I could keep the budget flush. I became involved in a process that I’d seen a hundred times. The business that is created to support a vision begins to drive the vision itself. This is when things start to feel plastic and disingenuous. This is when things start to suck. This is when I check out.

I realized the only way I was going to be able to live with myself and keep doing what I loved was to start from scratch and piece things back together one by one. This would prove to be a slow, painful process. So in the meantime, I thought it would be a great idea to rerelease my album from 2005: “The Song Inside The Sounds of Breaking Down.”

We tracked most of this album in a 100-year-old wood shop and sold CDs out of my basement until 2008. After I signed with Integrity, the record label wanted to take the album off the market so it could be properly reintroduced to a larger audience (as they later did with “The Medicine,” which was also recorded and released independently). Due to a number reasons (all frankly too boring to talk about on this blog), the album was never rereleased. For 4 years, there has hardly been a day that I didn’t receive a MySpace message, Facebook post, Tweet, or email about this album. Now that I’m calling the shots again, I figured it would be a nice gesture to give all these people what they’ve been asking for for so long. (Plus we re-mixed it to make it sound the way we dreamed it could’ve sounded in 2005, and we added some extra stuff that I’ve wanted to put out for a while.)

The funny thing is, I thought I was rereleasing this album to give my new friends a chance to hear where our journey began (and kill some time while I figured out who I was again). But in the process, it also reminded me where and why I began. While I could still hear some of the immaturity in my writing from those days, there were moments that seemed to be perfectly relevant to where I am right now.

“Son of David, don’t pass me by…Cause I’m naked, I’m poor and I’m blind” – Closer

“You and I meet on the shores of the broken…You swallow the ocean and I swallow my pride” – Ashes and Flames

“This body is a hole…My flesh one shallow grave…I am six feet below myself…And at my best I still deserve to die…But I’ll be glorified in this ridiculous mess”- Setting Suns

“For the chance that I could know you now…I would bury my pride in the ground…Cause if I’m running then I don’t know how …I’m ever gonna get back home” – Make You Move

“All of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory…And I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me” – How He Loves

I’ve sung that line so many times that I forgot I wrote it. ”How He Loves” was originally recorded on this album and it contains a 3rd verse that I don’t do live. The song never really fit on “The Medicine.” It was meant for this album. Most of these songs, like “How He Loves,” were written from a place of being seriously “broke down.” Wading through the ashes of yesterday but willing to move on. Knowing a little more about what lasts and what doesn’t. A little better at differentiating between what’s real and what’s smoke. A little beat up but a lot wiser.

I’m technically a better writer now, but these are exactly the kinds of songs my heart needs to sing today. I hope they do something for your heart too. I’m glad you finally get to hear them.

To purchase a copy of The Song Inside The Sounds of Breaking Down Deluxe Reissue :: Remixed and Remastered or for fall tour date information please visit John Mark’s website www.thejohnmark.com

Note from John Mark:

In keeping with my theme of resurrection, today I’m posting commentary of my song “Dress Us Up” by Dr. John Hurtgen of Campbellsville University.

I love how Dr. Hurtgen can move from lighthearted banter to plumbing depths within in a single line.  Loved this and I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did.

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Dress Us Up Commentary 

Dress Us Up:  words by John Mark McMillan . . . other words by John Hurtgen, Dean, School of Theology, Campbellsville University (jehurtgen@campbellsville.edu & http://twitter.com/#!/cutheology)

Dress us up in your righteousness:   ever since Eden—and the failed fashion show—Adams and Eves have been trying to dress themselves in clothes to impress the Maker.  The prints always clash, colors ever condemning, tree-leaf briefs not quite permanent press.  The Maker dressed Adam and Eve once.  Animal skins, blood shed for life clothes (Gen. 3:21).  But we didn’t take the hint.  Outside Eden:  same prints, same colors, same tree leaves.  Until the Maker’s Son had his garments shed from him, and from Jesus’ crucifixion the Tailor made clothes that were just right, just righteous.  Dress us up in those clothes, God.
Bring us in with a ring and a kiss:  the son who squandered, who lost everything (Luke 15:11-32), never had a thought that his father would place a ring on his finger (the equivalent of handing his broken son a new credit card), nor that the affection of his father—in the form of a kiss—would ever again be his.  Authority (ring) and Affection (kiss) from the gracious God who loves to give, we can dare ask this Father, “bring us in.”
When you walk into the room you know we can’t resist:  the sad fact is that sometimes Jesus does walk into the room, has even been invited there (Luke 7:36), but no bottle of perfume wasted . . . and, even better(?), no mess on the floor.  Yet Jesus knows when the heart is civil, and definitely when the heat is not right.  He tells the story of two people, two debts, two inabilities to pay, two debts graciously canceled:  “Who do you suppose loved him more than that?” (Luke 7:41-42).  Just think about the massive debt (personal, relational, Godward) that you and I have been forgiven.  When he walks into the room, we can’t resist, no matter the cost, no matter the smell.
Every bottle of perfume always ends up on the floor in a mess:  Broken.  Most things work best that way (2 Cor. 12:8-10).  The crucifixion itself was another bottle of perfume poured out.  The bottle broken, the fragrance released.

You make us sparkle and you make us shine:  as in the first line (“dress us up”), there are things we just can’t do for ourselves.  He makes us sparkle and shine, only because of what’s on the inside.  “We have this treasure in jars of clay . . . so that everyone can see that the glorious power is from God and not our own” (2 Cor. 4:7).  Even clay sparkles and shines, if you heat it up enough.

Like the stars who sing on your chorus line:  everything shines, everything has its own glory (doxa, Grk.).  Sun, moon, and stars all shine in different ways, each with their own glory (1 Cor. 15:40-41).  There is no greater affirmation than this:  God is both Creator and Re-Creator, Designer and Re-Designer.  The same God who sent his Son is the same God (and Son) who placed each star on the chorus line.  The Star Song Revue has showtimes each and every night (Psalm 19:2).
Through space and time we’ll harmonize: 
A nice take on an old hymn text:  “Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above Join with all nature in manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love” (“Great is Thy Faithfulness,” 1923).  The nice twist is we get to sing right along, harmonize even, with sun, moon, stars.  Of all places, the Book of Revelation teaches us about the “four part harmony”:  “And then I heard every creature (1) in heaven and (2) on earth and (3) under the earth and (4) in the sea.  They sang:  ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever’” (Rev. 5:13).

Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky:  “no, no line on the horizon” (U2)?  Deep meets deep, mystery beyond our limited minds.  Voices merge, unity in the universal chorus.  Everyone knows the words.

The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you:
  Without the sun, the moon has no light.  Look for the moon during the “new moon” phase.  It’s there, but unilluminated (“It’s not that the colors aren’t there/It’s just imagination they lack,” Paul Simon).  In creation, the greater and the lesser, the sun and moon.  That’s just the order in re-creation, the greater and the lesser:  the Son and the many lesser satellites, who derive their light from the Son.  Jesus first up out of the grave (Col. 1:18); and then the “lesser lights” will come out of their grave just for the great God who breathes new life into them.
The dead man and the cynical too
They’re coming out of their grave:
  The gospel is not about us having a hard time swimming in the storms of life and Safeguard Jesus throwing the life-line.  Grab the rope and hold on tight!  Well, a lot of life is like that.  But the gospel is about “sinking deep” in the waters of sin (think Mafia and concrete shoes), and Jesus taking the dead man, the dead women and working the miracle of second birth.  One
And it’s just for you: 
for who else?  Soli deo gloria

Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death: 
God is love.  All you need is . . . God.  Paul says that there is nothing more powerful than the power of God, his love, his wisdom.  And how wise he is.  He uses the weak, foolish, despised things of the world to show his strength (1 Cor. 1:27-28).  “Watch this,” God says.  I am going to take a crucified, Jewish, itinerant, charismatic rabbi (from the sticks), and I am going to lay the foundation stone for a whole new world.  Many have stumbled over this stone.  Yet, the dead man and cynic too have found life, light, love in him.

Dress us up in the blood of a son:  denizens of the twenty-first century may have hard time with this line?  But we live in the “Twilight” zone, where vampires roam and blood is life and life is blood.  And we still know, to the core, that deep stains aren’t easily removed, or are ignored to our own peril.  When God dresses us up in the blood of his Son, two things happen.  First, our sins are forgiven.  Blood usually is a tough stain to remove, but Jesus’ blood removes the stain of sin.  We are forgiven!  Nothing like it (Rom. 4:7-8) . . . except to turn around and forgive someone else. 
Who opened up his veins so that we would overcome
Hell and the grave in the power of his love: 
Second, the dress up begins to overcome the sinful patterns of life, the ones that usually lead to hell and the grave.  Jesus showed us how it’s done, in life and in death and in resurrection.  The dress up is dress rehearsal for opening night, when kingdom comes.
After three dark days he showed us how it’s done
And he still does: 
Thank God for his patience.  He still does.

You make us sparkle and you make us shine
Like the stars who sing on your chorus line
Through space and time we’ll harmonize
Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky
Yeah: 
This word needs to be accepted into the Christian hymnal, right next to “amen.”

Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death

Blessed Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday!    John Hurtgen, Campbellsville University

 

Note fromJohn Mark:

This week I’ve ask some close friends to comment on the theology of my “resurrection songs”. Today I’m posting comments by someone who may be my biggest influence: My Dad!

Robin McMillan is the senior pastor of Queen City Church and also has a sweet blog.  Be sure to check it out: http://www.robinmcmillan.me/

Theology in “Skeleton Bones” by Robin McMillan

John Mark writes authentic songs, personal expressions reflecting his insight into the heart of God. He communicates his own brand of faith with nonreligious language that makes sense to him and deeply touches his generation and others.

Skeleton Bones is one of those songs. Some have found the term skeleton morbid or negative nevertheless the Lord Himself commanded the prophet Ezekiel to speak to a valley of ‘skeleton bones’. It didn’t seem to bother the Lord or, hopefully, the prophet. Ezekiel said that when he prophesied to them they literally rattled as they came together (Ezekiel 37:7). That’s the sound resurrecting dead people must make, especially those dead for hundreds or thousands of years.

‘Peel back our ribs’, a heart cry for intimacy, describes accurately the act of God in Genesis when He operated on Adam, peeled back a rib, and made a woman from it (Genesis 2:21-23). How could Adam not love her. She came from him (Adam), and Him (the Lord).

Who would not want the Lord to ‘peel back the veil of time’ so that we can see Him, the timeless One (see Isaiah 64:1). Those who love Him want to see Him so they can love Him more. Its the desire to love God more that sneaks into John Mark’s songs over and over…’we just wanna love you, we just wanna love you‘.

The phrase, ‘skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity on the lips of the found’ speaks of the resurrection of the dead for those upon whose lips are the confession of faith in Him and His salvation. It takes a mouth and a heart. ‘For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ (Romans 10:10).

‘Separate those doors and let the sun of resurrection in’ is a plea for each of us to open the doors of our hearts to the light of the One who died for us and was raised from the dead for our justification.

‘We want your blood inside our bodies’ reflects the song writer’s desire for intimacy based on the very intent of Jesus the night before He was betrayed when He instituted the mystery of communion: Eat my body, drink my blood, He said (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).

‘We want your wind inside our lungs’, expresses the desire to be a ‘God-breathed’ person; like Adam in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:7), like the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2) when they breathed the rarified air of heaven. In both cases God released a supernatural life that changed Eden and changed the world. God…breathe into your people again. That’s John Marks song! That’s my prayer for His church too.

Skeleton Bones 
Peel back our ribs again
and stand inside of our chest.
We just wanna’ love you
 We just wanna’ love you
 
Peel back the veil of time
And let us see You with our naked eyes
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you
 
Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
And gravestones roll
To the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
So separate those doors
And let the sun of resurrection in.
 
Oh let us adore the
Son of Glory dress ed in love
Open up your gates before him
Crown Him, stand Him up
 
We want your blood to flow inside our body
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you


Robin McMillan
Sr. Pastor, Queen City Church
church website: thequeencitychurch.com

blogsite :robinmcmillan.me

A note from John Mark:

At the end of the day, I’m a songwriter who dabbles in theology.  I don’t sing about Jesus because I want to spread a message.  I don’t sing about Jesus because it’s the Christian thing to do.  If I sing about Jesus, it’s for one simple reason, and that’s because I believe he’s worth singing about.   While it’s never been my intention to communicate theology through my music, my heart’s fascination with certain subjects have carved out a good bit of space for it in my songs over the years.

I thought it would be fun to comment on some of that theology this week (specifically in my “resurrection songs”) but being more of an artist who dabbles in the subject, I decided it could be a better idea to employ friends who have an extensive knowledge of these matters.

Today’s guest, Ray Hollenbach, actually made me understand my own song in a way that I never imagined I could.  I hope you enjoy his words and be sure to check out his blog: http://studentsofJesus.com/ 

The Theology of “Murdered Son” by Ray Hollenbach

Murdered Son should be on your playlist this holy week. Last year John Mark broke down his thoughts and the Bible roots of Death in His Grave. Perhaps there is room to explore Murdered Son as well. Here are some of the things John Mark’s song stirs up in my heart:

Murdered Son . . .

The title phrase is compelling because it expresses at least two characters in the passionate drama of resurrection: There is a father, and there is a son. God’s son was murdered. The suffering of Good Friday is not for Jesus alone–a father looked on and watched his son die. The pain was multiplied by two.

God’s son chose the public role of victim. The son knew the father’s pain and positioned himself the bridge between Creator and creation.

Together, the Father and the Son suffered the injustice of hatred, torture and death. They faced their enemies with a determination to pave the road home even when no one was interested in the journey.

Resurrection:

The father delights to raise people up. Resurrection was God’s method a long time before Easter morning. I like to imagine that the same God who stood back and spoke the universe into existence then chose to kneel in the mud and raise humanity up from the dust. The very creation of Adam is a resurrection. The very act of new birth in Jesus raises us up, daughters and sons, into the heavens at his side. It is the resurrection that comes before resurrection day. That same God has raised us up, and he will again.

Scattered our debt upon the waves:

I don’t know what John Mark had in mind with this image, but I have scattered my father’s ashes across the Kentucky hillside behind my home. I have scattered his memory onto the land where I live. But in John Mark’s lyric I see the a father who pile my sins together like so much deadwood, and sets it ablaze. And after he incinerates my sin he gathers the ashes and takes them to the farthest reaches of the sea, and scatters my debt upon the waves. Just try to find my sin, resurrect it and use it as evidence against me. Good luck with that.

Hidden ours faults even from Your own face . . .

Who hides the faults of others–from themselves? Some of us sweep the faults of others under the rug because they have embarrassed us. But we know what they have done, and we don’t forget. Some people hide the faults of others because they, too, have the same faults–they don’t want to face themselves. But the father–the one who has nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide, hides our faults from himself. The one who knows everything chooses to no nothing of us except his love.

Who paid for my resurrection:

How much money does it take to raise the dead? As a pastor I’ve presided over the funerals of rich and poor alike. No one has what it takes to pay the price. It turns out the price for resurrection is the willingness to suffer injustice and give yourself to the very people who want to see you dead. It’s a chorus I can sing over and over: Who paid for my resurrection. On the day he raises me up I am debt free.

The artist is entitled to all the meaning he puts into the song and whatever meaning find there as well. I don’t know all John Mark intended to say, but I know he intended that I should see resurrection wherever I look.

With Easter almost upon us, I’ve decided to re-post this line by line commentary on Death In His Grave that I wrote about about a year ago.  I hope you all enjoy it / re-enjoy it. 

 

 

“Death in his grave” is loosely inspired by Steve Turners Poem “The Morning That Death Was Killed” and the folk song “Jesse James”.  “Jesse James” was originally recorded in 1924 by Bascom Lamar Lunsford but later versions by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan sometimes included Judas in place of Robert Ford and Jesus as Jesse James.

Here is an excerpt of the Jesus / Judas version:

Jesus was a man, a carpenter by hand
His followers true and brave
One dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot
Has laid Jesus Christ in His Grave

I liked the idea of writing a similar song about Jesus and Death.  I felt strongly that I wanted to write a whole song around the line “The Man Jesus Christ laid death in his grave”. It sounded like a great idea, but honestly, I almost didn’t finish this song because the weight of this subject matter.  Plus I wanted to make it somewhat accessible without making light of the issues or coming across as trite.  Still I knew this song belonged on “The Medicine” and through much blood and frustration I hammered it out.

There are 3 different types of language used when writing a song of this particular subject matter. There is theological language, common language, and poetical language.  I enjoyed incorporating all 3 kinds of language in the writing of this song.  The song has strong theological implications.  At times it directly references scripture, however it’s not a sermon. It’s poetry (as a song should be) and uses quite a bit of simile and metaphor as well as certain instances of personification.  People who have a “hang up” with this song generally do so because they either don’t like, or don’t understand the personification of the earth, death, sun and moon etc. I understand if people don’t fancy these elements but there is no good reason not to use them.  After all, the Psalms, which I’ve always understood to be our blue print for these types of expressions, are chocked full of poetic language.  Check out Psalm 19 for a great example of personification.

One other hang up people may have with this song is the colloquial feel of the lyrics.  I purposely wanted this song to feel old and I thought a good way of accomplishing this was to use some older southern mannerisms.  Once again I understand why people wouldn’t “get” this, but Jesus had no problem using colloquial phrases in his own stories and addresses so I didn’t feel like there was any reason to abstain from these myself.

Here is a breakdown of what I may have been thinking about and feeling while I wrote these words.

Enjoy!

Though the earth cried out for blood

The earth or “the world” speaks of the gravity of all things temporary and the sin that binds us to a dying universe.   Paul tells the Ephesians “you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world“ (Eph 2:2)

The “course of this world” is a course that is passing away and by clinging to the things of it, we too are destined to pass away with it.  This idea of “the world” is what the apostle John speaks of overcoming by faith in 1 John 5.

The earth is also where our bodies return when they die.  The world is unforgiving, unrelenting, and cold.  For these reasons I decided to personify the Earth (aka the grave) as a hungry person or animal with an insatiable appetite for the souls of men.   

satisfied her hunger was

When the blood of Jesus fell upon the earth and his body was placed inside of it (the tomb), he paid our passage from this passing world to the eternal world and created a “new and living way” (Heb 10:20).

I felt an interesting illustration of this could be to personify the earth as tasting perfection in the blood of it’s creator thus no longer desiring lesser blood, or the grave having eaten its fill in the sinless body of Christ.  Certainly our mortal bodies still go into the earth, but because the blood of Jesus satisfied the demands of the law, we are no longer subject to the gravity that binds us to the eternal consequences of sin.

Her billows calmed on raging seas, for the souls of men she craved

I wanted to touch on the fact that the earth itself awaits it’s own redemption and even groans like a woman in labor in expectation of that time (Rom 8).  It’s like creation could see an end to this agony through the blood its own creator shed to reverse the effects of “the fall” that had thrown it into utter chaos and disrepair.   Obviously there are still storms and the world is still a dangerous place, but the Bible speaks of a day when the lion and the lamb will lay together and children will play beside cobras.  This ultimate peace is the end result of the sacrifice of Jesus.

Sun and moon, from balcony turned their head in disbelief
Their precious love would taste the sting disfigured and disdained

The Bible talks about the sky going dark when Jesus was crucified.  I saw this like the heavens turning their eyes at the sight of what was happening to the center of their very universe.  Almost like one part of creation sickened at the sight of another part of creation destroying the one they had been created “by, through and for”.

“Disfigured” and “disdained” are words used to describe the literal event taking place during crucifixion. 

On Friday a thief on Sunday a king

Jesus obviously wasn’t a thief, but he was crucified between 2 thieves and thus treated like a thief on one day yet risen as a king only a few days later.   I wanted this line to express the contrast between the 2 perceptions of Jesus that changed so quickly in a short amount of time.  The colloquialism allows for a little exaggeration and helps me make this contrast more apparent.


Laid down in grief but awoke with the keys to hell on that day

Once again, more contrast, but this time playing on what Jesus says of himself in Revelation 1:18: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

First born of the slain

In Revelation 5 Jesus is called the “the firstborn from the dead”. In Romans 8:29 he is called the “first born among many brethren”.  This says to me that in resurrection Jesus become not only our redeemer but also our new model.   He is the first of the ‘new creation’.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom 8:8)

I love the implications of these verses.  Plus slain rhymes with grave, which is important.

The man Jesus Christ

Romans 5:15

“For if many people died as the result of one man’s offense, how much more has God’s grace and the free gift given through the kindness of one man, Jesus Christ, been showered on many people!”

It is important that we understand the humanity of Jesus.  Jesus lived like we live, and felt like we feel.  He was “tempted in every way”.  He suffered like a man and he felt sorrow as well as joy.  Most significantly, he died like a man.  Jesus regularly referred to himself as the “son of man” because I think he felt it was important for us to know that we have a God who can sympathize with our infirmities (Heb 4:15).  I believe Jesus was both completely God and completely man.  I believe he knows us, not just because he created us, but because, in many ways, he is us.  I am NOT, in any way, saying “we are God” but I am saying that God lived as we lived.

Laid death in his grave

I love irony.  It was in the death of Jesus that death itself died.  A man named Joseph laid Jesus in his tomb, but it was Jesus who would ultimately put death itself away for evermore.   Some people sing this line as though death was left in Jesus’ own tomb, but I always thought of it as Jesus laying death in the grave.  Putting death away for good.

So 3 days in darkness slept the morning sun of righteousness

In Revelation Jesus calls himself the “Bright and Morning Star”.  I wanted to paint this picture of a new day dawning and Jesus rising from the darkness of the grave like the sun rises from the darkness of the horizon.

But rose to shame the throes of death and overturn his rule

I liked the illustration of death personified as a tyrannical ruler to whom Jesus came to over throw.

Now daughters and the sons of men would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent when the day rolled a new

The “debt of blood” refers to the blood sacrifice that men and women were previously required by law to offer for sin, but also to the idea that a person would pay for their time on earth by their own death.  Jesus paid the debt we owed, and became the blood sacrifice upon the alter of all time. This is the blood that Paul said is more powerful than the blood of animals and to attempt to pay for our own sins again would be like trampling the blood of Jesus under foot.

He has cheated hell

This is more Colloquialism.  In the south, when something doesn’t work out the way we expect we often say “we’ve been cheated”.  Also there is the expression “to cheat death” which means to have a close call.  With Jesus it was more than close, but I like the way the word “cheated” sounds rude when pertaining to death. I like the idea of Jesus turning his nose up at the whole situation and making an open spectacle of this tyrant.

And seated us above the fall

Ephesians 2:5-6

even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”

Earlier in Ephesians, Paul says that Jesus sits above all principality and power.  If we have been made to sit with Jesus, then we too sit above every dominion, every influence, and every circumstance.

 

In desperate places he paid our wages

Referring to Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death but…”

One time once and for all

Romans 6:9-10

“Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.”

This line needs little interpretation in my opinion.


(After posting this yesterday I wanted to add this note to clarify a couple things)
A note on the songwriting process:

Some people have ask was I really thinking about all this when I wrote the song? My short reply would be “no”, but a more accurate answer would have to be more like something I heard Springsteen say one time: “I wasn’t thinking about any of it but I was feeling every bit of it!”

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