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Old 12-15-2005, 04:13 PM   #1
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Essay on U2 Yahweh -- warning long and very religious

When I first heard Yahweh a year ago, I was deeply touched and wrote this essay. In two days, I’m going to my first U2 concert ever in Salt Lake City. I’m totally stoked about it. My favorite U2 song of all is Bad, and I’ve been watching the setlists to see what the chances are they’ll play it. I’m not expecting it, but it would be great to hear. That said, Yahweh and 40 are great back to back as a closer and would impact me deeply, spiritually, I’m sure.

As a note of introduction, be warned this is lengthy and very religious and doctrinal. Don’t read if that sort of thing might offend you. Many U2 fans don’t care about religion and this might even detract from your enjoyment of the song, so let this essay be about me and what the song means to me, not trying to force you to believe I speak for Bono.

I don’t talk about the music, here, just the lyrics. I think if the lyrics didn’t reach me so deeply, the music might not either, but as it is, I love this song.

Yahweh is an alternate pronunciation of Jehovah. It is spelled YWHW in Hebrew and the correct pronunciation was lost over time because no one was allowed to speak the word.

Christians believe Jehovah is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. At the risk of offending Jews, I will approach this just from a Christian point of view, since that is all I know. The song is sung as a hymn directly to our Savior. The theme here is one of grace, coming to know Christ and his love, and offering one’s self to Him.


Verse 1

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing

Here I am, Jesus, in all my weakness.
I lack direction and purpose (Click clacking down some dead end street).
I don’t have ability or talent to meet any purpose if I had one (And make them fit ).
I feel there is nothing special about me (Polyester white trash made in nowhere).
I struggle with sin. (And make it clean, clean)
I am mortal with a body that is prone to sickness and death and imperfection (Stranded in some skin and bones)
I can’t reach my potential, and I lack joy. (And make it sing)

But I offer myself to you. (Take these shoes, shirt, soul, etc.)


Chorus

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn

Always pain before a child is born

Before a child is born
• Our individual condition before we accept Christ
• Condition of mankind before Christ came and atoned for us
• Our individual condition before we feel forgiveness for sin

Still I’m waiting for the dawn

This song is a live action event. We are in real time. At this stage we have acknowledged Christ’s goodness and power. We are asking for his grace. We lament in the pain and difficulty we are experiencing waiting for Him, comparing it to the waiting for the dawn in a dark night.


Verse 2

Take these hands
Teach them what to carry
Take these hands
Don’t make a fist
Take this mouth
So quick to criticise
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss

Most of the interpretations of this is to say this is a Christian code of conduct or it’s an anti-war or anti-Bush message. Certainly U2 has been very political and especially anti-war but not looking deeper is to completely miss a very meaningful thought.

The message goes back to the first verse’s message. It is an admission of guilt.

I don’t know what to do with my life. (Teach them what to carry)
I lack charity--naturally prone to aggression or criticism. (Don’t make a fist… So quick to criticize)

And now we make more of a direct and intimate request for his grace.

Take this mouth
So quick to criticise
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss

What beautiful words expressing human weakness and our unworthiness and symbolizing our collective request to God to forgive us. We ask for what we don’t merit: his grace, his favor, his forgiveness.

My son is young enough that we kiss on the lips. A few weeks ago he threw an unopened can of pop at me in anger which hit my work laptop computer and upon impact, exploded open right into the keyboard. The screen went dead, and I was mad! I chased after him and he ran away crying. He knew he had done wrong. He knew he had caused a loss that maybe couldn’t be retrieved. He felt serious regret. After I calmed down he came to me to say sorry and puckered up his little mouth for a kiss. He knew he DESERVED something worse but what he desperately NEEDED was my grace and my kiss.

I imagine my little son saying these lyrics, asking the Savior for a kiss on the mouth. I imagine myself asking the Savior in an equally intimate way to give me grace instead of punishing me the way I deserve.

Chorus

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn

Back to the live action. We are still in a state of waiting. Feeling the pain and suffering of the loneliness and heartache of this world and the consequences of our mortality. The last sentence is sung slower as if we are running out of strength and faith waiting for Christ to save us.

Still waiting for the dawn, the sun is coming up
The sun is coming up on the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean

This is the moment we are saved. This is the moment the Savior takes on our sins in the garden and dies for us, opening a new hope for mankind. This is the moment the atonement becomes real in our lives. We receive his grace. Our shoes fit. Our shirt is made clean. We are kissed on the mouth.

At this moment we realize His love is like a drop in the ocean. It is so abundant and encompassing that we will never again want for more.

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn

The music picks up as we are now in a state of feeling God’s love and knowing his grace. We repeat the same words we lamented on in our darkness, but this time at a quicker pace and a happy tone, as if to say how easy that was to sit through that dark night knowing how wonderful the pay off was.

Verse 3

Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city
If it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break

The last line is the most touching of all.

First, we acknowledge that Christ owns our heart. (What no man can own, no man can take)
Then we offer our heart to Christ. We don’t ask for fame or riches or romantic love. Our only request is for Him to make it break.

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken
and a contrite heart,

The requirement to access his grace is the broken heart and a contrite spirit, but the irony and the power here is that we as a human race are still unable to meet the requirement for us to offer a broken heart. We need him to even accomplish that and are asking for him to break our hearts, i.e. change our naturally selfish/carnal self to a humble spirit ready to offer a broken heart.


Thank you for reading to the end if you have. I am a Mormon (LDS), and though we believe in grace, doctrinally, we are having a hard time with it culturally, due to our history of works and strong work ethic enabling our survival (crossing the plains to Utah, settling in the desert of Utah and working to make it thrive, etc.). This song is very touching to me.
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Old 12-15-2005, 04:59 PM   #2
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Re: Essay on U2 Yahweh -- warning long and very religious

Nice job, I think this is an interesting interpretation.

However, being an atheist myself, I don't know where this is from:

Quote:
Originally posted by ltcf


Here I am, Jesus, in all my weakness.
I lack direction and purpose (Click clacking down some dead end street).
I don’t have ability or talent to meet any purpose if I had one (And make them fit ).
I feel there is nothing special about me (Polyester white trash made in nowhere).
I struggle with sin. (And make it clean, clean)
I am mortal with a body that is prone to sickness and death and imperfection (Stranded in some skin and bones)
I can’t reach my potential, and I lack joy. (And make it sing)

But I offer myself to you. (Take these shoes, shirt, soul, etc.)
It's from the bible?
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Old 12-15-2005, 05:04 PM   #3
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Lovely, and very well-written. Thanks for sharing that. (It's a strange coincidence that I've had that song running through my head all day, and then I see this.)

I'm not sure, but I think you would get a bigger discussion going if this were moved to The Goal is Soul forum. What do the mods think?
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Old 12-15-2005, 05:20 PM   #4
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Walkon21: sorry I'm new here and had trouble using the quote button. To answer your question, no not from bible. In paranthesis is obviously the lyrics. The rest is just my interpretation of the meaning--the sentiment I have as I fantasize that I wrote the song and I'm singing in front of thousands of fans.
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Old 12-15-2005, 05:29 PM   #5
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I am an atheist also but Im starting to come around to the idea of God existing.

Great post ltcf, an excellent read.
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Old 12-15-2005, 09:11 PM   #6
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Re: Essay on U2 Yahweh -- warning long and very religious

Quote:
Originally posted by ltcf


The last line is the most touching of all.

First, we acknowledge that Christ owns our heart. (What no man can own, no man can take)
Then we offer our heart to Christ. We don’t ask for fame or riches or romantic love. Our only request is for Him to make it break.
ltcf -

One hell of a great post. I especially thought this bit was well said. Thanks for the read!
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Old 12-16-2005, 11:07 PM   #7
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I am a Roman Catholic and I would have to say that that was a very touching wonderful read.... I can seem to have a better grasp on the last line now of the song, it certainly makes sense a lot more now.... nicely written!
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Old 12-17-2005, 08:10 AM   #8
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Really impressive, I'm Christian by the way. You have some interesting ideas about the song, but in my opinion the line "Always pain before a child is born" means
no good(the child) can come without sacrifice(pain), but that's just my opinion.
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Old 12-19-2005, 10:16 AM   #9
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I also share your opinion, ( I just noticed this thread), and as I've said before, it really touches me that people appreciate this song - it's what lead me to getting into U2 after all these years.
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Old 12-22-2005, 07:55 PM   #10
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Very interesting to read, thanks!

I'd like to add a few thoughts, too, because this song has always touched me deeply as well.

The ending lyrics to the song . . . well, that whole last verse, really - - I've taken it two ways:

Take this city, this city should be shining on a hill,
take this city, if it be your will

To me, this is talking about the city of JERUSALEM. And that it should be a beacon rather than the war-torn city that it is. These lyrics mean that to me. The verse goes on to say:

What no man can own, no man can take.

If still talking about the city, if God owns the city of Jerusalem, rather than the men fighting over it, then the fighting would be worthless because they're fighting over something none of them own anyway! If no man can own it, no man can take it.

But let's go on to the last part of the song . . .

Take this heart,
take this heart
Take this heart and make it break.

Beautiful, from a Christian standpoint, isn't it? I love this . . .

So, if you then read the "What no man can own, no man can take" as the intro to the last sentiment, of giving your heart to God fully and allowing Him to break your heart for Him (full submission to Him) . . . it's so fitting.

The "What no man can own, no man can take - - take this heart, and make it break" lyrics, then, to me, mean that if man can't own his own heart, the one who can or does is the one who takes it, and that's GOD. GORGEOUS!!

To me, the line "what no man can own, no man can take" is a bridge between the 2 thoughts of Jerusalem and God taking/braking our hearts for Him, and both understandings of that one line seem to mesh well together.

Bono is a MASTER lyricist. I love it!

And I also wanted to add my thoughts on the lines about "Always pain before a child is born," because to me, this is almost less tangible than the literal 'birth pain' feeling.

To me, these lines represent the overall idea that yes, you go through so much pain sometimes, and in the end, after the pain, you find the good or the happiness. (because happiness and joy are two different things. So many people mistake "Beautiful Day" for being about a truly beautiful day . . . but it's actually about having JOY even when you've lost everything in your life. It's still a beautiful day because you have JOY. Joy does not depend on circumstance. It exists despite circumstance.)

The labor pains are tough, but there happiness in found in the end.

That's what I hear when I hear the lyrics, "Always pain before a child is born."

After the pain comes the reward for perseverance. There's always pain before a child is born.
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Old 12-22-2005, 10:16 PM   #11
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I don't mean to sound conceited or anything like that at all. I think that the Jeruselum theory is a good one....however....istn't the U.S. usually refered to as the City Shining on a hill?

Quote:
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill ~ John Winthrop
And also

Quote:
I've thought a bit of the "shining city upon a hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still. ~ Ronald Reagan's farewell address.


But that was an amazing essay and really put into words how I feel about that song. Thank you so much
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Old 12-23-2005, 08:57 AM   #12
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I definitely see your point. I just wonder if, when Bono was writing the lyrics, he was thinking of the U.S.?

The one thing that might be a slight difference (again, slight) is that the U2 lyric says, "this city should be shining on a hill," and when I read that, the emphasis seems to be on "this" and "shining" rather than "shining city," does that make sense? Re-reading it sort of sounds like jibberish, ha ha!

Jerusalem seems to fit more with the theme of the song, but you never know . . .

Hmmm, neat - I just did a quick Internet search of these words, "Jerusalem shining hill" and I ran across these song lyrics:


Rejoice O Israel

I behold a city on a hill

A nation torn by war

But in that place Jehovah says

His grace has been poured forth


The cool thing about lyrics, though, is that the same ones can mean different things to different people.

I find it interesting to discuss, though - - thanks for the opportunity!
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Old 12-23-2005, 08:58 AM   #13
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Hey! Great post!

I'm a religious Jew and don't worry I wasn't offended by anything you wrote!! True, we don't pronounce the 4 letter name of G-d (YWHW) so it's really interesting when I try to sing along to the song....

Obviously I can't find anything offending from your post as I imagine that the song was written from a Christian standpoint. While I personally find different meaning in the song (as I come from a different background and have different beliefs) I appreciate what you wrote as it's probably a lot closer to the intended meaning than what I interpret! I always find other religions interesting; thanks for the insight!
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Old 12-23-2005, 03:40 PM   #14
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Now that you all have pointed out hte Jeruselum reference, that makes sense as well, I was just trying to say that the first time I heard it, it made me think of the US, and on tours he just alwasy seems to mention how the US needs to help itself or something like this, so Ithink if he were sayiin that the US SHOULD be shining on a hill, that makes sense too...did that make any sense?
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Old 12-27-2005, 05:11 AM   #15
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A great post, Itcf. Thank you for sharing it.
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