30 Nov Leonard Cohen, a man pursued by God?
“Are you a religious man?” asked the interviewer. “I wouldn’t say so no. You wouldn’t want to advertise yourself that way on national TV. I would never be able to get a date.”
Such was the wit of Leonard Cohen. After he passed away last month I began to think about this skillful wordsmith. Cohen was more than a singer of songs about the perplexing and ambiguous nature of love. He was a religious poet, even though he would not admit to being conventionally pious. It seems clear that that religion fed his inspiration. One writer said that his attitude to the biblical tradition was not “elitist.” Cohen was looking for a common understanding of stories that were accessible.
“If the wound of Jesus comes to express his love for mankind then it will never heal.” For someone who described himself as not being religious, that’s quite an insight. He was called a proud and spiritual Jew.
Cohen was best known for his dark repartee. He was able to assess the human condition deftly: “Everybody knows the dice are loaded, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed…”
I watched him on a TV interview from 1988. He spoke about his love for the Bible “ … the language, the authority, the magnificence of the whole presentation.” In describing the Psalms, he said that they were “the prototype of every poet.”
I imagine Cohen looking over Psalm 139 and feeling a bit like King David: pursued by the presence of God: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely… If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Coen would have known that David was saying that Dark is not dark when God is there. Dark is dark without God. In His presence, darkness becomes light and all our experiences are given grounding and meaning in this light. The light was a continuing metaphor in the Hebrew Scriptures.
David and the other writers of both testaments and our Rabbis associated light with the work of God, salvation, and the presence of the Holy Spirit and Messiah.
I would guess that Cohen would be fully aware that when Jesus said that he was ‘the Light of the world’ he was not claiming to be really smart or to be a really good teacher or an enlightened person. Claiming to be ‘the Light of the world’ was a claim to be the very glory of God.
God comes after people with His presence, with His light. At this season, it is my hope and prayer that all people would know that all our experiences are given purpose and hope when we walk in the light of Messiah.
Written by Andrew Barron, Director of Jews for Jesus Canada.
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