God is (still) God

OIP-26

“This is the kind of song that you write when you’re 56.” – Steve Earle

We’re going to spend one more day on the song “God is God” by Steve Earle. Yesterday’s recording of the song was by Joan Baez, but today I want you to hear it from the songwriter himself. 

A little history shows you that Steve got a pretty fast start in country music in his twenties with a pretty cool hit, “Guitar Town,” that went to number 7 on the country charts. The video of that song shows him young and pretty arrogant, playing concerts, riding on the tour bus, signing autographs — the typical “I’m a star now” stuff. And then you find a recent live recording of the song, “God is God” which he introduces by saying, “This is the kind of song that you write when you’re 56.” Thirty years can make a lot of difference.

I’m spending more time on this because of what we can learn about finding truth in the world and about understanding people’s own journeys, and in some cases, finding elements of our own. And I’m spending another day on this because I didn’t hear from enough of you. I want to know what you think. What you like about this song — and don’t like about it. 

Here’s a few questions that might help you dig.

  1. What is the concept of God expressed in this song?
  2. Can you find evidences of worship in this song?
  3. Do the following two lines ruin it for you? “God, of my little understanding, don’t care what name I call. Whether or not I believe doesn’t matter at all.”
  4. Do those lines lead you to believe the writer doesn’t believe?
  5. What would lead you to conclude he does believe? (How about the fact that he says he does three times. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one!)
  6. Would you call this man vulnerable or arrogant?
  7. Would you call his faith real or phony?
  8. Do you think he is a Christian? Does it matter to the song?
  9. Have you ever realized that your money tells you to trust in God?
  10. In the last verse, he talks about another chance to “get it right” and letting his little light shine in the darkness, and then wonders if someone might be watching him and “wondering what I got” (I assume he’s referring to his faith). That is truly an evangelistic concept. You don’t think like that if you didn’t grow up in church. And then he comes up with the clincher: “Maybe this is why I’m here on Earth.” So why, after this very popular Christian argument for our existence does he tack on, “and maybe not”?
  11. What would you say is the overall message of this song?
  12. Would you call this a Christian song? Why or why not?

God is God

by Steve Earle

Click here to watch Steve’s version of his song.

I believe in prophecy

Some folks see things not everybody can see.

And, once in a while, they pass the secret along to you and me.

And I believe in miracles.

Something sacred burning in every bush and tree.

We can all learn to sing the songs the angels sing.

Yeah, I believe in God, and God ain’t me.

I’ve traveled around the world,

Stood on mighty mountains and gazed across the wilderness.

Never seen a line in the sand or a diamond in the dust.

And as our fate unfurls,

Every day that passes I’m sure about a little bit less.

Even my money keeps telling me it’s God I need to trust.

And I believe in God, but God ain’t us.

God, of my little understanding, don’t care what name I call.

Whether or not I believe doesn’t matter at all.

I receive the blessings.

And every day on Earth’s another chance to get it right.

Let this little light of mine shine and rage against the night.

Just another lesson

Maybe someone’s watching and wondering what I got.

Maybe this is why I’m here on Earth, and maybe not.

But I believe in God, and God is God.

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12 Responses to God is (still) God

  1. Jack VandenEnde says:

    Sure, I immediately picked up on those lines and though there’s some ambiguity, I read it as saying that God’s blessings don’t get exclusively handed out to believers. And every day on earth is a day that holds the possibility of moving us closer to the whole truth. Every day on this side of eternity holds discoveries to be made for people on either side of belief.

  2. Suzan says:

    I love the lyrics you ask about in question 3. Our individual belief in God doesn’t change God’s belief in, and love for us one little bit. God still blesses us all – believers and unbelievers. Faith can be a long, difficult journey for some of us. Unfathomable hardships can come and shake our fragile faith, make us angry, make us question, make us doubt, and even reject. We may walk through stages of unbelief that ultimately teach us more about the nature of God than any other stages along the way. God just keeps being God – that steadfast rock that will not be moved. I’m grateful for that, especially in times of trouble. It’s not all up to me and my strength. Our great, loving, determined, faithful God has got us in the palm of his hand, no matter what.

  3. John A Fagliano says:

    1. A God beyond my understanding.
    2. To sing the songs angels sing. Angels worship.
    3. I addressed that yesterday.
    4. No
    5. Well, you said it.
    6. “I’m sure about a little bit less.” “God ain’t me.” Vulnerable
    7. Real.(If all I have to go by is this song)
    8. I can’t tell since he doesn’t mention Jesus. But to those of us who believe Jesus IS God, we can interpret it that way.
    9. My dwindling money tells me to hope in God!
    10 This could mean a number of things. Maybe not, because there is more than just being watched. Maybe he has another mission. Maybe he has doubts about the reason for his existence, but that doesn’t mean he doubts God’s existence.
    11. If I could put it into a few words: God is great. I’m not. I don’t have all the answers but I’m trying to understand.
    12. Songs aren’t Christians, people are.

  4. Lee Davis says:

    I was reluctant to listen to the Joan Baez version of this song since her young voice used to give me the shivers, and not in a good way. So I listened to Steve Earle’s and then Joan’s, to hear the words better and I like her mature voice so much. I felt like it was an honest song and one that a lot of people could relate to, especially non-Christians, who sense there is something greater than us. Matthew5:45 says , “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on righteous and the unrighteous.” I think that’s what he’s saying in the part about not mattering what name I call and whether I believe. God is much bigger than that. I’d never heard this song, so thanks for the introduction.

  5. Mike High says:

    1. A mighty God I can’t hope to understand.
    2. Of course. I believe in God and I believe in miracles.
    3. Not to my reading.
    4. No, I think the lines reflect humility.
    5. You said it and I agree!
    6. Vulnerable.
    7. Sounds real to me.
    8. I don’t know; doesn’t matter. “Whether or not I believe doesn’t matter at all.”
    9. Yep, but that’s not why I do. . .
    10.I assume he’s doubting his worthiness or able-ness.
    11.God is God.
    12.I’m not schooled in the elements that make up a “Christian song.” But the song helps me to think of the grace of God, and that’s a good song in my book!

  6. Laura says:

    I love the line “whether or not I believe doesn’t matter at all” Ummm- the title of the song is GOD IS GOD. Whether we believe it or not: God is God! Truth is truth no matter how much we try to twist it to match our philosophies. Jesus is The Way, The Truth, The Life and God is God. Yes, we should believe this to be true, but even if we don’t believe it . . . it is true: God is God! But oh to us who believe, to those of us who spend time with Him and get to know Him more . . . oh the blessings! There use to be a song that said “God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me” But, you know what; it really should say: God said it, that settles it.

  7. Toni Petrella says:

    Great song that really hits what matters most in our lives. This song is important to all of us as it speaks the truth. Glad to see you all are back. Have a wonderful day, take care, and God Bless, now and forever.

  8. Jay says:

    Apparently Steve Earle is a recovering alcoholic and addict. His being willing to share openly his struggles with life issues and faith are powerful. He clearly acknowledges that “it’s God that he needs to trust,” and it is God who he needs to call on for help. “Everyday is another chance to get it right,” and an opportunity to share our struggles and our faith journey with “someone who is watching and wondering.”

  9. Kimm says:

    Hmmm. I have a lot of thoughts on this, but I think others here have made good points on the lyrics already. Instead I’ll say that I’ve heard Bono say that he doesn’t always know what his own lyrics mean or that they can change in meaning for him over time. I’m not really a fan of distinguishing music/lyrics as Christian or secular. You can miss out on meaningful things if you view things that way. God is at work in all of us and moves in different ways and at a different pace in all of us. For instance, I’ve mentioned before that I first heard a grace message from you many years ago. I knew it was different than I was hearing in my church and college. I knew it was special. But I didn’t fully absorb it until years later and from someone else. Don’t know if it was me who wasn’t quite ready or if the Holy Spirit wasn’t ready to reveal it, but it came at the right time. I think only God and the individual knows if they believe.

  10. J. D. Woods says:

    Well John, you wanted some responses so here’s mine to all 12 of your questions…

    1. What is the concept of God expressed in this song? – God is still gonna be himself no matter what or how we feel about him and I think Steve captured it exactly.

    2. Can you find evidences of worship in this song? – Yes, I can, namely in the the line, “God is God and God ain’t us.” It may be a rather rustic way of putting it but I think it aptly confirms what the prophet Isaiah said in the OT, that God’s thoughts and ways are far above ours.

    3. Do the following two lines ruin it for you? “God, of my little understanding, don’t care what name I call. Whether or not I believe doesn’t matter at all.” – Not at all! American evangelicals is so concerned with getting all the words right. Jesus seems to care a LOT more about getting our actions right, treating others with love and respect. “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom but he who does the will of my father.”

    4. Do those lines lead you to believe the writer doesn’t believe? – Absolutely not. Rather, it leads me to believe that the writer might be having honest doubts. A perfectly acceptable place to be!

    5. What would lead you to conclude he does believe? (How about the fact that he says he does three times. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one!) – Yeah, the trifecta is enough for me. He doesn’t have to express it exactly like I would for me to say that he believes.

    6. Would you call this man vulnerable or arrogant? – Vulnerable, for sure. At 56, you become a lot wiser to your own shortcomings than you were when you were younger and thought you knew everything. I can really relate to that.

    7. Would you call his faith real or phony? – Real, because it seems authentic, arising out of his vulnerability and humanity.

    8. Do you think he is a Christian? Does it matter to the song? – To be completely honest, I think so but I’m not totally sure. But no, it doesn’t matter to the song.

    9. Have you ever realized that your money tells you to trust in God? – Yes, I do and I think it’s blasphemy and a national disgrace to the Almighty! As far as I can tell, we’ve never trusted in God as a nation. We trust in money and power. We need to take it off our money, license plates and out of our Pledge of Allegiance. We were never at any time “one nation under God” and I can’t see that happening anytime in the future.

    10. In the last verse, he talks about another chance to “get it right” and letting his little light shine in the darkness, and then wonders if someone might be watching him and “wondering what I got” (I assume he’s referring to his faith). That is truly an evangelistic concept. You don’t think like that if you didn’t grow up in church. And then he comes up with the clincher: “Maybe this is why I’m here on Earth.” So why, after this very popular Christian argument for our existence does he tack on, “and maybe not”? – I’m not exactly sure but I find it to be a refreshing and authentic way to express the faith (however little or much) that he has.

    11. What would you say is the overall message of this song? – I’d say it’s a contemporary way of admitting, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

    12. Would you call this a Christian song? Why or why not? – Yes and no. Yes, because it seems to express an honest, humble spirit with no hint of arrogance or fake confidence. No, because a song like this would never qualify for CCM radio airplay or any other formulized Christian music..

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