Part Two of Two
Then a summary of the priest’s life comes in the last verse, along with his final confession. You may ask, “Why did you call Cohen a priest?”
The name Cohen in Hebrew denotes a priest. To be a priest may have been a call on his life or his job description from the Lord? His destiny? To make God known to the people and to pronounce forgiveness, restoring relationships between God and men. It is a high calling.
Yet the calling is not that different from that of David or Sampson or any of us. To know God and make him known, in the time and place God plants us. (Acts 17:22-32)
All He requests from us is an invitation to let him tabernacle within us. (Revelation 3:20 and Isaiah 66:1-2) To be His image bearers again and anew. Then we have this treasure in earthen vessels. (II Cor 4:7) And let him be the light that dwells in us and shines through the brokenness of our lives, bringing healing to us and all who behold it.
As someone has accurately said, “No one can go back and make a new start my friend. But anyone can start from now, and make a brand new end.”
Whether Cohen made a brand new start or came to know the Light or made peace with the Light is unknown. That is a mystery known only to God, like so many others. But the summary of his life in his song and his final confession in verse four gives me hope that he did.
It’s a humble confession and one that finishes strong!
“I did my best, it wasn’t much. I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch. I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you. And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”
It’s almost as if he said, “I tried to live life on my own and figure out God on my own. I wasn’t successful, and I’ve told you as much. In fact I failed and it all went wrong.”
Then there is the blazing, strong confession at the end. Sort of like Job’s confession when he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives and He will stand at last on the earth.” (Job 19:25-27) Cohen says. “I’ll stand before the Lord of Song.” There will be a reckoning with the Almighty which he gently, and beautifully addresses as “the Lord of Song,” since he is a musician, but one senses he knows Him to be Lord of All.
“With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”
“God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.” (Ecc 5:2)
Then follows the ending, the gentle, powerful refrain; not twice this time but four times, followed by a single, “Hallelujah”—“Glory to the Lord,” as Cohen defined it.”
My dad was a wildlife officer for forty years, also an accomplished hunter, naturalist, outdoorsman, trapper, and explorer. He was at home in the woods, and the deeper the better. If he came across a wet sandy spot, a mud hole, or any watering hole; he could tell you every animal that had been by the place and about how long ago.
I’m at home in the spiritual woods and feel with some degree of accuracy I can see someone’s spiritual tracks and identify them. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruit.” And Solomon said, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but a man of understanding will draw them out.”
Leonard Cohen’s spiritual foot prints are complex and a little confusing, but telling.
As many people find his song depressing as find it hopeful. Many wonder how these words could have been written by a man of faith, yet with such admitted failure and questionable fruit in his life. Many see echoes of the thief on the cross, and an epiphany in his life.
It’s plain to any biblically-knowledgeable person, Cohen knew his Bible and had perhaps seen some deeper things about the Lord; as well as the end of life for every human being.
The Preacher says, “God has placed eternity in the human heart.”
Leonard Cohen gave voice and words to that reality. And it’s a voice and reality we humans recognize, whether we understand it or not.
It’s baffling to some and beautiful to others. It’s a mystery, like something God would do or say — a parable of Jesus or an instruction from the throne of God to the prophet Isaiah as recorded in Isaiah chapter 6.
The fact that Cohen recognized that about God and wrote like this is telling within itself. It’s evidence that he knew something of the understated ways and purposes of God.
Most telling for me is that at the end, he seems to throw himself, all that he is, on the mercy of God. And that my friend is the only safe and worthwhile place to throw oneself.
“I beseech you…by the mercies of God” writes Paul the first century Jew and Christian.
Covering the Ark of the Covenant in the tabernacle of Israel, there rested the all important “mercy seat “over the law, the manna and the rod of Aaron that budded. The very presence of God with man. Emmanuel.
Yes, Leonard Cohen’s life is a mystery of sorts, especially his spirituality and standing before God. It is. Maybe it is so for a reason. His life is like his song.
But I sense strongly that God loved Leonard Cohen, even has he ran away from Him. And journeyed far away from Him. In His merciful and all-seeing eyes He found something good in Cohen’s heart towards God.
God gifted him with this melody, I believe, and helped him pen these words. A modern parable of the kingdom of God perhaps. Something a priest can tell the people who want to know, about God. Millions and millions of people. Let him who has ears to hear, hear.
Thank you Leonard Cohen for painting your real life picture in song, a picture of us all, before God. Perhaps the strongest picture since Jesus painted with words the prodigal son and the incredible father in the trilogy of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coins, and the Lost Son. (Luke 15)