Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 49:8-13) transports me to a greening of desolate earth, where barren hills spawn lush meadows and hardpan highway shoulders sprout rich roadside grasses. The restored earth offers up a platter of delight exceeding the most far-flung fantasies of half-dead herbivores longing for grazing land. Freedom and compassion fill the twin stomachs of the once captive cattle who had been suffering cruelly in the darkness and disease and fever of factory farming. The great Liberator will now gently guide them and lead them to springs of pure water free of growth hormones and genetic modification.
It’s interesting how often the Bible depicts humans in animal guise. Jesus is alternatively Lamb and Lion. We are cattle, goats, sheep. It might be a good devotional practice to imagine ourselves as these animals when we come across the descriptions in scripture. What can we learn from the cow? The goat? The sheep? I kind of like the idea of being a ruminant, with that long process of digesting and re-digesting what we take in, chewing our cud over and over again. It may sound like a Far Side cartoon, but try imagining cattle as a metaphor for the exiled people of faith, fed only the bread of anxious toil in their captivity, swallowing nothing but the bitter pills of pain and affliction, suddenly called out to green fields of freedom. What a thought to ruminate on!
The Psalmist says that the very mountains burst into song at the sight of the liberated faithful grazing in the grass, comforted by the One who shows steadfast compassion on the afflicted ones of this earth. I can’t help but imagine what the music of these mountains would sound like, music that would give rest for the weary, music that would relax tensions that had built up for years, music that would be joyful and playful and celebratory. Here’s my choice, a great instrumental from the 70s that everyone has heard in one place or another but probably couldn’t name the tune or artist: Grazing in the Grass by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. The cowbell introduction sets the mood, with the trumpet laying down such a smooth riff that you can’t help but picture yourself laid back in some soft and flowery meadow. As an old classic rock aficionado, I have to confess that I truly love this “easy listening” song. Download an MP3 of it and then try and remember where you’ve heard it; it’s been covered and sampled numerous times, and used in such films as Jackie Brown and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka. When you find it and get it on your ITunes, I’d encourage you to spend some time reading and re-reading this Psalm with Grazing in the Grass as the sountrack to your reflection and prayer. See where it takes you. It sure is mellow grazin’ in the grass, can you dig it? Whooo-oooooh, I can dig it he can dig it she can dig it we can dig it they can dig it you can dig it (click here to discover the vocal group who added the cheesy lyrics, long before Raven Symone covered it for Lion King 1 1/2).
How about you? Where does this prophetic passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.