One of the things I enjoy is music. I know some people do not like secular music. Others stick to one genre, but I love many different types of music. The following song is a favorite:
I was born by the river, in a little tent
Oh, and just like the river
I’ve been running ever since
It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes, it will
The song written by Sam Cooke can be sung by anyone going through hard times, and they can feel the emotional pulling of pain that is undeniable. The words make us believe with longing that change is coming. We can see it far off in the distance. But if the person singing the song doesn’t know who Sam Cooke is, his life, or what was going on in the world during his days under the sun, the song loses some of its meaning. Long Time Comin was a civil rights song, considered an anthem, and played during President Obama’s inaugural ceremony. In 1965 the radio cut out a portion of the song:
I go to the movie
And I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me
Don’t hang around
Then I go to my brother
And I say, brother, help me, please
But he winds up, knockin’ me
Back down on my knees. . .
Sometimes we sing songs or read the Bible, and we think we know what the book is about, who wrote it, and the meaning of it, but just like Sam Cooke, many sing his songs but don’t know anything about his life or tragic death. And further, when portions of songs are removed from the radio unless the listeners bought the album, they don’t get the full effect of what the song meant. Each of our lives is like that. No one truly knows our songs but us. We live the lyrics, and we cut out the portions we don’t want others to know about.
In 1936 a Jewish American public high school teacher named Abel Meeropol wrote a song. Abel’s words painted a scene that was and is hard to stomach. Meeropol saw a photograph of the lynching of two Black teenagers, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith.
“J. Thomas Shipp and Abraham S. Smith were young African-American men who were murdered in a spectacle lynching by a mob of thousands on August 7, 1930, in Marion, Indiana. They were taken from jail cells, beaten, and hanged from a tree in the county courthouse square.” (Wiki)
The photograph disturbed Meeropol so much that he wrote a poem about it titled “Strange Fruit.” It was published in 1937 in The New York Teacher, the journal of the teacher’s union. The poem was also later published in the Marxist journal, The New Masses. Abel Meeropol: “Bitter Fruit” | Experiencing History: Holocaust Sources in Context (ushmm.org)
Strange fruit was later performed by Billie Holiday and cost her jail time. She sang the song last at her shows and commanded attention by having all the lights turned out with only a spotlight on her face. Afterward, she walked off stage, ending her performance with no encore.
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin’ flesh
Mostly we don’t like to think about the cruelty and ignorance we are guilty of. We don’t want to believe that there have always been men who treated men as if they were not human. We can have blood on our roots and, at times, strange fruit hanging from poplar trees. Maybe not in the same degree, but bad fruit no less.
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner Harry Anslinger, a known racist, was out to destroy Holiday and stop her from singing about Strange Fruit. Billie Holiday was pointing out the strangeness and the inhumaneness of lynching. People enjoyed her when she was a sexy, soulful entertainer, but not when she exposed rotten fleshly fruit. Holiday lived a life of sorrow and yes, drug addiction, but the definition of a prophet is one who speaks with authority. Prophets come in many colors–with many backgrounds. No one may have taught them the Torah of commandments, but they know that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. They stand in the midst of abuse singing or speaking words that penetrate the heart.
We can read the Bible like we sing many songs, with half the lyrics and no history of the person who wrote the song or who may have tampered with the lyrics or removed portions. We read our Bibles at times with the same ignorance.
It’s been a long time comin, but I feel a change is gonna come.
Today, I wonder if we are growing colder and farther away from what Yeshua wanted us to be doing and growing farther away from one another. You can gather with people and still not be transparent or vulnerable. Often, we don’t listen to others. Yeshua said it is the sick who need doctors, and I am not just talking about physical sickness, there are many reasons for suffering. I spend time counseling people who are sick, and they have primarily no physical ailments, but I do. Mostly, they need healed from trauma. They need to know their worth. Their gifts. Their callings. They need to get over their upbringing or lack of one. They need love, maturity, or strength to survive one more day. They need to know someone understands or has empathy for what they have suffered. They need to leave the graveyard.
And sometimes the doctors need a doctor, an oil change, a refilling, and a season of rest.
It’s been a long time comin, but a change gonna come:
Some Thoughts. . .
- Do we repeat what we are taught without thought or research. Like a parrot mimicking its trainer. I think so.
- It wasn’t until 1988 that a weekly Torah Portion was implemented and accepted. Today many in the Messianic movement are on top of this cycle, but have we left off reading the Gospels and other writings?
- Women in the Body of Messiah are still treated as if they need to keep silent due to a couple of letters written by the Apostle Paul (Sha’ul) taken out of context concerning one woman out of order.
- We don’t know how to argue points and meditate on things without getting offended if someone does not agree. Guilty. I am at times slow to grasp certain things, but when I do, I am left smiling over the fact that it took me a few days, or months to learn something from someone I couldn’t hear in the right frequency at the time.
- Have we forgotten about a Messiah who is loving, kind, compassionate, and longs to draw the sons to the Father, make them one as He and the Father are one. Have we forgotten His sacrifice and love for us, even unto death?
Sam Cooke was on the road singing to white people, but he and his band weren’t allowed to eat in the white restaurants, drink out of the same water fountain, use the same restroom. It was black and white. Like a Torah scroll that needed both the white spaces and the black letters. I grieve over how we separate. I long for the day when we become like little children.
A change is gonna come. . .
Brian Owen’s Cover:
“In Atlanta, Sam was scheduled to headline a concert broadcast on The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. When the KKK heard a black man would be performing with white men they tried to stop it, but Cooke played anyway. In Little Rock, he was told he’d be performing two shows for two audiences: one white, one black. He refused and played to a room split literally down the middle. He was one of the first performers to do so. At segregated shows of this sort, police and police dogs walked the aisles on the black side of the audience. If the people enjoyed the show too much, the dogs would bite. The opposite ends of the leash must have twisted and blurred together, in such a dark and hellish scene.” HERE.
Oh, the horrors of it all. Hearing a beautiful melody, songs written for the grief your people have been through and not being allowed to enjoy it.
Is the Messiah split apart? A room split down the middle. Are we prejudiced? Do we separate from those who don’t speak like us? Don’t enunciate His Name like us. Does the Body of Messiah all drink from the same fountain? Do we have police dogs eyeing those who look different, laugh too loudly. . . Do we keep records of wrongs? Do we boast? Do we get angry over small things? Are we full of gratitude? Humility? Love? Love that rises and covers the broken with ointment.
Most know Sam Cooke’s first hit, Darlin You Send Me, but being raised by a preacher, he wrote and sang Gospel before R&B. Sam wrote Jesus be a Fence Around Me:
Jesus, be a fence all around me every day
Jesus, I want you to protect me as I travel along the way
I know you can(yes, Lord)
I know you will (yes, Lord)
Fight my battle(yes, Lord)
If I just keep still (yes, lord)
Lord, be a fence all around me every day.
When Sam Cooke sings or writes a song about protection in a time of unrest for his people, it means more than we can imagine. When we read of men and women who had house gatherings or “churches” in Acts, we might not picture an underground meeting place where we could be put in prison for gathering or worse, where everyone was hungry and unified. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Pricilla’s house.
Today we have cushioned pews, live worship, air conditioning, and Bibles printed in multiple translations. We like Challah bread with fancy covers. We love Hobby Lobby plaques with scriptures in calligraphy made in China to hang on our walls. We have created a multi-million-dollar business from a book most of us know little about, including me. Yes, I have read this book since I learned to read, over and over again, but I am still uncovering and unlearning.
May we come to the Messiah’s table like a child and ask Him to hand feed us.
The Bible is full of instructions, the Tree of Life, wisdom, knowledge, joy, and a Messiah who calls us friends. A Father who sees us far off and runs to meet us. But the Bible isn’t for the faint of heart. It is a bloody book that’s also full of wars, rape, murder, famines, plagues, cannibalism, decapitation, slavery, and beheadings. A Bible with sexually explicit examples of harlotry at its best: “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.” (Ezekiel 23:20). We want a Bible that only has letters written in red. We want a God who doesn’t get angry, weep, change His mind, or send Nebuchadnezzar to destroy His own people. We want the same miracles mentioned in the Gospels and the Book of Acts to happen today, devoid of the beheading of John, the stoning of Stephen, and the burning of Thomas. We remove the Jewishness of the Messiah or grasp Judaism so tightly that we forget when Messiah found us.
But one day, no matter what we do, we are going back to the dust.
“But though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16).
We need death:
What is more, I even count all to be loss because of the excellence of the knowledge of Messiah יהושע my Master, for whom I have suffered the loss of all, and count them as refuse, in order to gain Messiah, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through belief in Messiah, the righteousness which is from Elohim on the basis of belief, to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if somehow I might attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11,ISR).
Back to Sam:
Sam Cooke was said to have picked up a prostitute and taken her to a shady hotel. Why would Sam go there? He was driving a Lamborghini. He had a pocket full of money. His friends and family say he would have never done that, and he was not a man to get angry or lose his temper. He is accused of trying to rape the woman, but she said that after he took her clothes off, he did not touch her but took a shower. The hotel manager, a lady, shoots him three times and beats him to death with a stick. Very strange that all his fingers were broken. He is found naked, wearing a coat and one shoe—his head beaten to mush. Sometimes information is withheld. At times, the press exaggerates, lies, or tries to embellish the story. After Sam’s death, things seemed to be added and removed from the crime scene.
When we read the Bible, we often forget some words are in italics. The translators add the italicized words in the Bible to help the reader, but they do not always help. Sometimes it’s a crime scene. Jewish believers did not have a canon until nearly the end of the first century. That was a Christian design, and much was excluded and removed from our Bibles. The following verse was added in order to push the Trinity doctrine. “The Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify— 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are one.” (I John 5:7-8, TLV). Actually, many verses were tweaked to offer a doctrine that Yeshua was God and not the Son of Yah. For more click 6 Passages That Weren’t in the Original New Testament (personman.com).
We assume that the Bible is accurate, and if it’s a King James or some new popular Hebrew Bible, well, then it’s the infallible Word of God. But much has happened along the way. Hopefully, we can still hear the melody and relate to the people in the Book. Hopefully, we can feel something deeper when we hear Sam Cooke sing; It’s Been a Long Time Coming. We can read the Torah and wonder what it would have been like to have been Abraham and have NO BOOK, no gatherings, no temple, no gold leaf King James. No scrolls. No structured prayers. No destination mapped out. Abraham heard the Voice of the Almighty. Oh, the wonder of such A VOICE.
When we dig deeper, we find information that can cause us to feel strange. Many believe the Bible is an outdated book. But some songs never grow old. They get better with time. Sweeter than wine. A person can remove some of the lyrics or add, but the chorus still bellows. Yeshua says, His sheep hear His voice. I pray that we all tune in to His melody. The Creator is always speaking. Rocks cry out. Birds awake singing songs to the Creator of life. The trees clap their hands. Yes, I will awaken the dawn. The Bible is a Book like none other. Even with its mysteries and men’s roadwork to make the text more understandable or to fit their political or religious agendas, it’s still the loveliest sound I have ever heard.
A Psalm of David:
My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my being. Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing Your praises among the peoples. For Your loving devotion extends beyond the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; may Your glory cover all the earth. Respond and save us with Your right hand,that Your beloved may be delivered. Psalm 108:1-6, BSB.