U2 are one of my favorite rock bands. I have always appreciated the spiritual content in most of their lyrics. The first time I heard them was when MTV played their Under A Blood Red Sky concert film. The concert was filmed at Colorado’s Red Rocks amphitheater just after a series of rain storms that almost cancelled the show.
I had heard of U2 but they didn’t play the kind of music that I listened to. I was more into hard rock bands like Def Leppard and Quiet Riot but I can remember being mesmerized as I watched them perform as rain fell, fog rolled across the stage, and fames leapt into the sky from torches strategically places on stage. It was magical. Some feel that it was the moment that forever changed their career and turned them into one of the biggest rock bands to ever exist.
What stuck out to me was the way in which Bono worked the crowd. The image of him waving a white flag during Sunday Bloody Sunday is one of the iconic images from their career. It was the lyrics to that song that grabbed my attention. I had been in church my entire life and had idea that member of U2 professed faith in Christ. Imagine my surprise when Bono crooned, “To claim the victory Jesus won,” in the final verse of that anthem.
I sat there pondering that lyric while the other songs played. Had I misheard or misunderstood the lyrics? Did this guy in a rock band just mention Jesus? It wasn’t until the band walked back out on the stage to do the encore that it hit home. Those who have seen the film know that the final number is 40, which also happens to be the final track on their 1983 album War.
Guitarist Edge (his nickname) and bassist Adam Clayton swap instruments and Bono encourages the crowd to sing along with them. I had never heard the song before but I was immediately floored as the lyrics sprang from his lips.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined and heard my cry.
He lifted me up out of the pit, out of the miry clay.
I will sing a new song.
I could not believe this rock back was singing a Bible verse. What amazed me even more was that the crowd of over four thousand was singing along with him. I had been watching a rock concert and somehow it ended as a church service. That made an impact on me that I still feel to this day.
That was over thirty years ago but that performance touches me every time I see it. Personally, I think the ultimate version of the song is taken from their 2005 concert in Chicago when they paired it with another gripping song called Yahweh. That one literally brings tears to my eyes when the band drops out and the crowd continues to sing as they exit the stage.
I shared all of that because U2’s 40 is one of my favorite songs of all time and it is adapted from one of my favorite passages of Scripture, Psalm 40. The song and the psalm resonate with me deeply because they remind me that no matter how great my pain is God is still there with me. If I continue to put my trust in Him I will eventually be delivered. He will hear my cries and He will lift me up.
My purpose for writing this is to share my thoughts and feelings on this psalm of David. In these pages I will tell of various times in my life where I felt as if I was looking up from the bottomless pit and sinking in the muck and mire. All throughout my life this psalm has spoken peace to me and rekindled hope when I thought that I was alone in my trials. It is my prayer that it will do the same for you.
Grace and peace
40 lyrics by U2