Ezekiel - Gungor

It’s rare to find Christians songs with the maturity to deal sensitively with themes like this song does. These are salient lyrics taken from the heart-wrenching story of Ezekiel 16. I often hear God painted as either being an emotion-less impersonal vending machine robot who can do anything at the click of a button or as highly emotional, judgemental, angry and powerless to change anything. But here we see a different angle on God’s character. This song opens up the heart of God like the pain a lover feels when their partner is unfaithful. The song captures the raw emotion of the text.

Ezekiel 16 starts with the graphic image of an unwanted child born into a world of pain. Left abandoned in a pool of blood until someone allowed the child to live. As the child grows, a benevolent lover decides to protect this unloved women and covers her shame. He washes her and richly adorns her with jewellery and fine clothes. He made this poor despised woman into a queen with her fame stretching across the globe. But this woman liked the feeling the recognition gave her and decided to use her beauty to become a prostitute. She used the gifts she was given to lure in men. The children she bore with these other men she sacrificed to the idols she created out of her jewels. She slaughtered her children in the same way as she was left for dead as a child. But her true lover, in his great love, took away her land and gave her over to her enemies. She gave herself over to them in prostitution because her desires were insatiable and left her unsatisfied; she even paid for the experience. The true lover gathered together all her men and exposed her before them. They mistreated her once more, so he put an end to her prostitution and saved her. The woman who was supposed to be his bride has acted worse than all those evil around. When she stood before those who are evil around her, it becomes clear that she is worse than them. The lover does an extraordinary thing; he not only welcomes her back, but also forgives his enemies. The lover remembered the promise he had made to her when she was young; he promised to be committed to her. When she sees how he has shown mercy on those around, she will realise the true love he has for her. He will pay the price for her mistakes. He will become despised, rejected, treated as she deserves so her mistakes could be paid for. He will become naked, dirty, have his riches taken from him, be accused and left for dead in a bloody mess for her. For his love for her.

This heartbreaking love story is how God sees his relationship with his people. How he brought them out of slavery, gave them everything. How he honoured them, elevating them to a global reputation. Yet how they walked away from him prostituting themselves to dead gods and passing philosophies. But in his great love, he not only draws his people back to him but also restores his relationship with those who drew his lover away. This came at the enormous cost of him entering time and space and dying for his people - ashamed, naked, bleeding hanging on a cross - forever famous for being weak and despised—a matchless picture of love.

Where do we fit into this? How have we blindly followed the ideas of the world and turned from our first love? Do you need to turn back to the one who loved you?

Double Grammy award-nominated Gungor have shown exceptional finesse in bringing across the complex emotions of this story and setting it to music. They have in recent years received some flack for a number of their statements of theology on Twitter. The first thing to bear in mind is that although the US has many positive things to offer in the area of music and theology, there are some who possess a narrow-minded view of the wider world. This has caused people like Michael Gungor to question their approach to scripture in the light of scientific discoveries and theory - which, as he has said himself, lead him to question his approach to Genesis. It is clear that scientific discoveries pose no threat to the validity of scripture, but if you are in a culture that only sees things a particular way it makes it difficult to see the connection of these realities. There is also the unhelpful embrace of Christianity with Politics which muddies the message of truth. I’m sure we have plenty of other blind spots in our own culture.

It’s also unclear to see when he is purposely controversial to help people think outside their own box or whether he is genuinely exploring answers to the questions he poses. One of the most troubling statements was when he questioned penal substitutionary atonement. The difficulty is that Gungor’s starting point is frustration with the lack of creativity with the Christian music industry and the carbon copying of lyrics which sanitises the image of the cross to the point where it loses its impact. And Gungor is absolutely right in his challenge of that, but unfortunately, he’s chosen the wrong enemy in taking it out on penal substitutionary atonement. Gungor has rightly recognised that the cross is horrific, but the reason for that isn’t because God is violent or vindictive, but because our sin is horrific and God is just. It is our sin which caused Christ to hang on the cross, bloody and naked. God’s people willingly gave themselves over to the flesh, so God’s son willingly gave himself over to have his flesh broken. Theologian Owen Strachan writes a much more in-depth criticism of this misunderstanding of the importance of atonement; he says “Without Christ, we have none of the righteousness of Christ, no redemption by his work, no propitiation of divine wrath, no sonship in the Son, no reconciliation with God, no reconciliation with fellow blood-bought sinners, and no victory over Satan, sin, death, and hell.” In Gungor’s defence, we are in a culture of minimising messages to a simplified, digestible package, thus reducing the full meaning of atonement and the impact to change lives. As he and others challenge our defined perception of atonement, we should strive to understand the broader view of the atonement as displayed in the pages of scripture, but also not reject penal substitutionary atonement because it’s not palatable to modern sensitivities. We shouldn’t tear out the page of penal substitutionary atonement because it is in the DNA of all scripture. However, we should dive into the pool of endless discovery of the other aspects of understanding God’s gospel story.

Much like the resounding cry of Abel’s blood from the ground, Gungor’s own song Ezekiel, is perhaps a message from the past to show us and them our need for atonement. As the story reminds us that God’s heart of compassion, like a faithful lover, is calling us back to him. My prayer is that their own song will help them see God does not delight in violence or the pouring out of blood, but that he is a just God who longs to wash us clean and give us a fresh start because he has paid the price for us.

The song and the passage show that God is profoundly emotional but can also fix things. In English language today, most people think of jealousy as being a negative characteristic, but the Bible talks a fair bit about God being a jealous God. If you are not jealous for the one you love, then you don’t love them. God doesn’t show a petty envy because someone else has outdone them, but expresses the heart of a jealous lover who goes through hell to bring back his bride. For those who have minimised the horror of their own sin and are tempted to atone for themselves, hear the poignant voice of the song “Come back, my love” - Sim

I found you naked

I found you lying there

In blood.

Your mother left you,

Your father threw you out.


I clothed your body

I washed the blood and dirt

From your hair.

I gave you jewellery

I gave you everything

I had.

I gave My heart

My heart, My love

I gave my heart,

My heart, My love

You became like

You were a stunning Bride

The world, they saw you

And how you loved their wives

My Bride

You broke My heart

My heart, My love

You broke My heart

My heart, My love.

You sold your body;

Exposed to all, My love

You slept with Stranger

You gave them everything we had.

Come back, My love

My love, come back.

Come back, My love.

My love, come back.

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