Today we come to the song that — to me at least — is the most musically interesting. It makes heavy use of the half-diminished chord, which will probably only make sense to my fellow music theory geeks… but that’s okay. I dig it, and I hope you do too.
There are also several lengthy passages in 7/8 meter, which is usually awkward, but this band grooves so well it might even pass unnoticed by most listeners. For instance, the first time the 7/8 feel comes in is after the second chorus, starting around 2:20 on the video. Peterson also uses this meter for most of the prophetic passages from Isaiah… which leads me to wonder: Was this a purely musical choice, or is there some subtle numerology going on there? After all, for those who believe in Biblical Numerology, seven is the number of spiritual perfection and completeness. Fitting for prophecies about the perfect King who is the answer to all of Israel’s prayers…
I love this video, which does a great job of pairing Scripture references with the lyrics:
So Long Moses
So long, Moses
Hello, Promised Land
It was a long, long road
But your people are home
So long, Moses
We’re coming to town
Twelve tribes and no crown
No crown, Oh Lord
We want a king on a throne
Full of power, with a sword in his fist
Will there ever be, will there ever be a king like this?
First king of Israel
You were foolish and strong
And you didn’t last long
Hail, King David
Shepherd from Bethlehem
Set the temple of God
In mighty Jerusalem
He was a king on a throne
Full of power, with a sword in his fist
Has there ever been, has there ever been a king like this?
Full of wisdom, full of strength, the hearts of the people are his
Hear, O Israel, was ever there a king like this?
The kingdom is broken now
The people of God
Have been scattered abroad
For how long, O Lord?
So speak, Isaiah
Prophet of Judah
Can you tell of the One
This king who’s going to come
Will he be a king on a throne
Full of power with a sword in his fist?
Prophet, tell us will there be another king like this?
Full of wisdom, full of strength,
The hearts of the people are his
Prophet, tell us will there be
another king like this?
“He’ll bear no beauty or glory
A man of such sorrow
We’ll cover our eyes
He’ll take up our sickness
Carry our tears
For his people
He will be pierced
He’ll be crushed for our evils
Our punishment feel
By his wounds
We will be healed.”
“From you, O Bethlehem
Small among Judah
A ruler will come
Ancient and strong.”
In the album’s storyline, this song picks up where the last one ends. Israel was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years because they had complained against God. Even Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land, because in his frustration he had been disobedient. Instead, it was Joshua who led the twelve tribes of Israel into Canaan, fighting and evicting the land’s inhabitants (but not all of them, as God had commanded… which came back to bite them many times).
For many generations, Israel was governed by judges. Some were good, some were bad. By the time of Samuel, though, the Israelites were tired of judges. Samuel was old, and his sons — whom had been appointed Israel’s new judges — were corrupt. The people wanted a king, like all of the surrounding nations had (1 Samuel 8:5).
Samuel warned them that this was not right, and that if they got the powerful king they wanted, he would tax them, take their fields and goods, and conscript their sons for military service. Still, the people made their demands, and God let them have what they wanted (1 Samuel 8:19-22). They got Saul, who did everything Samuel had warned he would do.
God rejected Israel’s king, and replaced him with someone better (1 Samuel 15:26-28). Unlike Saul, King David was beloved by the people (most of the time), and pursued God (most of the time). He was everything the people wanted in a king. He was powerful, wise, a brilliant military commander. He brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and made plans for Israel to have a permanent temple there, rather than the tabernacle they’d carried with them during the nomadic wandering.
Yet even this best of all earthly kings had some major problems. He was guilty of adultery and murder. Because of his sins, his family was really screwed up (2 Samuel 12:10). His children fought, raped, and killed each other. One of his sons even tried to take the throne from him. This is the best man had to offer?
Though the throne of Israel remained in David’s line for many more generations, Israel was ultimately uprooted and scattered, because they did not follow the Lord. Still, God sent prophets to his people, and promised that one day a messiah (which means “anointed”, the same word used to describe David) would come. A king in David’s line who would redeem God’s people, and rule the entire world in a reign of justice and peace.
The book of Isaiah is sometimes called “the fifth gospel”, because it speaks so strongly of Jesus Christ… though we only know that in hindsight. Despite Isaiah’s prophecies about the suffering servant, and his contemporary Micah’s prophecy that this great king would come from Bethlehem of all places, the Jews expected their messiah to come as a conquering king, not as a helpless baby. They wanted the same thing they had demanded in Samuel’s day: a warrior king who would defeat their enemies and lead them by his wisdom and might.
Just as in Samuel’s day, God will answer their prayers… just not in the way they expected. The Messiah will come as a conquering King, carrying a sword with which He will strike down the nations and rule as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16). But first, He came in humility, to suffer in the place of His people, that the word of the Law and the Prophets might be fulfilled (Luke 24:44-48).
His name is Jesus, by whose Word all things were created, and of whom the prophets foretold. He took on flesh and was born of a virgin about 2000 years ago, in a tiny Israeli village called Bethlehem. Most of the people who were looking for the Messiah missed Him the first time, but He’s coming back again, and when He does, every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). There will be no mistaking Him next time!