Today I have a guest post from writer, Jackie Kenney, who has written some beautiful thoughts about the Man of Sorrows.
MAN OF SORROWS
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Isaiah 53:3
I know this sounds so unspiritual but each time I read this I hear the Soggy Bottom Boys from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? singing "I-I-I am a mama-in of constant sorrow, I've seen trouble all my day.( I've seen trouble all my day)"
I looked up that song on You Tube. I wanted to find out if it was written for the movie or if it was old and maybe had something to do with the Isaiah 53 "Man of Sorrows".
Depending on who sings it, the words roughly are:
I am a man of constant sorrow; I've seen trouble all my day
I bid farewell to old Kentucky, the place where I was born and raised
For six long years I've been in trouble, no pleasures here on earth I found
For in this world I'm bound to ramble, I have no friends to help me now
Its fare thee well my old lover, I expect to see you no more again
For I'm bound to ride that northern railroad, perhaps I'll die upon this train
You can bury me in some deep valley, for many years there I may lay
While you're dreamin' while you're slumberin', I am sleeping in my grave
Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger, my face you'll never see no more
But there is one promise that is given where we can meet on that beautiful shore.
I found out that there was old blind fiddler from Kentucky named Dick Burnett who used to sing this song back in 1913. Everyone thought that he wrote it because in his version he mentioned being blind "for six long years". When interviewed as an old man he said he didn't think he wrote it but maybe he did. Some thought it came from Ireland to America in the 1880s. Wherever it came from, it has been recorded everyway that you could possible think up. Everybody seems to identify with a song about lost love, about being in trouble and rambling around with no friends.
The song "Man of Constant Sorrow" was sung mountain-folk or hillbilly style in the early 1900s. Then as blues by Delta Blind Billy in the 1930s. When folk music came became popular, everybody and his brother recorded it in the 50s and 60s; Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and Judy Collins.
You can find out just about anything on the internet. I found out that Jerry Garcia performed "Man of Constant Sorrows" a cappella at a Jewish center in San Carlos, California along with the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers in 1962. Strange but true, everything on the internet is true, right? In the70s, Rod Stewart recorded it. Even the Rolling Stones grabbed some the lyrics verbatim in one of their songs. There was a 2003 version by an Australian group called Skeewiff and another by some Canadian hard rockers Tin Foil Phoenix. There is a punk rock version, punkers get sorrowful too.
In 2006 Osaka Popstar, with painted faces, and all dressed in Goethe-black recorded this song, too. But after listening to a strange group from Spain sing this song in English, I'd had enough. I don't think the girl in the slinky leather dress with red high heels knew what the words meant. I think she was trying to seduce everyone who was listening. It was creepy. After that one I didn't have it in me to watch the Norwegian all-girl pop band or the jazz version but I did listen to a rapper/poet sing it hip-hop style. (You Tube is addictive.)
There seem to be 2 basic versions of the song and most singers personalized the name of the place that they had "bid farewell". I heard Kentucky, California,Colorado, Birmingham and New Jersey.
After listening to all these differing styles and variations of "Man of Constant Sorrow", my take is that all around the world, and for over a hundred years, people get lonely, have troubles and sing this sad song. Some versions sounded very sad, some maniacally upbeat. Joan Baez' "Girl of Constant Sorrow" is the saddest, hands down.
I don't want to belittle my God by comparing his suffering to a silly song but Jesus was called a man of sorrows and was familiar with suffering. The King James says He was "acquainted with grief". He knows what its like to suffer. When we bring our troubles to him he knows experientially that life on earth can hurt.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are--yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15
The rest of Isaiah 53 tells of our Lord's suffering using words like: despised, rejected, pierced, crushed, stricken, wounded, oppressed, and afflicted. He suffered so much more than I ever have. A lot of human suffering is brought on by humans. We try to break the laws of gravity or we make some other dumb decision and suffer for it. We break laws, we sin. That's not the case with Jesus. As it says in Hebrews 4:l5; he is without sin. The suffering he went through was all about us.
Isaiah 53 says that our Savior "took up our infirmities", "carried our sorrows"," bore the sins of many", "interceded for the transgressors" and "poured out his life unto death" Isaiah 53:4-12.
He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.
The Man of Sorrows carries my sorrows. He carries them.
Not only does he know what it feels like to have sorrow because he's lived here in a human body, but as almighty God, he is strong enough to carry them.
So to every musician and listener of punk rock, hillbilly, country, rap and folk music and every other kind of music that's out there; whether you are from California, Colorado, Kentucky, New Jersey, Australia or Spain, or anywhere else; hear this:
The Lord Jesus Christ is willing and ever so able to carry your sorrows. We don't have to do this alone.